When my children were little, I was trying to do everything I could to live as a faithful Christian, to raise my family to love and serve God, and to keep our “nuclear” family together as the integral part of our country’s goodness and Christianity’s strength. I read every letter from Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family that affirmed that the family was the strength of the nation and one of the strongest indicators of Christian living. Part of the “Moral Majority,” I felt a sense of pride in all that I was doing to ensure that my family would be a faithful, strong family unit.
When my son Kevin was about three or four, I began to wonder if he was different from other boys. He has two older sisters, so I expected that he would behave much differently from them- but he was the same in many ways. His dad and I must have sensed this, because we would guide him into activities “for boys.” For example, in preschool, Kevin wanted to take dancing lessons. He DID have the affinity and ability to dance! But his dad and I suggested he play tee ball instead. His sadness and lack of interest brought his tee ball season to an abrupt end.
I don’t know if other people were beginning to wonder about Kevin, but several times I heard the suggestion that doting or coddling mothers caused their sons to be gay. At first I questioned if I might be too loving, but fortunately, I could not diminish the way I love my son and daughters. Love is as natural and as unstoppable as breathing.
Then, one evening a few years later- after hearing her dad and I say that homosexuality was wrong- Kevin’s older sister Jennie, about 12 at the time, asked the very insightful question, “What if God told you that being straight was wrong?” Her question really unsettled me! But, trying to be a good role model, I actually replied, “I guess it would gross me out, but I would then try to love someone of the same gender.” After all, I had to be unwavering in my obedience to God for the good of my family…
Her question and the incredible absurdity of my answer were very eye-opening and heart-opening for me.
Also along the way, God began to reveal other insights that were heart changing. I made dear friends who are gay or lesbian. I began as a youth director in a church where the youth group was diverse, welcoming and accepting of all. I learned of the discoveries about orientation coming from genetics and other factors, which made it apparent that orientation is not simply a choice. In God’s perfect grace, I was led to a new understanding and acceptance of the variety of sexual orientations.
So when one of my youth members confided in me that she was lesbian, I could honestly assure her that God loves her, I love her, God made her beautifully, and nothing would ever change because of this. Kevin heard me say this, which finally gave him the courage to tell me that he too, was gay. I had suspected for some time, and I am so thankful that God opened the way for him to tell me his truth.
That night as I lay in bed, I grieved two things. They seem so trivial to me now, but the first was the loss of my traditional family dreams of dancing with him at his wedding and being Grandma to his children. The second was my concern that people were going to blame me for the way he “turned out” because his dad and I had divorced; we no longer had that perfect “Focus on the Family” family I had tried to maintain.
(On a side note, I recently learned that there are studies that indicate a hormone surge in my body while I was pregnant with Kevin could have contributed to his orientation, too. So I may be responsible- for any number of reasons!)
But had I been aware of the heartaches he was facing, I would have been devastated. Sadly, I later learned that he had told his sister nearly a year earlier but had been afraid to come out to me. I learned that his years in junior and senior high school were tough at times, as students and former friends reacted badly. Instead, he chose to sing and laugh with me on the way to school each morning. To this day, he has never told me of his experiences. He wants to save me from additional anger and heartache.
Kevin has always been and is now an incredible, compassionate, spiritual, brilliant, humorous, and inspirational person. He is joyfully married to Kenneth, whom we love as our own artistic, sensitive, wise, and kind son. Kevin is working on his PhD and is looking for new ways to help those with disabilities. I could write pages of all the ways he has blessed me and our family, and maybe I will one day.
Through Kevin’s life and my experiences, I have come to know the expansive, universal love of God. I have been surprised by the greater joy found in releasing our plans or expectations. I have learned that family is so much more than blood and biology; family is the precious bond that God graciously creates with each person we have been given to love. I eventually married Jim, and together we now have the joy of loving six children and five beautiful grandchildren, all God-given to us through births, marriages, adoptions, and foster care!
I have learned that what others might think of me isn’t as important as what God thinks of me, and God loves me (and all of us) unconditionally. I have learned that sometimes what we believe is best isn’t really the best thing at all. I have learned that if am responsible in any way for Kevin’s orientation, I can now see that as a gift- because he is incredible. All of him.
I thank God for this life, for my beautiful and incredible family, and for all the ways God’s joy is SO much better than my limited mindset and traditional expectations.
Thank you, God.
(Top photo: Jim, Kevin, Karen; Bottom photo: Kenneth and Kevin)