by Lindsay Shrewsbury
With equal rights for the LGBT community front and center these days, I felt the pull to expand on a recent Facebook post of mine (in reaction to the Supreme Court’s hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA). It’s a little bit human rights, a little bit religion, a little bit emotional, a lot of family and a lot of love.
I’ll never forget the day that my brother courageously came out to our parents. He called me on a Wednesday night; I even remember where in my kitchen I was standing. When I answered the phone I just heard crying on the other end. After a minute or two he was finally able to utter the words, in between sobs, ‘I told mom.’
The weeks and months immediately following were not easy for my parents; they were raised in a time and place and religion where it was taught that being gay was ‘wrong’. Fast forward seven years later to today: both of my parents have made huge strides in opening their minds and hearts, and choosing to support both my brother AND equal rights.
This morning my dad sent this email to my brother, it said ‘I watched the video Same Love…I support you in all of your decisions…I love you…Nothing will ever change that…Love, Dad’. I am so proud to call him my dad. He harbors no shame in who my brother is; he loves him so much, just the way he is. The world needs more fathers like my dad (and I’m happy to have married one of them – Steve!). I’m so proud of my dad + my brother.
I’m so proud of all this RED showing up in my news feed today – a statement that goes far beyond just being about equality. A statement of love and support for our fellow human beings. I’m optimistic about SCOTUS today and tomorrow. I’m optimistic that one day, my boys’ Uncle Davey will get to marry who he wants, wherever he wants…and I’m loving on the idea that one day, when my boys are of marrying age, they too will be able to marry who they want, wherever they want.
Cheers to amazing moms + dads + siblings + friends that so fiercely support their gay family members + friends – it takes your support + love to help others be confident in making the choice to come out + be themselves. You all amaze me.
The story, as most coming out stories go, goes far deeper than what I delved into via a short Facebook post. During those months following my brother’s coming out, religion and the beliefs that my parents were raised with came heavily into play. There was the day that my dad told my brother that ‘the devil was in him’ and that he needed to ‘get rid of his friends that had the devil in them’. There was the email that followed, addressed to my brother with a cc to me and my sister. In it, my dad said that my brother needed help and that ‘your sisters and I are praying for you.’ I couldn’t hit reply and type out my hasty, angry response fast enough: ‘You do NOT speak for me. I am NOT praying for him. I love him just the way he is. Please do not speak for me again.’
Where did my parents get these beliefs? Why did they take what the church taught them and turn it into a tool of judging and hate? If there is a god, did they not believe that hers was a message of love, compassion and acceptance? If they believed in a god that was judgmental and hateful, do I still respect them?
I had a hard time coming to terms with why and how my parents would believe such things. They are both compassionate and giving people. They are both college educated. They volunteer their time and money. My dad has one of the softest hearts known to human kind. How could he believe that his god would judge his son? How could he believe that his god would want my dad to judge his OWN son? I still don’t fully understand the rationale. And I probably never will.
What I do know is that my parents have both overcome this fear. They have evolved their beliefs and views. They have chosen to be free thinkers AND continue to stay involved with their church(es). I respect them for that. I respect that in a community where the majority is anti-gay, they choose to be the minority. They choose equality. They choose compassion. They choose to stand on the right side of love.
I now have 18-month old twin boys. One day I will tell them the story of my brother, their uncle, coming out. I will share with them the whole truth: the way that my parents reacted and where their reactions came from. I will explain how they chose to break the chains of fear and create a change in themselves that supported love and compassion. I will explain to them that no book or religion, no person and no group should sway their opinions and beliefs. Free from what I may teach them, free from what their father or grandfather or school teachers may teach them; free from any books or religions or public opinions. Free to be, have and experience their OWN thoughts based on what is right. What is kind. What is compassionate. And what is just.
I hope when and if any of my own sons come out as being gay, bisexual, transgender or anything in between, that there is no crying of fear on the other end of that phone call; I hope there would be no emotion of shame and I hope that not even one second would pass by wherein they believe that they have to hide who they are for fear of being judged.
I would hope that when and if we ever get that phone call that they call us out happiness and joyful anticipation to share the news; instead of an ‘I told mom.’ among painful sobs, I hope it will be an ‘I told mom!!!’ in ecstatic excitement.