Updated on October 11, 2015
5 Things I Want To Say About: Being An Affirming Christian Parent Of A Gay Child With Guest Blogger Sandy Van Dyne
Hi. My name is Sandy and I am a straight ally of the LGBT [Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender] community. I’m also a believer [Christian] . Honestly, for many years I didn’t think those two things could go together. I no longer believe that and here’s why; ‘Ally’ simply means ‘to join (yourself) with another person, group, etc., in order to get or give support.’ (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ally). I support the LGBT community completely and without hesitation or shame because I believe it is what Jesus would do.
Through many years of heartfelt prayer and research, I’ve come to fully support a community that has been misunderstood, misrepresented and shunned. Although I have many friends who are allies who do not have a child who is gay or lesbian, I am not one of them. I do have a child who happens to be gay and I feel blessed that she is mine.
LeAnn and I go way back. We taught home group together and we were young married leaders in our church. I’m so thankful we were able to reconnect and I’m honored that she has asked me to guest blog on this day, National Coming Out Day. I would like to share with you some things I’ve learned from being a Christian parent of a gay child. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but my hope is that it is helpful and received with an open heart.
5 Things I Want People To Know About Being An Affirming Christian Parent of a Gay Child:
#1 We are, or were, in our own closet. Yes, parents and siblings and even entire families can be ‘in the closet.’ The closets that our gay children are in can be painful, debilitating, shaming and deadly. If I were to compare my closet with that of a gay person’s closet, I imagine mine would be an extravagant walk-in closet, one that would be attached to a master suite in a mansion on the beach. It would have plenty of room for all of my beautiful gender-appropriate clothes and shoes to wear wherever and whenever I chose to go out and no one would snicker at me behind my back while I walk hand in hand with my beau. That’s a big difference that must be acknowledged. Being ‘in the closet’ can apply to many different kinds of people and for various reasons, but in the end it sucks the life out of you and can even be harmful. When someone comes out of their closet, it takes great strength and care because they understand that life can change drastically in that one act of courage.
#2 Coming out is both devastating and freeing. For many moms and dads, simply coming out as affirming has cost us our mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends; it’s devastating and painful. We find ourselves alone, suddenly defending our faith and motives. Some go from being leaders and teachers and valued members in their church to being asked to step down from leadership and even leave the church. We feel invisible and insignificant and yet we know it’s the right thing to do. We know that our child is a gift from God and we have come to understand that expressing our love and acceptance for our child is life-giving and healing and valuable.
#3 We don’t throw caution to the wind. I feel there is no one who has searched the heart of God more fervently and studied His word so earnestly and prayed for God’s direction more honestly about this than the affirming Christian parent of gay child. It’s a deeply spiritual, difficult and enlightening journey and many parents end up feeling closer to God than ever before. We are determined to follow the example of Jesus, to love without boundaries or judgment, which is the greatest commandment.
#4 We take everything personally. We realize that each LGBT person’s experience with discrimination, hate and judgment could be our own child’s experience. We don’t want our child to be fired for being gay and we don’t want our child to be harassed because of who he or she loves, or the way they look or how short her hair is. We don’t want our child to leave for work one morning and as he turns to lock up finds expressions of hate spray painted on his door. We are devastated when our child’s physician says to find another doctor because his is a ‘Christian’ practice. You see, each of these kids becomes my child and the view becomes broader and bigger and higher. Equality for all suddenly turns personal and real and right.
#5 We’re not ashamed to be an ally. Many parents of gay children become bolder and more vocal because we want our family and friends to know and understand the truth about the LGBT community. When we see and hear things that simply are not true and are hurtful to the ones we love, we want to set the record straight. We want to educate and share the things we’ve learned. We have wrestled with theology and studied and prayed. We’ve counseled with pastors, scholars, and other parents of gay children. Many parents understand that promoting a kinder more loving world is a matter of life and death because they have lost a child to suicide.
A little over a year ago I became a part of a new private Facebook group of Christian moms of a gay child or children. This group has grown to over 600 moms from around the world. The five things listed above were drawn from the experiences of the moms in this group. I consider it a privilege and honor to call them my friends. If there is anyone who would like to know more about joining this group, I would be happy to help.
And finally I will leave you with a quote from one of my favorite pastors.
“Every label you would create for someone else is ultimately far too small for them. Fight to see the complexity and humanity of everyone you meet.” John Pavlovitz
Note from LeAnn: Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. Though many of you have suspected, it is time I come out myself as a Christian ally of the LGBT community. This Facebook group that Sandy has mentioned has been a wonderful community for me to join as I struggle to understand how my acceptance fits in with my religious beliefs and how to best love and accept the gay people in my family and try show them that God really does love them just the way they are. I have realized that my Goal is to lead people to their own relationship to God not to stick every single person in a box labeled “Right” or “Wrong”. If you need help finding your way or would like to get information on the Facebook group Sandy mentioned, please leave a comment or email me at GeeezLoueez@aol.com