Updated: Oct 17, 2021
Photo by Jonathan Canlas
Hey y’all, my name is Marion McClellan, and I am so grateful/thankful/blessed to be a Mama Dragon. I live in Payson, Utah, where my husband, David, and I have raised our six (mostly) perfect, beautiful and brilliant children. Our two oldest kids are married and we now enjoy the gloriousness that is being grandparents to four of the most perfect grandchildren on earth. David and I are both life-long members of a conservative Christian faith community, as are our children.
On Sunday, January 14th, 2018 at 6:50 pm, my 16 year old son told me he was gay and that he didn’t want to be a part of our church anymore. I don’t remember a lot, but I do remember hugging him and telling him that I loved him. I told him that David loves him. I told him that we have his back and that we will walk with him on whatever path he chooses. Then I asked him if he had anything else to share because we were hosting a party in SEVEN minutes at our home!!! He said, “no” so I hugged him one more time and quickly went into the kitchen to whip the whipping cream and cry my eyes out (yes, my punky son planned it this way! Party = mom can’t flip out!).
I sobbed. I prayed so hard that I would be able to get myself together. I couldn’t cancel our party. I couldn’t call them, because I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t text them, because they NEVER check their texts. I was UGLY crying. I looked like hell. What was I going to tell them? I couldn’t talk to my husband as he wasn’t privy to the HUGE bombshell my son had just dropped on me. I finally decided that if they asked why my eyes were red and puffy I would tell them that I got some hot sauce from dinner in my eyes. I figured that if I couldn’t get my emotions under control, I could fake the stomach flu and barricade myself in my room. No one wants to talk to a barfing person, right? Remarkably, I got my emotions under control and the evening went off without a hitch.
Later that night, after the company had gone, and I was pretty sure that I was going to win an Academy Award for my “acting normal” skills, I asked my son if he wanted to tell his dad, or if he wanted me to tell him or if he wanted his dad to know at all? He asked me to tell his dad. I am so glad that I was the one to tell him. My husband is a very kind, gentle, and loving man. He didn’t get angry when I told him, but his reaction was extremely emotional and visceral. I was glad that my husband could react honestly and that my son didn’t have to see it. That night, as I drifted off into an Ambien-induced coma, the distinct and clear thought came into my head that my son was young and that I would need to support and guide him on his path forward. I had a lot of learning to do.
The next morning was a school holiday, so I was able to talk to my sweet boy more in depth. I told him that our family rules for him had not changed. He could date whomever he liked and we would be just as nosy and bossy as we were with his sisters and their love interests. We talked about what he wanted his involvement with our church to be. Up until that morning, he thought that he couldn’t participate in our faith community if he was gay. I explained that he could if he wanted to. He was relieved. I made it very clear that he could choose to discontinue or modify his participation with our church at any time. This calmed and relieved his anxiety and fears.
Later that day, and after asking my son’s permission, I texted a close friend of mine who had a gay son, to see if I could come over. This friend had been my boys’ beloved kindergarten teacher and we knew she could be trusted with our family’s story. She was wonderful. She was kind. She was compassionate as I sat on her sofa bawling and ranting and rambling on and on for hours and hours …seriously, I was at her house for four hours. At one point in our conversation, I was trying to express my fears and feelings of fierce protection I had for my son. I told her that the term “Mama Bear” didn’t come close to how I felt. She smiled and told me that was because I wasn’t a mama bear, I was a Mama Dragon. She then shared with me who the Mama Dragons were, and that, when I was ready, they would be there for me. I will always be grateful that she was there for me that day, and many many days since then. I firmly believe that God put her in my path to help me navigate this new journey.
As we live in a very religious and conservative small town in Utah, initially all of my fears and concerns were centered around how others would treat my son. Would they no longer be able to see the amazing and loving boy that they have always known? Will people be so distracted by his sexual orientation that they can no longer allow their lives to be blessed by his talents, kindness, and service? Will their biases and misunderstanding about LGBTQ+ people chase him out of the loving embrace that everyone should be able to find in their own community and religious congregation? Will they be so consumed with what he may or may not be doing that they overlook the greatest commandment to just plain love him? Will they drive him out from the only culture and society he has ever known? I knew that our family would love and support and embrace and protect him, but what about everyone else? These fears were all consuming.
Fortunately, as my brave son slowly came out to his close friends, siblings and our extended family, he was met with love, kindness and acceptance. Our close family friends were wonderful. I was so glad to find out that my son’s peers don’t care at all. They treat him as they always have. Apparently, and thankfully, “being gay” is no big deal for my son’s generation.
Life around our home is the same and completely different since the day we found out we have a precious LGBTQ+ child. I wouldn’t change a single thing about my son. We love and accept others more completely and without judgment. We have met so many amazing LGBTQ+ people and their families. Our circle of friends has grown to include people we would have never met. The Mama Dragons has fulfilled it’s mission in my life to “support, educate and empower the mothers of LGBTQ+ children.” I have learned so much from my fellow Mama Dragons. I have been able to guide, teach and protect my son because of what I’ve learned from other seasoned Mamas. I am so grateful to be in a place now where I can offer that same love, support and information to other new moms on this path on nearly a daily basis.
Having an LGBTQ+ child is the greatest blessing I never knew I wanted! My heart is full. I am so thankful!
Photo by Jonathan Canlas