Sunday, July 5, 2015

Letter to my children about gay marriage

Dear kids,

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.

Love,
Mom


40 comments:

Cher said...

What a sweet letter.
I am having a hard time sorting out my feelings and thoughts on the matter, but I do know that God loves all His children and he expects us to too. And that's just what your letter is all about!

Haley Kjar said...

Thank you SO much for sharing your heart. I've experienced very similar things, and I was nodding along while reading this, as tears streamed down my cheeks. Beautifully written! I'm so grateful for my brother. And for every person and every moment we're given to practice unconditional love. Hugs to you and your sweet family!

Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful. You've just written what's in my heart as well. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful words. Every time I read about a family who understands what our goal is- unconditional love- I'm encouraged that there is hope for the future. As a church we've done so much harm in the past that it's hard to believe that Christ is at the helm. But I think he must be happy to have more and more members of a church who claim his name speaking up for love.

Melissa said...

I saw this posted online and I wanted to tell you what a great heart you have. Family is a gift and for those of us with gay family members, we are greatly blessed to have them as part of our lives. My daughter is truly a gift from a loving Father in Heaven. Thank you for sharing this tender story about your family and your brother. I so appreciate your words.

Melissa said...

I saw your blog post online and wanted to tell you what a great heart you have. For those of us with gay family members it is sometimes difficult to reconcile who they are with the Gospel. But what is easy, is to love them. Family is a gift and my daughter, like your brother, are such precious gifts and so easy to lovel. Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

My I copy part of your letter. I could never say what family is in the way you have said it. Your letter is beautiful

Rita said...

Yes, you are welcome to use this letter if it's at all helpful to you. Do you mind just letting me know where and what you will be using it for?

Kate said...

I would like to copy this, also. I have two children who are gay and I would love for my whole family to read this.

Kate said...

I would like to copy and paste the paragraph that defines family onto my facebook page along with a picture of my family. I would also like to share a copy of the letter to a group I am in that is for mothers of gay children. thank you so much for this letter. It is so beautifully written.

Rita said...

Of course! That would be fine. :) I hope it's helpful.

Anita Stephens said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful example. as a mother of a gay son, I so echo so many of your feelings and comments, and it is so refreshing to be able to know that there are others out there who are doing as the savior has taught us, to LOVE> Your children ( and brother are very lucky to have you in their life.)

Trisha said...

Well said mom. Said out of love and a firm testimony!

Anonymous said...

This is right on and brought me to tears because it is what my heart has been trying to say but my mind could formulate the words.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts were so beautifully stated and I had to share the message you wrote. If only everyone could understand that what truly matters in life is family, friends, compassion, respect, and accepting others for who they are, to just love and be loved. It would make all the difference in our world today.

Anonymous said...

Great article, except the stat about a high likelihood of one of your children or grandchildren being gay. It's around 1-2% so unless you plan on having a lot of kids... Not too likely ha.

Liz Johnson said...

I'm so proud to have you as my friend. I love you.

Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine shared this with me and I can't thank her enough for doing so. More importantly I can't thank you enough for writing it and putting into words what's been in my heart and head.

As a divorced LDS father of four sons, I've had moment after moment of pride for each of them and how they've handled their trials and celebrated their victories. For one of them that came in the fall of 2014, when, at the age of 16 he came out and told me through tears that he was gay and that he'd known since he was 9 years old but had spent the last 7 years fighting it. I wasn't surprised he told me this. It didn't matter. He was still my son and one of the four greatest gifts for God that I have been given. My immediate response was to hug him and reassure him (like I did when he was little and truly believed he was THE Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story), "I love you matter what--to infinity and beyond!! What can I do to help?"

That pivotal moment was followed up by 3 hours of just letting him talk, cry, get angry and explaining the hell and personal battle he was dealing with as a result of being bullied, ostracized and meant to feel worthless by his school mates as well as kids in the ward. Like the good man at the pool you gained insight from, my son echoed that he wouldn't choose this, that it led to years of self hate and often thoughts of suicide to end the pain yet it was a relief to finally be able to talk about it openly and know that he has my unconditional love & support.

Although he has distanced himself from the church and religion altogether, he is a valued son of a loving Heavenly Father &

I plan to share your post with my ex-wife, 1 of his 3 brothers and other members of the family that have really struggled and quite frankly failed with knowing how to approach him with this and differently. Rather than wrapping their arms around him and reassuring that they love him as he is, they share all the Ensign articles and information the Church has published on same sex attraction in hopes that it will bring him peace and get him back to church. Maybe in time it will, but at the end of the day he is who he is and I for one want him in my life so I will continue to love & accept him no matter what.

Thank you for the powerful yet simple message I took away--be kind & love others. Always. That's what Jesus did and expects us to do...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful and timely letter! I was speaking with my sister (the most amazing mom I know, next to our own) last night about my oldest nephew & his reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. While I'm gay and have a partner of 6+ years, my sister & her husband have never spoken to my two nephews about our relationship because they don't want them to view it as an exception or unusual--they just want them to see that we're all family and love each other. My 13-year-old nephew went to her the day the ruling was made and was almost in tears because he was so upset. He asked her to explain to him why inequality was ever permitted in the first place. It was a non-issue for him that love is love & that everyone deserves to be happy. I couldn't be a more proud uncle. When I hear that and then read your wonderful letter here, it gives me hope that the world is becoming a brighter, more love-filled place for those of us who want nothing more than to be treated the same as everyone else. Thank you for teaching this to your children!

Kate said...

About the stats...it is closer to 5-7 percent. I have seven children and two are gay. It is apparently hereditary, too.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

I just got admonished on AM radio 1430 - by the caller after me for being one of Packer's hated : feminists, intellectuals, and homosexuals (and the caller added people who listen to African music). The radio host nor the caller know if I am any of these but responded this way to me because I was advocating family love and concern for young people who are currently receiving the "Christian" message that they are not okay how they are, and consequently are becoming another statistic in the disproportionate suicide rate in Utah. I am so happy I found your message just now - it restores my faith in humanity.

Sierra's View said...

Thank you for this. Following your blog now :)
Sierrasview.com

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful and powerful. Thank you from a sister in Samoa.
Lani Young

Jeremy Sexton said...

I truly loves this sweet letter to your kids. It brings happiness to my heart for you to teach them to loves everyone no matter what. I wish more parents would teach their children this. I'm gay and this brought hope to me that the world will change. Thank you for sharing. May God Bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I usually never comment on anything, really. However, your insight and perspective on this extremely problematic issue for mainstream "Utah" Mormonism I find unique and, frankly, inspirational. I echo your sentiment and assure you there are hundreds of thousands of similar Members who feel likewise. While I cannot personally reconcile how same sex attraction will be reconciled through the Atonement under the Plan of Salvation, your approach here in mortality is precisely how I believe the Master expects us to be. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you for this extremely positive and loving message you are sending to your children. This message of love, respect, and acceptance are what make us better human beings. By teaching your children these values, you have ensured that everyone that is lucky enough to meet you or any of your children will be met with open mindedness and love - and that is all we can hope for in life. Thank you for raising your children the way you are and for reminding people that embracing who you are and accepting others for who they are IS what Christianity is about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Rita said...

I appreciate the kind comments and stories that have been shared with me since posting this. I've received a couple of comments that I've chosen not to publish because of their assumptions regarding my lack of faith in the atonement and my choice to "serve two masters." I've been debating whether or not to even respond, but it's been eating at me. If anything, I've grown a deeper love for my Savior and the atonement. I've come to believe that we are all like puzzle pieces in the massive jigsaw puzzle of each other's lives. Each piece is crucial, but we are only one piece. There is another who is the master builder, and He is responsible for making sure all of the pieces come together when and as they should. I think where many of us get into trouble, is when we assume that we are responsible not only to stand in as our piece, but that we should be more than our alloted piece, or more important than the others pieces around us. Some of us even think that we are the master builders. By thinking that we can solve, change, and mold others as we please, we are taking away the Savior's role in their life, and minimizing the power of the atonement. Sure, I will certainly do my best as a mother to raise my children, but I think we (including myself) more often need to allow the Savior to fulfill His role in each other's lives.

Anonymous said...

I saw this through my friend's FB page and you are a beautiful woman with a huge heart. You no doubt will raise caring, great little people who will become tolerate kind adults!

Anonymous said...

you are so right on. it's about love, and not judgement. always.

MamaSmith said...

Beautifully written and explained.

Launna said...

This is beautiful and touching, I wish more people stopped judging others and loved each other...

David and Bonnie Campbell said...

Your letter was so beautiful! It touched my heart. We do have a gay son and this letter is just what I needed and I think our children need. We love him so much and he too is kind and good. He now has a boyfriend that we have never met because we are on a mission. We will soon be home and need to think like you and let his boyfriend know that he is a welcomed addition to our family. Thanks for your message of love! I too would love a copy

Anonymous said...

I have 3 daughters.They are straight..If they came to me & told me they were Gay I would take it all in & be upset for a while ,but I would never,ever reject them.
I would still love them forever & want them to be happy.

Kelli Crosby said...

Thank you! As the mother of a son who is gay, I couldn't have expressed my thoughts as perfectly as you have. Thank you again. Sending you love and peace and hoping and praying for it for anyone who struggles with this. My personal mantra everyday is "Love, Compassion, Forgiveness and Service." This is what our Savior came for to show us this way. With these examples, God will lead and guide us as we love each and every one of His children. Thank you again.

laurie vertner said...

Rita, this is beautiful.
I just spent about an hour responding to this about my own beloved gay brother. Now I don't know where my post went. . If this posts, I may try to recreate what I wrote.
I love what your wrote.

laurie vertner said...

Rita, this is beautiful.
I just spent about an hour responding to this about my own beloved gay brother. Now I don't know where my post went. . If this posts, I may try to recreate what I wrote.
I love what your wrote.

Jennifer Pelo Rawlings said...

So beautiful. I love the analogy of the puzzle. Thank you so much for writing this post and this response.

Alex said...

Beautiful. If only all religious people viewed others who may be different with the love and acceptance you have in your heart, I think that God would be so proud. Thank you for raising your children the way you are.