I was totally shocked when my husband Bruce told me in 2000 that one of our sons was gay, as I had no idea. Our son had agreed that Bruce could tell me. I then ran and found my son and told him that I loved him, but I was also crying and trying to understand how this could have come about and wondered what we had done to cause this to happen and how the situation could be remedied.
I realise now that that was quite an extreme reaction but I come from a religious background and grew up in a church that was very legalistic. When I was 7, my parents joined a church that had started in America and shortly afterwards they asked the elders to pray for healing for me. My mother was advised to visit our doctor shortly afterwards and he informed her that there was no sign of the hole in my heart which had previously caused me to be out of breath and unable to walk very far.
Growing up, this had a profound effect on me and I totally believed that the church which I grew up in was the only true church (their teaching!) and I wanted to go to their bible college and serve God with my life. This went to plan and I met my husband at Bible College; he was ordained as a minister and life seemed very good.
After about two years though, everything changed and we went through some personal struggles as Bruce came to see that the church had major flaws and he had a personal revelation of Jesus. I found this very difficult as my immediate family were a part of the church and the teachings of the church said that if you turned away from their beliefs you were doomed for the lake of fire! After a very intense and difficult period where I cried an awful lot, I came to see that we had been part of a cultish church and we left the church which was really difficult on the one hand as my family were devastated and joyful on the other as we felt incredible peace.
We started on a journey in our Christian life which involved being part of house churches and Pentecostal churches. I don’t remember much being said about homosexuality in church – I don’t think it really got mentioned, but I somehow knew it was completely wrong and the Bible taught against it. I would never have watched any TV programmes about new understandings about homosexuality – in fact I would have quickly switched channels. I honestly thought that it was impossible for us to have a gay child; I thought it was a chosen life style and therefore if a child was brought up in a “godly” home they were safe from such things. How arrogant and ignorant I was!
Our son did an incredibly brave thing and came out to my husband in February 2000. I think it was really brave as he would have known how we felt about homosexuality and so was taking a huge risk. When Bruce told me, I was totally unprepared for the news and fell apart. I cried for days and went through various feelings of guilt, denial and confusion.
Bruce and I sought help from a local minister in a larger church who we thought would be wise and have experience in these matters. His advice was not to say the word “gay” out loud! Also he told us of a young man who had been gay but through counselling was now marrying a woman. I came away feeling encouraged, determined not to say the word “gay “and hopeful for my son becoming straight. Bruce was less convinced. Looking back, I realise the counsel was very unhelpful and by not saying the word “gay”, I was just in denial and not moving forward. I believe love is very powerful and it was this love for my son and knowing him that set me on a quest to discover the truth about the subject. I began to see that it definitely was not a choice for him. Also the words that Bruce felt he had been given some months before “Your son is gay, God is good” became very important to me. They helped me to see that God didn’t seem to have any problem with saying things as they are and this was very freeing in the search for truth.
I wish I could say all my concerns were for our son but that wouldn’t be true – I also acted very selfishly because I cared desperately about what others thought and felt people in church would judge us. We had to have a major rethink and eventually changed churches. I was distressed to realise that my son knew from around age 11 that he was different, had hoped it was a phase he was going through, and later had prayed he’d be delivered from it. He had been going through something on his own for years and thought he might never be able to tell anyone. I’d hoped I was a good mother and yet I had been totally ignorant of all of this.
We discovered that when our son came out, we began the journey of coming out too. This involved our other four children finding things hard because they also believed it was against Bible teachings to be gay. This hasn’t been easy but everyone has tried to show love and is at different stages of coming to terms with their brother’s situation.
A few years after we found out about our son, Bruce and I went along to Bristol Families and Friends, which is affiliated to FFLAG. Actually Bruce had wanted to go along well before me, but I was still working through lots of stuff and probably was still going through some denial. I must say going along, was one of the best decisions we’ve made. I found a group of people who understood and accepted us. The first time I went along I think it would have been okay if I’d just cried the whole time because there’s been no expectation that I have to act in a certain way but just be myself and that is a very healing thing.
I have read loads of material on the internet and in books about how to understand the Bible verses that seem to refer to homosexuality and actually Bruce is pretty good at understanding it. Me – I’m far more of a heart/people person and it seems to go in one ear and out the other! However, the key thing for me is that homosexuality is not a choice and that changes everything as far as I’m concerned. I believe in a God who loves and is kind and faithful and has brought good news to all mankind, whoever you are. I’ve met and also read about numbers of lovely LGBT Christian people whose desire is to follow Jesus and give their lives to Him. They want what I want but just happen to be wired up differently from me. I believe God rejoices over them and I look forward to the day when all people come to recognize this.
For any parent facing similar issues, contact FFLAG (Family and Friends of Lesbians And Gays)
See also ‘Bruce – a Father’s Story’