By Kami Hunley Jackson
My journey to becoming a member of Mama Dragons has been ten years in the making. I will have to admit that when my son Taylor first came out, I was the last to know, which was upsetting. He’d come out to friends in person, and through social media, before his own mother knew. I even had one of his teachers tell me my own son was gay. I was starting to feel like the last person in his circle to find out something so personal and important to him.
In a way, I felt life had prepared me to be the mother of a gay child, in that I’m a Theater Arts teacher and have had many friends and associations who are LGBTQ. Even though those friendships and experiences helped me tremendously in the accepting of my son’s orientation, I still had to let go of many of the things I thought his life would include. That wasn’t easy! I worried over him not getting married or having children (although my thoughts have changed on these) and fretted over him not being “approved” of by some of his family members (they have thankfully proven otherwise).
My son grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where faithful and worthy young men are expected to serve a two year mission for the church. He was so afraid of disappointing me and his grandparents by not serving a mission. But he determined he could not go when he realized he’d be dishonest by preaching certain doctrines that he, himself, didn’t believe in. That took such courage and integrity on his part to reach that difficult decision.
Sadly, Taylor suffered greatly in the name of religion. He felt rejected by the very church that he loved. It was a deep pain that was so unnecessary, brought on by religious conflict that labeled people like him and some of their ways as “sinful”. It took me a long time to process that the church I’d loved in many ways, didn’t feel like a safe and nurturing environment for my own beloved child – and to accept that this same church I grew up in asked too much of my son. To remain a faithful and upstanding member of this church he would need to either marry someone of the opposite sex (who he wasn’t naturally attracted to) OR remain celibate for life, never finding love and companionship in a male partner (who he WAS wired to love). Taylor and I at different points in time each made the thoughtful decision to no longer attend because we were unable to reconcile his being gay with our church’s teachings about homosexuality.
It took me about two years to feel completely comfortable with my son being gay. One major breakthrough for me was meeting him and his partner for lunch one day. I decided to approach this as if I was meeting a girl he was dating. I ended up having a wonderful time meeting his partner and welcoming him as an important person in my son’s life. I also received a special blessing from someone I loved and trusted within the church we used to attend. Through this blessing I was told “There is no need to try to change your son. Just love him.” That resonated very much with me. Once I reached the point of total acceptance, it was like a release – a release of so much tension and stress. And then came the love. It is an unconditional love that extends to all people regardless of race, gender or sexuality. I didn’t even know I had that much love to give!
A few years back I connected with two young LGBTQ adults through Mama Dragons, whose parents were not accepting of them. I am still in touch with these beautiful souls today. Those conversations were vulnerable and difficult, but I was so grateful to help them realize their great worth and to assure them that they are loved regardless of what some might think and say. I will never forget a poignant conversation I had with one of these young men which has stuck with me all these years later. He shared that his greatest desire was just “to sit at the dinner table and have it feel like it was before I came out.” Heartbreaking to realize that often what our LGBTQ friends and family yearn for, are simple requests of love, acceptance and inclusion. Who doesn’t want that?
I now advocate for my son and other LGBTQ people. I have had more than one occasion to voice my opinion at school, in a calm and respectful way, when derogatory comments were being made about certain LGBTQ students. I’m not afraid to say, “That offends me. My son is gay.” I’ve been privileged to be a kind listening ear to many of my students when they’ve shared their concerns about coming out. More often than not, these converstaions happen organically without my inititating them. I hope that’s because they sense that I am a safe person to share such important matters of their hearts with. We all need to get to that point in defending all children – if we don’t show that example, who will?
I love being a part of Mama Dragons. It’s been an absolute rescue system for me when I needed it most. Just reading stories and posts of other mamas who were feeling like I was feeling, helped tremendously. I would cling to any story or thought that brought me peace, guidance and strength. I reached out to a few Mama Dragons privately to talk and share with them, which was so comforting and insightful. I came to feel understood by others who have already been through what I’m going through. I knew I was not alone!
I feel like I’m now in a place where I can help other Mamas on their journeys. I’ve been a mentor through Mama Dragons to another mom, new to this experience….and was able to be her listening ear. And when I learned of a mother who lives in my town, whose child came out as LGBTQ, I was able to contact her and offer to be a friend and someone she could talk to. I let her know I am here for her whenever she needs a listening ear – just as other Mama Dragons have been there for me over the years. It’s so important that we know we’re not alone, and that there are many who understand. No one should suffer in silence – not our children, and not us.
I still sometimes worry over my son. His safety and acceptance from others is still paramount to me as his mother. This world can be cruel to our LGBTQ children. We hear stories in the news and overhear conversations that tear us apart. But I have great hope in the young people of today. They are more loving and supportive of our children than previous generations. Even my son’s grandparents, who are active in their church, have invited their grandson and his partner over to celebrate Christmas, and have grown to realize that “love is the answer”. I feel so strongly that we as mothers, too, have the divine responsibility to be our children’s champions and greatest supporters.
My beautiful son, If my love for you had a color, it would be the whole rainbow. Love, Mom