There are a few times in life when you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. I was sitting in a parking lot at Les Schwab's, waiting for the tire on our van to be fixed when I read about the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage. Immediately, I thought of my brother, Percy... and I thought of you.
You know Percy well. He's the one who teases you and makes you laugh. He's eloquent, thoughtful, a good listener, physically fit, quirky in his fashion sense, and passionate about life in all its forms. His partner, Casey, you also love. He is gentle, optimistic, well-cultured, a wonderful cook, and genuinely kind. He is one of the loveliest people I know.
As I sat in the parking lot, so many thoughts went through my head. I thought back on the day that I realized that my brother is attracted to men. I remember it like it was yesterday, though it was more than 10 years ago. Camden was just a few months old and I was laying on our couch reading from the Ensign, when somehow the thought came into my heart, and I knew. Percy wouldn't officially "come out" for a few more years, but I knew then. An immense feeling of peace washed over me. This was my brother, the same brother I had always known and loved. It didn't change who he was. Now, I just knew. And with equal certainty, I knew that my Heavenly Father loves him.
I thought back on the pool party that Percy and I happened upon in his apartment complex several years ago. About half a dozen men who were gay had gathered together to swim and listen to music. They were kind and welcoming as we walked by with my boys, and encouraged us to join them. We accepted their invitation and changed into our swimming suits. As I asked questions about where they were from, they began sharing their stories about "coming out." Many had been disowned by family and friends, and were far from home in search of acceptance.
I'll never forget the man who had sat silently in the corner of the pool, sun glasses shading his eyes, holding a beer bottle. I thought that perhaps he didn't appreciate my many questions, but when the conversation quieted, he said in a low voice, "Do you know what pisses me off? It's when people tell me that I've chosen this. Why the hell would I choose to be disowned by my family and friends? This isn't the easy way out. If there was a straight pill, I'd take it." I sat stunned and my heart hurt for him. Pain and loneliness was behind so many of their friendly smiles. I watched my two young boys playfully splashing and jumping in the pool with some of the men, completely unaware of the pool-side conversation. I never told my brother, but that day changed me forever.
This world would be a better place if the rest of us took our cues from children on how to treat each other. That day at the pool, you boys didn't see labels. You only saw men who were kind and friendly- nothing else. We've talked to you about Percy and Casey, and you understand their relationship. And yet, to you, it's a non-issue in deciding how to treat and act around them. How I pray you'll never outgrow that child-like love for all of God's children.
If I narrowed down the most transformative things of my life, it would come down to these: the gospel of Jesus Christ, becoming a mother, and having a brother who is gay. My brother has truly changed me, and I will forever be grateful that my Heavenly Father gifted him into my life.
Statistically speaking, there is a high likelihood that one of you, or one of my grandchildren, might be gay. If that's the case, there are a few things I want you to know. I hope none of these come as a surprise.
My love for you is because of who you are, not what you are. What you are may change with time. Your personality might change. Your strengths might fade and some of your weaknesses might grow. But you are my child, and that can never change. Not ever. Whether you are straight, gay, or tatooed in polka dots, you are the ones who gave me that explosion of love that transformed the very core of who I am. I could never go back to who I was before I became your mother, nor would I ever want to.
I've heard some question whether a family can still be called a family if it doesn't fall under the traditional definition. I want you to know my definition of family. It's a gift- a group of people, given to us by God. Sometimes we come into each other's lives biologically, and sometimes God places us into each other's lives. We circle our wagons around each other and love unconditionally. It is the soft place to fall when the world surrounds us with thorns. It's not just the people you share a roof with until you leave the nest or have a difference of opinion, it's the people that love and defend you fiercely when the wolves are at your door.
And this, I want you to know. Whether you choose a man or a woman to be your companion, I will cry at your wedding and hang your pictures on my wall. I will rejoice that you've found your soulmate, and pray that your life brings you as much happiness as life with your father has brought to me.
I'll love you forever- no matter the what, because of the who that you are.