by Liz Marks, June 23, 2019
When my daughter Adrienne was born, it was discovered that she had a serious life-threatening medical condition. I was lying in my hospital bed, distraught and crying. They were running a million tests on her, pricking her tiny feet for blood samples and doing MRIs. It was a complete shock. It wasn’t what I expected. My mother said to me, just love her. Little did I know these words would be so important.
When you think about having a family, your mind drifts to what your children will be like. We also have expectations. I know I did. Will they be smart, athletic, pretty…will they go to a good college, have nice friends and find a wonderful partner to love and of course provide you with beautiful grandchildren. Peter and I are both huge SF Giants Fans. Of course, we expected our children to be Giants fans. What else would they be?
When I was pregnant with Chris, during an ultrasound, the doctor pointed out Chris had beautiful feet with high arches. Peter ran cross country at UC Davis. He was thrilled because Chris could be a serious runner.
We did expect our children to be athletes. Not Division 1 scholarship athletes, but proficient, not embarrassing us on the soccer field athletes. We pursued any activity that would help them in this endeavor.
We signed Chris up for many sports, soccer, little league, basketball. These were all sports that we liked and understood. When Chris was 8, they said they wanted to take dance, they started with a tap class. They begged me to get there on time. After the second class, the owner of the studio pulled me aside…. “ I thought oh no, what did they do now” instead she said, “we would like to move them to a higher level class” OK, so Chris’s perfect high arched feet were meant for dancing.
I also expected Adrienne to be a solid tennis player. Thank goodness she has good eye/hand coordination and her father taught her to play T-ball at the age of 2.
Did I expect my children would be gay?
Of course not. I never even thought about it.
11-12% of the population is gay. Gays are in a minority classification. In our country, minorities are harassed, bullied….basically treated like second class citizens. Did I think my children would be in a minority and mistreated? Of course not, Peter and I both grew up in white middle-class families with many privileges.
As the parent of a gay child, if you had dreams, hopes and expectations for your child, it’s OK to grieve what you lost. If you saw your daughter walking down the aisle in the perfect vineyard wedding, it’s OK to go through stages of grief. Don’t bury your grief, embrace it.
After you have come to accept it, move on, and plan the perfect Lesbian wedding. Who doesn’t love a lesbian wedding? I went to my first same sex wedding, in 1981 in San Francisco. I could see and feel the love between the two beautiful young women as they exchanged vows. Thank the supreme court for making same sex marriage legal. I think Jesus would love a good gay wedding.
The gay weddings I have attended remind me of one of our passages from today. From Song of Solomon Chapter 8.
- “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.”
This is the kind of love that same sex couples have for each other and the undying love Jesus has for us.
Does Jesus have expectations for us? You bet he does. love your god and love your neighbor. He did not say I love them, but…….. I don’t love what they do. Jesus’ love is unconditional, pure and simple.
What is stigma? Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.
Dr. Michael C. LaSala, writes in his book Coming Out, Coming Home, helping families adjust to a gay or lesbian child.
”When parents learn they have a gay or lesbian child, they very quickly realize they are now living in a world that stigmatizes not only their children but also themselves. Suddenly, these parents are involuntarily drafted into a club whose members are disparaged.”
It’s a hard pill to swallow.
I look back only 4 years when our daughter told us she was bi and was dating other women. I told her I loved her. I was sincere. But, I did feel stigma. Afterall, now both my children are gay. I retreated into a world where I felt safe. I spent all my social time with people who would understand. I lived next door with my wonderful compassionate neighbors, Sandi and Joan.
I avoided people I thought might be judgmental. I went to lunch with two of my best friends, one is a democrat and one is republican. Both of their daughters were getting married to their boyfriends. We bantered back and forth about the upcoming weddings. Should we have an open bar? How much did everything cost? Finally, I got the courage to say, “well who pays for what in a gay marriage? I wasn’t sure of the response. They both laughed and said, well, you’re lucky, you only pay for half. That’s when I knew they were true friends.
Dr. LaSala continues.
“Parents of gays and lesbians, like their children, must be able to withstand the slings and arrows that come with living in a world that persecutes those who challenge its restrictive norms.” With Chris, we worked as a team to avoid judgmental people we knew and didn’t know. We stalked the pink aisle at Toys R Us. The Pink Aisle was Chris’s favorite since they were two. When we got to check out, I told the cashier, we were purchasing a gift. It was Chris’s idea.
When driving through McDonalds for a Happy Meal it was more difficult. Chris wanted the “girl” toy. When we got to the window, the cashier would see Chris in the back seat and suggest that maybe they “wanted” the boy toy. Chris tried to hide. However, they were very determined and strong. They were willing to face ridicule and shame all for a polly pocket.
Even today, I always have to be on the watch, at the ready. People who you thought were compassionate and truly loving, can turn out differently. One of Chris’s teachers who preached love and forgiveness…..pulled me aside and told me not to let Chris play with those kinds of toys. Societal norms and expectations of men and women are really limiting and frankly ridiculous.
Dr. LaSala writes… “In order to develop and maintain good self-worth, gays, lesbians, and those who love them must grow to learn that some of the established ideas are just plain wrong”
WWJD, What would Jesus do?
Jimmy Carter, “Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things — he never said that gay people should be condemned.”
But Paul did say something in his letter to the Romans 1 26-27. This is an evangelical’s favorite passage used to condemn gays.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
There are many theologians and others discussing the meaning of this passage.
John Boswell, was professor of history at Yale and author of, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality and Mathew Vines, Author of God and the Gay Christian.
To paraphrase their books, Paul focuses his letter on unnatural sexual attraction versus natural sexual attraction. We know now that gay persons are born with sexual attraction to the same sex. Is Paul discussing a heterosexual man having unnatural lust for other men? Is he talking about using one’s power in an unloving greed filled way over another person? It seems to me that if a heterosexual man forces himself on another man that is assault. Is that what Paul is talking about?
Back to Paul’s letter to the Romans, 12:9-10
- “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” ~
At another gay wedding I was privileged to attend, the love between the two men was clearly sincere. Their faces glowed while their friends and family embraced them.
Rules of the Road:
- Don’t ask your child if they are gay. It’s their personal journey, respect it and allow them to tell you on their own terms.
- Intervene when you think they are in danger. In the 2017-18 State of California report specifically for Napa Valley Unified, 12% of all 11th graders seriously contemplate suicide. For LGBTQ+ teens it’s 44%.
- Ask them which pronouns they prefer? He/Him, She/Her, They/Them, Xi. This is about gender identity. There are over 80 gender variations.
- Understand sexual identity. What sex is your child attracted to, that is sexual identity.
- Do everything you can to let them know they are accepted and loved. Invite same sex couples over for dinner. Watch TV or movies with Gay characters that are portrayed in a positive light. We love to watch Queer Eye together in our house. Find ways to let your child know you are accepting and affirming before they decide to tell you.
What do your children want? They just want to be loved.
My advice for anyone is “Just Love Them”. It’s not a road you expected, but believe me it is a beautiful scenic fun-loving road.