We Love and Accept Our Gay Son

1 Oct

Our son Jonathan came out in 2001 during his sophomore year in high school.  Up until the time he came out, he was apparently doing well.  He was a popular kid, very active in school musicals and activities.  Jonathan was an active Christian leader on campus.  He was president of the high school Bible club, and had between 25 and 30 active members.

We were pleased to say, “If the doors of the church are open, Jonathan is there!”  He was one of those five-times-a-week kids: Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, choir practice, praise team rehearsal, youth group–Jonathan was always there.  The people loved Jonathan, and he loved them. He was heavily involved in the music program–sang with the praise team, and was a frequent soloist.

He was apparently doing well, but, unknown to us, he was struggling with same-sex attractions.  He was gay. Before he came out, Jonathan prayed that God would take away these attractions.  “God, I don’t want to be gay.  Take this away from me.  Heal me!”  For six months he prayed, before he finally realized that God had made him gay and he needed to accept what God had done in his life.

A lot changed after he announced that he was gay.  Our pastor told him he could no longer minister on the platform in music. The Bible club adviser suggested that Jonathan step down as president “for the good of the club.”  In the next few months, he would attempt suicide three times.

We learned to accept the fact that our son was gay at different times, but it never entered our heads to reject him, despite the fact that many leaders urged Christian parents to reject any idea that their sons or daughters were homosexuals.  According to them, such acceptance only encouraged wrong-headed thinking, bad behavior, and sin.

Our son is alive, unlike many sons and daughters who are rejected and forced from their homes.

We now attend a church here in East County where all of our children, including our gay son, are welcome to worship and contribute to church life and experience.

PFLAG support groups meet to discuss their situations at home, and to give new parents a chance to share their stories and situations with others who understand what they’re going through.   When you can’t talk with your family members or your friends, PFLAG is a place where people care about your situation.

Video

PFLAG: Holding Families Together

1 Oct

Learn how different families deal with having a gay or transgender teen in their homes and how it effects our kids. From total rejection–to love and acceptance–how we deal with our children can make the difference between life and death.

91 y.o. Louise McWhorter, PFLAG Mom, in Pride Parade

25 Jul

Ninety-one-year-old Louise McWhorter participated in the 2012 San Diego Pride Parade as one of PFLAG’s oldest active members.  Despite life’s challenges, nothing keeps this proud PFLAG mother down.

Louise McWhorter, 91, at the 2012 Pride Parade in San Diego with Ron Goetz (left) and son Bill MacWhorter (right)

Louise’s son Jon, whom the family calls “Casey,” came out to her when he was in high school.  She describes why it was probably easier for her to  accept his news than it might have been.

“The year before Casey told us he was gay, I had attended a women’s home repair class, where we learned to fix broken lamps, change door knobs, fix electric plugs, and other household tasks.  When the class was finished, someone said to me, ‘You know that class was filled with lesbians, right?’ I was totally surprised.  I’d never even heard the word lesbian said aloud before!  The other women in the class were quite wonderful people, quite normal — none of them had ever made a pass at me!  I think taking that class made it easier for me when Casey came out to me. I knew gays and lesbians were nice, normal people.”

Louise’s husband, Mac MacWhorter, literally “stood up” for his gay son, Casey.

Louise’s husband was Mac McWhorter, who passed away in 2008.  Mac was a highly decorated, bona-fide war hero.  Mac was not only the Navy’s first Hellcat fighter ace in the Pacific theater, but was the first double-ace, downing more than ten enemy aircraft.  Louise knew Mac loved Casey, but wasn’t sure how he would take the news that his son was gay.  Louise loves to share the following story, and I never get tired of hearing the pride in her voice as she tells it.

Hero Stands Up to Deputy Sheriffs

“Casey had just recently come out to us.  One night the local gendarmes came to the house and told us they susected our son of having some stolen property.  They asked if they could search his room and we said yes.  While one of them was searching his room the other deputy sneered, ‘You know your son’s a fag, don’t you?'”

“Mac immediately stood up to his full 6’3″ stature and towered over the deputy.  He said to the man quietly: ‘He’s my son and I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head.’  After that the deputy didn’t have a thing to say.”

Louise has attended San Diego PFLAG from its earliest days, some thirty years ago, when it frequently had to move its meeting from place to place.  Today she attends both the PFLAG speaker’s meeting in San Diego and the PFLAG support group in Santee.

(For more on Mac McWhorter, click here and here.)

March with Santee PFLAG in the Pride Parade!

30 Jun

Annual San Diego Pride Parade

Every year members of PFLAG San Diego show their support for the LGBT community by marching in the San Diego Pride Parade.  This year, we’ll march again, showing our support for our LGBT family members, neighbors, and fellow citizens. We would love to have you join us this year.

Parade Information

Date: Saturday, July 21, 2012

Time: 11:00 am

Route: The parade begins at University Ave. and Normal Street, proceeds west on University Avenue to 6th Avenue, turns south on 6th Avenue, ending at Balboa Drive and Upas Street.

Distance and Time: 1.5 miles | 2 hours

Please RSVP to March with Santee PFLAG in the Pride Parade!

Leave a Message: 619-588-2342

Or Email us at: whytestonne at hotmail dot com

View the Official San Diego Pride Website:  www.sdpride.org

Santee PFLAG Booth at the 2012 Santee Street Fair

28 May

We’re excited about having a booth at the Santee Street Fair.  As part of our neighborhood outreach, members of Santee PFLAG staffed it’s first booth at the annual event.  At the all-day fair we talked with scores of people.  Some people had heard of PFLAG before, but for some it was the first time they had ever heard of the work of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.  Sharing the work of PFLAG with the greater Santee community was a great experience for all of us.

Santee Street Fair, May 26th 2012

Staffing the PFLAG Booth:
Bob Dryden, Mar Cardenas, and Mary Dryden

Santee FLAG’s Booth at the 2012 Santee Street Fair

Representing Santee PFLAG at the Street Fair:
(l. to r.) Crystal Loutzenhiser, Bob Dryden, Gary Loutzenhiser-Cárdenas, and Mary Dryden

Greetings to everyone we met. We look forward to meeting you again!

Lesbian Christian Comes Out at a PFLAG Meeting

23 May

Monique visited us in 2007.  She drove here from El Centro to talk about her struggle with being a lesbian Christian. Her visit to a PFLAG meeting was the first time she had talked about it with anyone other than her girlfriend.  We were gratified to be there for her.

Monique wrote this letter for her more conservative Christian sisters and brothers.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This is my love letter to you my unknown friend. I respect your views and I deeply understand them, for I too believed such theology. I choose to write to you in peace and love and share with you my personal journey.

The Church’s Spiritual Nurture

I grew up in a strict evangelical home. Our family never missed a Sunday at church, which was deeply grounded in traditional beliefs and practices. There is where I learned about Christ and his love for me through the caring words from my Sunday school teachers and pastors. There my hunger grew to serve Him, love Him, and worship Him.

First Crushes

As I grew older, I knew I was a little different from the other girls but was not sure exactly what was different. As early as fifth grade to when I was in junior high I really did not know what it meant to be gay or lesbian, but one thing I knew for sure is how I felt about other girls. I really didn’t think my feelings were wrong, and I was so naive that I thought everyone felt that way towards their girlfriends. Despite the fact that I was a bright student, my naiveté could be attributed to the fact that my family shielded me from the world, and television watching in my household was heavily restricted. It was not until I got a bit older that I realized that what I was feeling was not something that my girlfriends felt, and that there was a term for people like me: the dreaded “H” word- HOMOSEXUAL.

James Dobson and “Them” — the Abominations

James Dobson — “Rhetoric of Intolerance”

Even though I learned about this, I did not identify with that word because as I grew older I started to hear pastors speak of “them” as “abominations” and my mother, an avid Focus on the Family listener to Dr. James Dobson, I had heard similar rhetoric of intolerance on our local Christian radio station. And I thought that I was not an “abomination” because I loved Jesus and Jesus loved me. When I was in high school I did not have an interest in dating anyone even though I had a couple of really big “crushes” on a couple of girls. I never acted on these feelings. I just ignored them and kept extremely busy by becoming engaged in a variety of clubs and sports on campus.

Campus Life Club leader in High School

As a person who felt called by God early on in life, I was heavily engaged in the Campus Life Club on campus at the high school and helped lead the club in the junior high as a high school student. The club had its largest membership when I and a friend of mine were active leaders (after we graduated, membership severely dwindled). I believe that membership was high because we shared the love of Christ with others–everyone, even the “social outcasts” or, as some referred to them in high school, the “un-cool kids.”

My sophomore year of high school I had fallen hard and fast for a beautiful and smart girl who happened to later become the president of the Campus Life Club at our high school. I knew instantly of my feelings for her and there was no denying them. In high school I never acted on these “feelings.” I just kept them repressed and felt great shame. I remember throughout high school tearfully asking God to take these “feelings” away from me. I became even more aware of the rhetoric against “homosexuals” on the Christian radio station my mother listened to and felt scared to tell anyone at home or in the church what I had been feeling because I felt ashamed and scared that I may be somehow no longer accepted in the Christian community that was a part of my everyday life, my identity.

Even though my parents did not allow my sister and I to date, my sister did have her secret boyfriends and she would tell me about them or I would find out about them (we are only a year a part in age and attended the same school). All the while, having, but not acting on, these “feelings,” I had secret crushes which I could share with no one. My friends would ask me when I going to get a boyfriend or if I though such-and-such a guy was cute, and I would just smile and turn shyly away hoping the conversation topic would quickly change.

Doodling Love Hearts on the Church Bulletin

Monique and Jessica

However, I think my mom knew about my “secret crushes” even before the time she caught me during church service writing a girl’s name on the back of a church bulletin. I drew hearts around her name, as many adolescent girls and boys do with the name of their sweethearts. I remember vividly the look the look she gave me. It was one of disappointment and one of “this better not be what I think and you better stop what you are doing right now.” I quickly stuffed the bulletin in my Bible and looked forward at the pastor. My family, every once in a while, would have family devotion sessions where my parents would read the Bible and my sisters and I would listen and have an opportunity to ask questions.

Soon after the “bulletin incident” I heard my first anti-homosexual devotional given by my step-father. He quoted Leviticus, Romans, and made reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. I remember feeling a little intimidated and scared, thinking, “Why are we covering this topic, do they know about my crushes?” But all the while thinking, I’m not a homosexual, an “abomination,” and became even more insecure with my sexual orientation and my faith. But once again, I repressed who I am.

Things in my parent’s house were never quite “home” for me, and that “spare the rod, spoil the child” thing was taken a bit too far at times. So I decided to move the day after I graduated from high school. It was the summer before going to college and I had moved in to my friend’s house for a couple of months. This was the same friend in which I had a massive crush on since my sophomore year of high school. This was the same friend who was the Campus Life president.

Love at a Christian University

My feelings for her were mutual and we were soon in a relationship, an awkward one. Throughout college we were in a secretive relationship that was poorly defined. Moreover, both of us have a background in religion and a deep love for Christ, and would often find ourselves remorseful for our feelings for one another, and too ashameed to expose our relationship to anyone. I was attending a Christian University at the time and it was quite difficult to find anyone to talk about this. We would always stop because one of us would feel so guilty and afraid that someone would find out.

We would always ask our selves, “When is this going to end?” I loved her deeply and I knew she loved me deeply, but we were deeply conflicted because of our faith. Our church, our parents, and our greater Christian community had taught us that to be gay or lesbian you are not in God’s grace and not following His plan for your life. Furthermore, when I attended the Christian University, I was not “out” and felt really alone and sad because I did not know of any support networks in which I would feel safe to talk about this without being “encouraged” to leave the University and without feeling ashamed. This made my depression grow. We had an on again off again relationship for six years. It came to an end when I moved to another county for an internship after grad school.

I still loved her deeply, but no longer wanted to engage in a poorly defined and secretive relationship. However, I soon found myself in yet another poorly defined and secretive relationship, a mistake which a deeply regret. During this period of time as well I “dated” a man for a short time. I was encouraged by my friends to do so. He was my friend and I liked our conversations, but it was nothing more than that. It felt kind of good for the first time to engage in “girl talk” with my friends and divulge what we talked about over cappuccino. It was really the first time that I had ever talked to my friends openly about a relationship and it gave me a sense of “normalcy,” even though I knew I was being someone I wasn’t. I wanted to talk to someone. I wanted to ask them questions. I wanted to know if who I am is ok? I wanted someone to love and accept me for who I am. I wanted to reconcile my faith and my sexual orientation. I wanted to still serve God. But most of all, I wanted God to still love me.

At the time, I lived in a rural part of California. I was 25 years old and had kept secret who I really am and had carried around so much sadness for all those years. I went online and searched for any local support groups or organizations that helped people searching for answers, but most of all searching for acceptance. Since I lived a rural and isolated region in the state, I did not come across any local centers or resources for the LGBT community. The closest LGBT support networks were approximately 120 miles west of my home. I left messages for several people at these LGBT support networks hoping that I could have a safe place to finally talk of which I had been silent about since my youth. Two people returned my call. The first stated that there were no support networks in my area. That was the end of that conversation.

Coming Out at a PFLAG Meeting

However, a second person called me back and he took the time to listen and talk with me. He shared with me that he is a father of a gay son who had been very active in church and who loved God. He also shared with me that his son had attempted to commit suicide in high school, partly because of the lack of acceptance from his church community and the depression he felt. The person I talked to on the phone, like me, had a love for God, was a part of the evangelical church, revered the Bible and knew it well. Because of that I was able to talk to him about the theological texts that I had heard used to inflict guilt and shame on the LGBT community.

For the first time in my life, I engaged in an open conversation with someone about God, love, the Bible, and who I am. I truly believe that God had purposely put this individual in my life to help me accept myself and to affirm the love and grace of God for me. I know if I would have spoken to someone who didn’t have an understanding of the Bible, but most of all the love of God, I probably would have still been depressed, kept secret who I am, an not fully been able to feel the full love that God has for me as one of his children. I was invited to attend a PFLAG meeting. So, later on that month (September 2007) I drove approximately 100 miles to my first PFLAG meeting. There were about five people present at the meeting. They were all older adults who had gay or lesbian children. We went around the table and everyone told the story of their children who had “come out” and how they felt and reacted. They all spoke in peace and love. Smiles and tears were on the faces of these individuals because they loved their children very much and supported them. It was time for me to share “my story.” It was the first time I had really shared my story to a group of people. I started to speak as tears flooded my cheeks. The parents comforted me, hugged me, accepted me, and loved me. For the first time I was who I am and I was truly loved for me.

Coming Out to Mom

Monique G. Lopez

This experience gave me the courage to let my mother know who I am. I had written my mother a short letter letting her know just in case I was too emotional to finish what I had wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her on October 11th because it was “National Coming Out Day.” I carried the letter folded in my back pocket all that day and never found the courage to go to her house and tell her. That night I took the letter out of my pocket and read it over and over again until I feel asleep.

I woke up early the next morning restless and knew I had to let her know. I drove to her house that morning and knocked on her door. She answered the door and was the only one home. I sat on her couch and told her that there was something that I needed to tell her, something she probably already knew. And then, I was overcome by emotion and could no longer speak louder than my crying and see past my tears so I handed her the letter that had been folded in my pocket. I sat there crying, not looking at my mother, as she read the letter in silence.

Dear Mom,

I am going to tell you something that I am sure you have known ever since I was a child. I am a lesbian. I have decided to tell you because I would rather you hear it from me than someone else and thought that it would be more respectful if I told you directly. It has been a long and emotionally torturous journey trying to deny how I really feel for so many years and hide who I really am. I can’t pretend anymore to be someone I am not. I don’t want to disappoint you as a daughter and have always tried to make you proud. I don’t want you to feel guilty because you think that you have failed as a mother and that is why I am a lesbian. Under the circumstances, I know that you did the best job that you could do and I acknowledge and appreciate that. I don’t want you to feel sad for me, because I feel very happy now with the person I am. I love you mom and I know that you will continue to do the same to me.

Your Daughter,

Monique

As soon as she finished the letter she kept asking me if I was sure, if I had given much thought about it, and how long I had felt that way. Soaking up the tears with kleenex, I answered her questions. My mother gave me a hug and said that she loved, “but I don’t agree with what you are doing because of what the Bible says.”

My purpose was not to change my mother’s theological thought on this issue. Neither is that my intention to do to you today. I want to let you know that today I truly live in peace that passes all understanding and am free from the bondage of depression. But most of all, I truly know and feel the grace of God which has been poured upon me in love through His Son, Jesus Christ. His Son Jesus who healed and loved the outcast, the outcast like me and you my unknown friend.

Peace & Love,

Monique

___________________________________

On the Road for PFLAG

18 May

Last month I took my first road trip as an adult, and spoke at four PFLAG events in Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. I spoke everywhere on topics related to the intersection of Christianity and LGBT issues. Interest was high.  Growing up fundamentalist, graduating from an evangelical college, attending two Baptist seminaries, and being the father of a gay son has made me particularly interested in the turmoil between LGBT communities and faith communities.

PFLAG Ohio State Convention

The main event was the PFLAG Ohio State Conference held in Lima, Ohio on Saturday, April 14th.  The Lima PFLAG chapter sponsored the event, and Philip Atkins was the conference organizer.  Phil contacted me early this year and asked me to speak about the intersection of the LGBT community and faith communities. Phil works in government mental health in three west central counties in Ohio.

Recently published PFLAG guide to working with people of faith.

My LGBT and faith presentation followed PFLAG national’s revised emphasis on working with faith communities. PFLAG has published an excellent new online resource for PFLAG chapters, the PFLAG Faith Field Guide, which I highly recommend to PFLAGgers everywhere.

There were almost one hundred people at the Ohio conference, the most they’d ever had. I shared my son’s coming out story, how I got involved in PFLAG, and one of my first experiences after joining PFLAG–carrying a Christian flag as a counter-demonstrator, face-to-face with the organizers of the Christian anti-equality event.

Melissa Goldblatt presented on Gender Identity.  I found the discussion of sex reassignment surgery discussion a bit uncomfortable, as usual. Melissa serves as the counselor, adult volunteer and crisis responder with Rainbow Area Youth Group (RAY) and the Ohio Pink Ladies-Ohio Plaid Lads (OPL) in Toledo. She is working with equality organizations to open a GLBT outreach and community center to serve the Northwest Ohio area.

PFLAG Dayton, OH

Earlier in the week I shared with the PFLAG chapters in Ohio and Virginia.  PFLAG Dayton meets in the Cross Creek Community Church (UCC), and before the meeting Mark Thompson introduced me to most of the folks milling around in the hallway and meeting room, which was very kind. (Some may find it surprising that I am a bit shy!)

Following Mark’s interest, I spoke about Jesus and the four gays and lesbians in Luke 17.  After the meeting I had a nice conversation with a lesbian couple.  They were tired, and had almost decided not to attend, but after my presentation they called their decision to come “a God thing.”

PFLAG Abingdon, VA

My next stop was PFLAG in Abingdon, which involved a really neat drive through Cincinnati, Lexington, and a leisurely, winding drive through Kentucky coal country.  I’d never seen freight trains filled with coal before, or those dozens of small towns that dot the highways. I visited a cemetery set back on a steep hillside, dotted with gravestones dating as late as the 1850’s.

Jason Willis, an energetic young advertising entrepreneur, is the new president of the Abingdon PFLAG chapter.  He has quite a vision for their strategic outpost for equality.  We met in St. Thomas Episcopal Church, and before the meeting I had an interesting conversation.

I was talking with the woman who worked as church custodian, and her husband, and we eventually moved to the back porch of the church.  At one point I said, “A lot of people say being gay is a choice. Do you remember your first crush?”

The woman nodded yes.

Do you remember the person’s name?

She answered with a masculine name.

“So your first crush was on a boy.  My first crush was on a little girl. I was eight years old.” And I described the details of my third grade crush.  “There was nothing sexual about it, nothing sordid or wicked. Just an innocent first crush.  That’s the way it is for gays and lesbians, except their first crush is on another little girl or another little boy. They don’t go through that Romans path into idolatry and fornication until they reach homosexuality.  It’s just an innocent crush.  It’s only when they get older that they realize they’re different.”

I saw a spark of recognition in the woman’s face.

Her husband said, “It’s not my place to judge, but I just don’t agree with the lifestyle.” I decided not to argue the point. It came time for them to leave, and before she stepped down to the parking lot she turned to me.

“You learned me somethin’ just then,” she said.

PFLAG Tri-Cities (Saginaw, MI)

My last meeting was Sunday, April 15th in Saginaw, Michigan at the Tri-Cities PFLAG meeting.  President Leo Romo shared how their chapter goes back about thirty years, roughly the same as our chapter here in San Diego.

In Our Saviour Lutheran Church I gave a brief history of governmental and legislative anti-gay oppression from Eisenhower to the present.  People shared about having to hide their orientation and about watching friends die of AIDS. I also talked about how LGBT students and alumni from fundamentalist campuses are coming out and organizing.

Someone told me they liked how personally the group shared. That was some of the best feedback I’d received all week. The more personally we share, the more we all benefit.

Ron Goetz

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