I read this article yesterday. It’s about the plight of homeless LGBT youth. Did you know that between twenty and forty percent of homeless youth are LGBT, even though only five percent of youth self-identify as such? You probably didn’t, unless this is an issue you already care about. I urge you to start caring.
Want to know why these kids are homeless?
They’re homeless because their parents kicked them out. Parents whose job it is to protect their children until they are grown. People who looked at the child they (presumably) love(d) and said, “I don’t want to live with someone like you.” So instead of graduating high school and maturing into adulthood, these youths are sleeping in subway cars, on park benches, and in abandoned buildings. They’re surviving any way they can. Or they’re not; they’re also dying. And what sucks most about it is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The institution of the Church has failed these kids in three important ways. First, we’ve created the attitudes that lead to some parents practicing what they think is “tough love” because we’ve called these kids “abominations.” Second, we’ve failed because we haven’t called out those parents in our churches who do this to their kids. We’ve let them, even if it makes us uncomfortable to hear. Third, we haven’t picked up where these parents left off. We haven’t made a safe place to shelter these kids, or we’ve told them they can have help if they “repent.”
I’m not merely angry about that. I’m outraged. I have kids. I simply cannot imagine asking one of my children to leave my house because of being gay. I cannot imagine, for any reason, not wanting to take the chance to deepen our relationship. I cannot imagine wanting to give up on all the other things I would miss about being a parent. Most of all, I cannot imagine sending my teenaged child out into the world alone with nothing.
You know what I want my kids to know? I want them to know just how much we love them. I hope that they know that we, their parents, are safe people. That they don’t have to fear being asked to leave our home because of who they are.
Our kids are still young, so anything can happen. If one day one of them (or both, who knows?) comes to us and says, “Mom and Dad, I’m gay,” do you know what will happen? The first thing I’m going to do is offer a hug and say, “I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m glad that we trust and respect each other enough that you could share important things about yourself with us.” And then I’m not going to do anything else except listen.
I hope that, somewhere deep down, my kids know this. I hope my daughter knows that if she grows up and marries another woman, we will be in the front row and I will be the one crying (just a little)—not because she’s marrying a woman, but because weddings are beautiful and they make people cry. I hope my son knows that if he grows up and marries another man, we will be the ones cheering the loudest when the officiant announces their new union—not because gay weddings are “better” than straight weddings, but because he has the right to be legally wed to the person he loves. I hope my kids both know that, gay or straight, this holds true no matter what.
Do you know why? Because it’s not about me.
It’s not about what I want. The moment we decided to become parents, it stopped being about us. I haven’t loved everything about being a parent. I didn’t enjoy colic or 2am feedings or dirty diapers. I don’t like cleaning up vomit or blood or food left in lunchboxes for three days. I don’t like meting out consequences for rude behavior or breaking up fights over toys or keeping kids occupied on (frequent) seven hour drives. I get frustrated with backtalk and whining and laziness. But I put up with all of it, because it comes with the territory. I got to choose whether or not to be a mom. I didn’t get to choose my kids’ personalities or their intelligence or their biological make-up. And I don’t get to choose their sexuality.
I know, as a parent, that it’s hard when our kids turn out differently than we hoped. I didn’t ask to have a son with ADHD. I didn’t ask to have a daughter who is probably the most opinionated child alive. My life would certainly be a lot less complicated without those things. But I love the messiness of it all. I love having a son who is creative and artistic, who can’t sit still in class but who can perform a complicated dance on stage. I love having a daughter who is passionate about what she believes in, who mouths back at me at least once a day but also leads her peers with grace and conviction. What would I have to give up in order for my children to be “perfect”?
When you change just one thing, you change it all. What are the parents who kick their LGBT kids out giving up? What parts of their kids would they trade for straight kids? I know if it were me, I wouldn’t want to give up anything.
I just hope I’ve managed to tell my kids that often enough.