Breathe in the Love

8 02 2014

I was fortunate to have pretty easy labor and deliveries of all three of my kids. Don’t get me wrong, it was still the worse pain that I have ever gone through, but fortunately for me it was a short duration. Of the three deliveries of my most precious children, my son was by far the easiest. I wouldn’t even say there was a lot of pain. I had my first child twenty eight minutes after arriving at the hospital. To say that I was paranoid my son, my second child, would be born at home or in the car, would be an understatement. One morning I felt a sharp pain and then some contractions. We jumped into the car and headed to the hospital. You can probably guess that I was not really in labor.

It was ten days before my due date and since my sonograms showed that I was having a girl, apparently girls do better if born early than boys, my OB/GYN decided to induce labor that morning. They started the drugs. Then an hour after that they broke my water. Fifteen minutes later I was holding a screaming red-faced little boy. We were told the screams of “It’s a boy!” were heard all over the hospital. We were thrilled to have a boy in the family.

If I close my eyes, I can still faintly remember the smell of that brand new baby. There is something about love that involves all of our senses. I remember the smell of my Grandma’s house. It always smelled like love to me. During those years, when my children were small, I would come in from work so excited to see them. I would burst through the front door and they would run to greet me. I remember the feeling of their arms around my neck and I would just breathe them in as we hugged. It was like no matter what had transpired while we were apart, we were now back together and all was well with the world.

I often say that I did not know my son was queer. That is not entirely true. I can remember glimpses, as he was growing up, when a question would pop into my mind. I can still remember that paralyzing fear that would follow the thought. It was too much. The fear of the possibility that my precious son would be something that I had been taught and also believed myself to be perverted, bad, wrong, and broken, that fear was too much. Those words could not possibly be associated with my precious son. My boy was not perverted, he was innocent and pure. My son was not broken, he was fearfully and wonderfully made. At this point in my life, I had no idea that someone could be queer and love God. I thought those were two islands that could never merge. I thought God was just as disgusted by same-sex attraction as I was. I thought my disgust was actually God’s disgust, I falsely believed this based on the bible.

The day came when I had to face my fear. My son is queer. I don’t believe it is in God’s plan for a parent to reject their child. God would never ask that of me. Unfortunately, man asks that of me, the church sometimes asks that of me, but never God. Sometimes we humans mix God all up in misinterpretations of the bible, and legalistic teachings from our churches. As unfortunate as this is, it doesn’t change God. If we stop and step back from all of the opinions out there, take a moment to just wrap our arms around God’s neck and just breathe God in, we will smell love. Pure, unconditional love that is not mixed up with misconceptions or opinions. It is just love, healing accepting pure love, and all is well with the world.

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Smack back to Reality

30 06 2013

Our little Montana town just had an entire weekend of celebrating diversity and raising awareness for equality. It was a great weekend. It was the kind of environment where a person could feel pretty safe to be themselves. Of course what do I know, I am straight. One of the reasons I love these events is seeing same-sex couples openly holding hands, putting their arm around each other, or kissing. All of the things that heterosexuals just take for granted and do in public all the time.

i_love_my_gay_son_button-p145368007344911094en8go_400When we left the rally, we stopped at Costco for a few items. I was still wearing this button. I often wear this button, but seldom have I worn it when my son is present. Yesterday it was just the two of us. This is how the shopping experience went. By the time we had walked fifteen feet into the store, two different people had read my button and then looked at my son with disgust. Granted, it was a Saturday at Costco so there were a lot of people in the store, but still, it seemed excessive. When these things happen my Mama’s heart wants to protect my baby(even if he is 6 foot tall). I looked at Jake, he looked at me, and I asked, “Should I take off my button?” To which he replied, “Hell. no. who cares what anyone thinks.” Well, I really do love my son, so I kept it on.

The looks continued throughout our fifteen minutes in the store. They varied from curious stares to revolted glares. I had two smiles, so that was nice. At Costco they always have a person who checks the receipt as you are walking out the door. I am not sure I really have the words to describe the young lady who was working in this position. After reading the button as I approached and held out my receipt, she looked like she had just eaten an entire lemon, rind and all. She actually hesitated to take the receipt from my hand, as if she might catch something. She would not make eye contact and actually looked off to her right away from us. I have lost friends over my stance for LGBT rights, I have been told I am going to hell and all sorts of things, but this was the first time anyone acted like I was going to give them a disease.

It was a good experience. As a straight person, I have never had anyone act like that towards me, yet this is something LGBT people encounter many times over in their lives. After the amazing Interchange weekend, it was a great reminder that there is still work to be done. There is a reason I speak up and stand up for LGBT equality. Because there are still a lot of people out there who are ignorant and confused. I don’t mind being one of the people who will continue to remind them that our LGBT friends and family members are not going away. I don’t mind a few dirty looks, or even a few harsh words. All people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I will continue to say it!! Even if I say it with a button.





Proof

29 04 2013

I used to think it would be great if there was a test that absolutely, scientifically proved that people were born gay. Even though I have since seen some scientific evidence along these lines, I now think it is a terrible idea. Can you imagine the dilemma it would present for someone who believes both homosexuality and abortion are wrong? Ok – I admit that I am being a little sarcastic here, but I am also being dead serious. What would a person do in that situation? Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

I remember back when I believed homosexuality to be a choice, I would always think: “there is no proof people are born that way!” What I didn’t realize in my ignorance is that there is plenty of proof. I had the misperception that being gay was all about partying and sleeping around and orgies or something. That made the “choice” theory make a lot of sense to me. Just like people choose to party instead of going to classes in college, right? It was about being rebellious and having fun. Dang – I was so stupid, it is frankly embarrassing.

I have proof people are born gay. What proof you ask? Well, I now actually know and talk to gay people. Imagine – getting information from the actual source instead of just gossip! (Novel idea!) No, it is not just a matter of taking their word for it, it is the stories they tell. It is the pain and healing I see in their eyes. It is the process of watching someone evolve. All of these things have proven to me without a shadow of a doubt that they are not choosing to be gay. Who in the hell would choose to be rejected by friends and family and much of society? To be discriminated against at work? To have to hide who you are from people? No one would choose those things.

But to make myself perfectly clear – even though in the beginning, I would have wished my son not be bisexual, I would not change a thing now. I hope every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender person and their family can one day feel the same way. Because I have learned more about loving people and loving myself through this journey of acceptance than through any other journey I have had in my life. And to quote a Meme from Facebook “I have seen some shit”. So, if it took my son coming out as bisexual to help me learn to love with more honesty and passion and selflessness, then by God I would not change a thing. Not to mention that he is just absolutely pretty dang fantastic exactly as he is!!





A bit Angry…

29 03 2013

I began a little bit of a rant to a friend on Facebook yesterday. I hadn’t really realized how much frustration and anger I had pent up inside of me until I started typing and had trouble stopping. I decided then and there that I needed a therapeutic blogging session. So, here I am! Aren’t you lucky? Well, you can decide that for  yourself in a few moments…

So, this week, unless you have been living under a rock, which I sometimes do and am not underrating the wonderfulness of being oblivious to the world at times, then you know that the Supreme Court of our great country heard two seperate cases which both had a lot to do with gay rights. It was a great week, for the most part. I am a Facebook addict, see – I can admit to it! I noticed that this last week there was much less negative floating around on my wall, mostly because I scared many of the staunch fundamentalists away during the Chick-fil-A fun awhile back that we all had.

Now, this past week someone had the bright idea to “Go Red for Equality”. So, most people who support equal rights for LGBT people switched their profile pictures to some form of a red equality pic. I had several red pics pop up from friends – many who are straight people supporting equality and that always makes my heart happy. But I had a few, a very few I might add. That posted pictures that were either just a blue cross or a man and a woman and said “marriage”, things of this nature in opposition to equality. Some of these were people I really really like and they have a right to their opinion just like the rest of us, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it hurts a little bit.

It hurts because it is still that mentality that they are on God’s side and the rest of us are not. That you can not be a Christian and love God and support your gay friends and family. That is the piece that hurts. Because Jesus is my Main Man ya’ll. I consider us real tight and to be told that can’t be the case while I stand up for my tax paying LGBT friends and family to have the same rights as my tax paying straight friends and family is quite frankly offensive.

I get it – I really do – because embarrassingly that would have been me ten years ago posting such a profile picture. I would have been appalled at the “sin” of our nation and would have felt fear as well. Now, it just seems so unbelievably silly that I thought that. Logic and reason out the window, my pastor said so, so it must be true!! In the church I am in now, I can sit down with any one of my church leaders and question them on any topic. They would not be offended or defensive, they would welcome it! When I was in a fundamentalist church, that wasn’t the case. It was actually inferred that I was the one not in sync with God if I questioned anything the Pastor said. I guess this is the difference between churches that encourage you to use your brain that God gave you and ones who expect you to check it at the door.

I feel bad for these people, I really do. This week I keep putting myself back to the old me ten or more years ago and how I would have probably just been sick about what is happening in our country today. I know the people that really believe that homosexuality is a sin must just be thinking the world is ending. How scary is that? I would like to say something to you – if you are there. The bible repeats over and over again “do not be afraid”. Do you still believe God is on His throne and in control? If you do, and the country is heading towards equality, could it be remotely possible that God is heading it this way? I know that you have a rock in your gut right now. I had that rock many many times over the years as I wrestled with the issue of homosexuality in my own life. Now, that I think about it, I have not felt that rock in a very long time. That rock is fear, fear of drifting from God, fear of questioning all that you have believed your whole life. But the truth is, fear does not come from God. God brings peace and understanding. So, delve head first. Start researching. Find the truth for yourself – the truth will set you free.

And in the meantime, please be very careful about claiming to be more “Christian” or closer to God because you believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I know many LGBT Christians who walk with Jesus. He seems fine with them. Maybe that should be our first clue…





As a Mom…

13 02 2013

How does it feel as a mom to see things in the news. It depends on the day. Somedays I can distance myself from it and not let it bother me. Such as the recent teacher in Indiana and the students who don’t want gay students at their prom. (you can read about it here) I can read that, and tears come into my eyes and I wonder if the gay kids have supportive family. Are they even out to their family yet? Or are they dealing with all of the rejection and judgement alone – within their own head? It breaks my heart – but I can rationalize – “that isn’t my kid” and I can store it away on a shelf of sadness – yet not let it affect me.

Why would I do that? because the pain is too great to bear. The percentage of those LGBT kids who don’t know that life will get better and go ahead and end their own lives before they find out – it seems like too much pain to carry around. Somedays I just can’t do it.

Other days I can. Other days I allow myself to feel what those parents and kids must be feeling. On those days I want to draw my sword and charge like a Samuria Warrior in battle. Those days I want to hug all of those parents and kids – absorb their pain and let it drive me to continue on in this fight for justice. Don’t forget that one day, not that long ago, I would’ve been the one applauding that teacher. I would have been the parent so proud of my child for standing up for their “Christian values” I was the one blind to the pain and hurt that people of faith are actually causing in this world. I was the exact person I now feel such disdain for.

There comes in hope – If I could change – if my Southern Baptist Mama could stand at Montana Pride holding a sign above her head that read “1 Straight, Proud, Christian Grandma” and playing “Over the Rainbow” on her boombox so that the man on the ladder screaming his judgment and shame couldn’t be heard – if we can change – there really is hope. What will it take? The truth – the truth will set you free – just like it did us. The truth about what Jesus said about homosexuality – NOTHING by the way. The truth about what the bible really said in original Hebrew and Greek. The Truth – that is all that is needed.

I have a dear friend whom I am proud to call my friend. She recently attended several session by an Ex-gay minister, who is unfortunately spreading lies about homosexuality. He is not speaking the truth. She tried to stand up on the last night during a Q & A time and read a statement that was a few minutes long. She was not only thrown out of that “loving” Christian church – she was nearly physically assaulted. There is something very wrong with what is happening in our churches today. You can read what happened  here .

 

In case you don’t read it all – this is the part you NEED to know. This is the statement Kathy was going to read – this is the TRUTH about rejecting our children when they come out:

“Do you know the consequences of rejecting your gay youth as opposed to accepting them?

If parents with gay children were to follow the teachings and therapeutic tools offered by Kent Paris, your gay youth are EIGHT times more apt to attempt suicide than those gay youth who are accepted.

They may suffer depression SIX times more often than those who are accepted.

They are THREE times more likely to get involved in drug and alcohol abuse than those gay youth that are accepted.

They are THREE times more likely to contract HIV and/or STDs than accepted gay youth

This is research; this is scientific, peer reviewed research.

If you are the parent of a gay youth, when you leave here, stop on the way home and buy a package of razors, a bottle of whiskey, a hypodermic needle and a lifetime supply of antibiotics because that is the life you will more often impose on your gay child through your rejection and shaming.

This is what you will be doing to the child you have been charged to raise in the way they should go.

Do not try to force your child to be something they are not, something to your liking. You will not only be responsible for the effects on their mental and physical health, you will also, in all likelihood, push them from God.”





A Hard Promise to Keep

28 01 2013

I woke up this morning after very little sleep and realized I had that feeling again. The feeling of wanting to just stick my head in the sand and pretend today wasn’t here. I immediately wished with all of my heart that it was last week and I was once again surrounded by the beauty of Yellowstone National Park in the winter. Surrounded by peace, and quiet – no civilization, no cell service, just beauty and the feeling that all is well in the world. Then I realized that isn’t reality, nor is it really where I want to be at all. Today will be a hard day, but it is also a blessing.

I will never forget the feeling of looking into all three of my babies faces for the first time. It is not really something one can put into words. I looked down into each of those beautiful faces in awe. I silently made a promise. I don’t really know if I was promising them or just promising myself, but I promised to protect them. I promised to be their buffer in the world. I guess it came down to the fact that I knew pain and I didn’t want them to have to feel it – ever. I think this is one reason that when my son came out it was hard for me. I knew this would be a reason for some people to target him, judge him, ridicule him.

It wasn’t too long before the promise became hard to keep. Illness and hospitalizations, a kid in the nursery bonks them over the head with a block, they begin to experience pain. I should have given up the promise then and come up with another way of seeing it, but I was blind to the bondage I was putting myself in. I now have two grown children and another who is halfway grown and I am just now wising up! Sometimes I am a slow learner.

My job was never to keep them from experiencing pain. All that did was make me feel like a bad mom, riddled with guilt. My job was to give them tools and resources  and ways to deal with the blows that come. Today is going to be a hard day for one of my kids. Today we will walk through something that none of us expected or have experienced. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end. You see, it isn’t my life, it is my child’s life. They get to call the shots. It was also never my job to make their decisions for them or to control what they did. I should have learned that lesson a lot sooner as well. That would have helped me and them as well. I should have never been trying to control things, I should have just been giving tools and resources and letting them do the rest. That is called living and learning and it prepares us a whole heck of a lot more for life than having everything done for us. This also helps the transition in accepting a LGBT child. I laugh when I look back and think of the way I had created some scenario for how my kid’s lives would turn out – like that was EVER up to me anyway! I have my own life to live – this one is theirs.

To be honest, I do wish I could have protected my child from the pain that has led up to today. Because the truth is, when they hurt, we hurt. I must come to grips with the fact that I could not protect them. I had no way of knowing, none of us did. It is back to this simple equation: it is not my life to live, but theirs. I can just hope that I have given enough tools and resources and must let it go. I can not live their lives – they must do that.

My job now is to come and stand beside them in the joy and in the pain. I no longer have the role of provider and guardian. It can be very freeing for all of us really if we transition. The relationship changes, but that isn’t a bad thing. It can be a very good thing. It will never be OK with me to see my children hurting, but I know that it is called living. And they are all three doing a damn good job of it and I am one proud Mama!





Rest In Peace

12 01 2013

Today we celebrate a champion. She never won an Olympic Gold Metal and most people wouldn’t even recognize her name. She is a champion none the less. Jeanne Manford was a mom. I will be the first to admit that moms are not perfect, but with the exception of a few crazies out there, moms are unique in the love that they give their children. Just get in between a Mama grizzly bear and her cubs if you want an example, although you would probably not live to tell that tale. Moms love their kids like no one else. Jeanne was this kind of mom. In 1972 Jeanne found out that her son, Morty,  had been beaten at a Hilton Hotel in New York City. Morty was gay. People stood by as he was beaten, including New York City Police officers.

Let’s be honest, in 1972 people still thought that if someone “chose” to be gay that they deserved whatever they got. Unfortunately, there are still ignorant people today who think the same way. On the good side, there are far fewer of them and they are decreasing all of the time. This change is brought about by heroes and champions like Jeanne Manford. Jeanne had never been an activist of any sort prior to this event. I can SO identify with that. If someone would have told me that one day I would be championing for a cause, ANY cause, I would have just laughed. It is that love of a mother thing that will get you every time!

So, after Morty recovered Jeanne started what is now PFLAG. It started with about 20 people and has now spread all over the country and even other parts of the world. If you are going to bet against something – probably don’t bet against a mother’s love. We moms are tough old birds when it comes to our kids. We will do things for them that we wouldn’t do for ourselves.

Jeanne sadly passed away this past week, but she will never really “die”. Her legacy will live on in parents around the world who rally with their kids. Not just LGBT parents, but all parents who begin to fight for what they feel will make this world a better place for all of our children. Making this world a better place is a group effort and it will take all of us. Let’s get to work!

Here are Jeanne and Morty in a New York City parade! Thank you Jeanne for standing up and showing us the way to show the world that we love our children unconditionally!

JeaneManford