You should click here to read part 1 if you havent done so.
I was sitting in a crowded music class at a Christian School in West Virginia. I believe it was 7th grade as the teacher stood in front of us in his green polyester pants with chalk all over them. He was a man of short stature, but used big words and told tall tales. For example, he informed us that the research had been done, and rock n roll music could turn us gay! How was this research done you ask? Well, they put mice in a cage, and forced them to listen to heavy metal rock n roll baby! I quickly gave a quick glance toward my friend Todd who I knew loved the heavy stuff! He appeared visually shaken as I then scooted over just in case it was contagious.
The last paragraph was true, but written with the intent of humor. However, it really isn’t funny at all to many folks. Because they remember growing up being told they are an “abomination” or seen as “contagious.” And thus they were forced into hiding (the closet). They then live a life pretending to be someone they are not. And that would never happen in my family right? I mean, I’m a former pastor, therapist, and loving father. Surely, my home was a place where a child would feel free to be “real.” If you’ll remember, in my last blog post I told you that my daughter invited me to lunch in the hipster community of Seattle called Green Lake.
I walked in literally underneath a rainbow flag so there were signs as to what this conversation woud entail. And in full disclosure, thanks to her mother I already knew what she wanted to tell me. I had gotten a text that basically said, “I think our daughter has a girlfriend.” And I replied, “Wow, really?” I should really make up a better story, but I’m trying to be honest.
I will say that I began to examine every step of her childhood looking for signs! “She was really good at softball” I thought to myself. “And she could ride a skateboard, snowboard, and was incredible at soccer” I said nearly out loud, but there was the confusing fact that she seemed to love the Kate Spade purse I bought her for Christmas! And what about the boyfriends? I was wondering if maybe it was a phase. I mean, as one gay friend said, “Men are bitches.” Let me tell you about my oldest daughter.
I met her when she was about 3 years old, and she stole my heart. She was the cutest little thing you’d ever seen, and loved everything purple or pink. She was from her mother’s first marriage, but it was a package deal. When I proposed I had two rings. One for mom and one for her! And one of the best days of my life is when I came home from work to see her drawing with chalk on the sidewalk. She was running toward me before I opened my door. As I got out of the car she gave me a hug, looked up into my eyes, and said, “Can I call you daddy?” She has owned me since that day. And that was the same girl I saw walking into the restaurant, except now she was in her 20s. Oh, and with tattoos…lots of tattoos, but she was my first baby girl.
We sat down to have lunch and I kept waiting. The elephant in the room was running around the table at about 90 mph, but she said nothing. Finally, I was about to pay the bill, and I said with a smile, “Well, are you going to tell me about your partner?” She laughed and repeated, “My partner?” This is where I may have gone a little off course when I said, “Well, what do you call her…I’m new to this?” She laughed and told me her girlfriend’s name. She had met a young lady who was the child of a pastor. A pastor who was loving and kind to his daughter, but did not condone the lifestyle he believed she had chosen. I however was already to the point that I believed she had not chosen the lifestyle, but the lifestyle Had chosen her.
As I looked at the grown lady across the table from me I saw something I rarely had seen when she was a teenager. A true smile. It was as if I watched the door slam on the very dark closet filled with sadness. And as I often do when I’m with her or even talk to her on the phone…I began to cry. On this day I had tears not because my daughter was gay, but because my daughter was gay and didn’t feel comfortable enough to tell me until she was 22 years old.
As I kissed her precious face, and walked to my car that day I drove the 3 hours back to Portland asking myself, “What did you say or do in your home that made your daughter feel as though she couldn’t tell you she was gay?” I want to speak briefly to anyone who has children, grandchildren or nieces and nephews. I think that covers everyone?
When children are young, most of us (or at least I did) assume our kids are straight. Therefore, we may make “gay jokes” around the home. And I would plead with you not to do so. Growing up in the south in the 70s and 80s I was surrounded by racism. And my parents made it clear that the “N Word” would not be used in our home. Why? Because they had evolved, and believed that black folks should be given equal rights. I hope that as parents and grandparents we begin to do the same for the gay community.
I know that there are some who still believe being gay is a choice, but as a former therapist and father of a gay child I can tell you it is not a choice. Now, it is a choice as to whether or not they choose to live the gay lifestyle. And to expect them to not do so is no different than asking a heterosexual to resist their urge to be with the opposite sex. And let me leave you with a plea to the Christian community.
If you believe with all your heart that being gay is a sin then I won’t try to convince you otherwise. I would however ask people to quit saying to me, “No sin is any bigger than another” when I tell them my daughter is gay, because I don’t think she is living in sin. And if you believe gay folks are living in sin please stop saying, “We accept the gay community in our church.” Because if you think someone is an abomination before God then you don’t accept them. You may tolerate them, but you don’t accept them. However, what I’m truly asking Christians to do is not allow their religious beliefs to dictate what level of equality that is given to the gay community. Think of all the religions now represented in America and around the world. If we as Christians have the right to use our faith to dictate the rights of a group of folks who are breaking no laws…other religions would have the right as well. And that should horrify you! Especially if you are a female.
When Jesus told us to love each other there was not a contingency clause. I will be honest and say that I thought the gay community exaggerated the hatred they encountered until I posted pictures of my daughter and her girlfriend on social media. I received a couple of messages letting me know they were disappointed in my support, and there was one that was down right disgusting. I was of course angry, but I was honestly hurt, because that was my baby girl. I watched her love her brothers and sisters, I observed her being a beautiful friend to others, and I baptized her. I guess you’d say, I saw her heart. Lastly, I look forward to the day we never use the phrase, “The gay community” and simply say, “Our community.”
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