“Mom, can I talk to you about something?” The text appeared on my phone late one night, sent from #4 who was safe in their bedroom. The year was 2016, and the child was 10 years old.
“Sure what’s up?” I replied.
“No you don’t get to ask me if you can talk to me then back out, what’s up?”
After a few more texts, offering to talk rather than type… #4 says I don’t want to talk, text is fine. “I think I’m gay” is the next line that appears.
My heart exploded with all kinds of emotions at once, but my intuition kept me calm and steady. My baby needed to trust me and feel safe so my response needed to prove that. I had learned that remaining calm and no response was the best way to react to children. I don’t know exactly what I said, but I know it was along the lines of “Ok. Let’s talk about that when you are ready. I love you always, no matter what.”
My baby boy was a surprise child. I had not planned to get pregnant again. My husband had a vasectomy scheduled at one point and had to cancel due to a work deadline. I was overwhelmed by life most of the time. Depression was a daily battle. God knew that I wasn’t complete yet. This child was God’s gift to me: the gift of Joy.
From the moment he could make sounds, laughter appeared. I saved it as my ringtone on a cellphone back then. It was pure and intoxicating when this child laughed. Playful, imaginative, and sweet. Sometime around the 4th birthday, this kiddo was begging me for a princess birthday party. The request was for a castle cake, tiaras, and magic wands. His invitees were all of the little girls in our lives. All he wanted for toys was My Little Pony. They were pretty colors and sparkling tails. He delighted in these things and his energy was innocent and happy.
This type of behavior continued with tutus and fairy wings, a love of pink and lavender, and always being surrounded by a group of girl friends. Being a mother of 4 boys in American culture, I can say this was not “typical” boy behavior. The others turned anything and everything into cars, guns, swords. I had sometimes wondered and worried if #4 would be gay. I didn’t know if these things would change as he grew up or not.
My biggest fears stemmed from a story that became headline news in 1998, the year my first child was born. He was a young college student, Matthew Shepard. He was violently assaulted and killed because of his sexuality. It was tragic and never left my mind. The world is mean and ugly. It’s already a scary place for kids… adults even. I was and still am worried for their safety. That’s part of being a mother. Now, I’m learning how to navigate the fears and not let them control me because I would not be able to breathe if I allowed myself to feel them all.
Over the last three years my #4 and I have had very open communication. We ask each other questions. I respect their thoughts and feelings and they respect my judgment calls when I say “No”. Coming out, gender dysphoria, being male and presenting as female are all things we are working through. Together, we are navigating what the appropriate boundaries are in our culture for a 13 year old. It’s not always clear and my answers are sometimes based on my gut instincts instead of proven facts. I am grateful that we share trust in these moments.
Everyone in our lives knows. We aren’t keeping secrets. What’s important to me about this is that #4 is learning to feel comfortable being themselves. They know without a shadow of doubt that my love is deep and true and a place for acceptance and safety. That is most important to me.
As I write this, I am reminded of my Christianity. There’s a question that came up in our talks at the beginning. It still pierces me. “Mom, if God hates gay people, why did he make me gay?”. This question came one summer after they had attended summer camp with a large Christian organization here in Oregon. They had given their heart to Jesus that summer and been baptized in the river. One year later, in all of the innocence of a child, they were questioning such deep and potentially dark realizations. There are so many schools of thought, interpretations of the Bible, different stories from experience and some simply based on fear. It could be a very messy and complicated answer. Instead, I choose to answer with the one thing that I know to be true and there is absolute resolve in the statement: God is Love. My child was and is a gift from God. My child is a child of God, and worthy of whatever that entails between them and God. I trust that God is all powerful and far more capable of taking care of, guiding, and teaching my children than I could ever be. So my answer is this: God does not hate gay people. Period. God is Love and because that is truth, God loves all of humanity. Each individual person, regardless of sexuality, race, even religion… will have to work out their own salvation, relationship, and beliefs about God. I do not believe the Bible was given to us to cause hate, division, and pain… but rather I believe God calls on us to Love each other. That’s pretty simple at the end of it all.
Over this last weekend, I was blessed to be part of my dearest friend’s wedding. We have shared all of life with each other over the last 18 years. There were many beautiful and God-ordained moments, most of which are for another writing session. But I want to close this story with two. My bff’s little sister who must be in her late 20’s, is also gay. She presents as more masculine. Baby sister was at the wedding with her beautiful girlfriend. The charisma and connection between the two was so endearing to me. I wished I could have just sat and watched and listened… not to be creepy but to observe what a same-sex relationship can be. To soak in the hope that I was given that the world, as scary as it can be, can also be safe and true and amazing when shared between two people with love and joy. I wanted to take a minute to watch how she treated Little Sister and observe if Little Sister could feel the joy that provided for the family around her. I took a moment to share with them a two minute snippet of our story. I knew that when they met my #4 that there would be a connection between them, between us. For me, navigating these waters isn’t always easy and can be awkward. I knew in the moment that God had given me some relief and support. I experienced love and gratitude from those two beautiful souls… and hope most importantly.
That night, I shared with number 4 about who I had met and what our conversation was about. I knew there was some anxiety about going to church, even for a wedding with his extended family. I hoped that there would be a measure of peace, knowing they were not the only one in a group of heterosexual christians. The rest of our evening was busy with wedding preparations. When it was time to sleep, we were sharing a bed… which I’ve learned is not a favorite thing for male teenagers to share a sleeping space with Mom. We divided up with pillows and had separate blankets. The lights were off and we settled in. I felt the little hand of a thirteen year old child reach out and grab mine. We held on until sleep came.
Love is love. Mama Bear.