Thursday, January 30, 2014

Adam's Mom: "You Must Be The Change You Wish To See In World." Ghandi

My last post featured Adam Maughan. There's been so much interest in this young man, who just over a year ago, had thought his life wasn't worth living. To see what a remarkable and positive outlook he now has, I knew he must have a great support system. It was my privilege to sit down with the woman who played a large role in recovery. This is more about the story of this exceptional family. 
Adam's Family August 2013

When Adam was born and Charlotte held him for the first time, both she and her husband David, felt a strong confirmation that he had a special mission on earth. As he grew up, they jokingly told him that he might be a prophet someday. “That may have been kind of overwhelming for him.” He was always a happy, thoughtful, and very creative kid. In the Maughan’s kitchen window, there is a vase of faded paper roses that Adam made when he was seven. He was always drawing and making cards for everyone in the family. He’d set up mazes for his little sister in the basement. He tried to do everything right. Born into a musical family, he is also gifted with music. Sometimes Charlotte would hear him playing the hymns and would ask which book the arrangement was from and he would say, none. He could just improvise.

When Adam was called on his mission to Indianapolis, it was the same mission that his father had served in. He desired to be a faithful missionary. But shortly after he got there and began working, he experienced depression for the first time in his life. Charlotte chalked it up to being away from home and having such a new experience. Adam was blessed in having a kind and loving mission president, who immediately saw to it that Adam got into counseling. Charlotte prayed to Heavenly Father, “I said I know you know what’s going on and I don’t. I’m the mom. I know he’s your son too and I trust you to have happen what needs to happen here.” The mission president kept the parents abreast of the situation as it unfolded. Finally, he let Adam’s parents know that he might be coming home. But Adam fought that. He loved serving. He really wanted to stay. Then one day Adam’s parents got a call saying that he had made a complete turn-around, and was determined to stay. But just days later, seven months in, Charlotte’s cell rang on her way home from Logan. She glanced at it and saw the mission president’s number, so she pulled over.  Adam was coming home.

She was aware of the need to maintain the mission president’s trust with Adam, but she told him that if she was going to help Adam, she needed to know what she was dealing with. “I feel like I’m being handed a brand new baby and I don’t know how to care for that baby,” she said. She went on to tell the president that she had her suspicions. He asked what her suspicions were and she asked if he was dealing with same sex attraction.  And the president confirmed that. At that moment she didn’t cry. She didn’t freak out. “I just knew that Adam had finished what he needed to finish on his mission. He’d had the experiences that he needed to have. He needed to come home and face this.”   There had been a time when Adam was around sixteen, that Charlotte straight up asked him if he was dealing with same-sex attraction, but he denied it.  A couple of months after learning of Adam’s depression on his mission, she came across an article in LDS Living about SSA.  The realization came that this might be why Adam was struggling with depression, and that prompted her to learn more about SSA.  She finally got up the courage to talk to her husband about her concerns.  It didn’t change one bit how much they loved him, but they knew they had a tough road ahead.  They both thought there might be a way to “fix this”.  Charlotte has always been incredibly close to her family. They shared everything with each other. So even before they got Adam off the plane, she told her sisters what the root of Adam’s depression was. She had no doubt that they would all love and support him just as they always had and that proved to be true.

At first things seemed like they were going to be okay. The family rallied around Adam. Adam didn’t know that his aunts, uncles, and grandparents knew his secret.  Charlotte finally told him.  She wanted him to realize that even though they knew about his SSA, they weren’t treating him differently.

Adam started hanging out with one of his really good friends from before his mission. They had always welcomed his friends and had grown especially fond of this young man.  It suddenly dawned on Charlotte that the two had more than just a strong friendship. And she thought, “We have a problem here. And the problem is huge because Adam wasn’t with a creepy predator, it was Adam with a kid that we loved...what do we do now?” They weren’t ready for this. But they talked about it because they wanted the young man to feel welcome in their home.

Two months after Adam returned from his mission, they attended a conference geared to Latter Day Saints who dealt with SSA and their loved ones. They were grasping at straws for answers, but there they realized SSA was different than they’d thought. They learned that they just needed to calm down. Adam needed to have healthy relationships with men. They resolved that no matter what happened, and no matter what choices Adam made, that he and his friends would always be welcome in their home. “We wanted our home to be a place where they felt peaceful. And that we were not judging them.”

Charlotte and David knew that their son needed to be home. They tried to assure him that they would never kick him out of the home, no matter what. But he had a hard time believing that. He’d really felt like a total failure. He’d felt like he’d failed God, and his family. Guilt ate at him as he tried to reconcile his feelings with what he’d been taught. There were nights that Adam would burst through his parents’ bedroom door in the middle of the night and be in tears. “I think Adam felt like God had turned his back on him. I remember him saying that God had played a cruel joke on him. And that made me really sad, because I believe in a loving Heavenly Father that wouldn’t play a cruel joke on anyone.” Charlotte feels that He sends people here with different challenges, and for a reason. It may be to help that person and/or to help others around them. They learned to turn their will to the Savior and let him guide them as they’ve navigated this journey. Looking back, she sees they did some things right, and they did some things wrong.

After Adam’s good friend decided he couldn’t see Adam anymore, Adam spiraled out of control. He spent all of his time in his room and things became darker and darker. Charlotte didn’t know what to do. “It gave me a greater understanding of those who live with people who are suicidal because there comes a time when you really can’t do anything. You can’t watch them 24/7.” One night when Charlotte was up in the middle of the night crying, she actually planned Adam’s funeral. If the worst happened, it would be different than any other one she’d attended, because she would use it to educate others on this topic. Adam had been seeing a counselor recommended by his mission president. Even though the counselor was kind of far away, the mission president told Adam’s parents, “If Adam can come to Indianapolis to save souls, he can travel to Provo to save his own.” The counselor and Adam made a “safety agreement” that if Adam felt like he was in danger of taking his life he would contact him. During a Skype session with his counselor, it became apparent that Adam was no longer safe. After Charlotte’s desperate request to friends who had previously dealt with suicidal intentions, a mutual decision was made between, Adam, his therapist, and his parents to admit Adam to the U of U Neuropsychiatric Institute. Charlotte believes, if they had not intervened, he was only hours away from a suicide attempt.

When they took him to Salt Lake and left him there, just the day before Thanksgiving of 2012, they knew it was what they had to do. They didn’t have time to tell the rest of the extended family that they’d admitted Adam to the hospital.  Thanksgiving without their son was really hard. A lot of his cousins didn’t know that Adam experienced SSA, but most knew that he had been extremely depressed. They rallied and started a letter around the family so each could express their love and support. Everyone hugged Charlotte and told her how much they admired, prayed for, and loved Adam, now more than ever. “Even though this whole thing is so difficult, it’s helped our family to know that we can do hard things, and that we still love each other no matter what. I’m really grateful for that. I’m grateful for the relationship Adam has with his sisters.”

Adam was in the hospital for ten days. The experiences and therapy he had there saved his life and gave him the will to not just live, but thrive. One year after he was admitted he created a video to show gratitude for the things he learned there, to the people who have rallied around him, and to be authentic about the fact that he experiences SSA.  Charlotte didn’t even know he was working on it. He’d been living in Logan, but had come home to travel with the family to Wyoming for Thanksgiving. She literally had her coat in her hand and was headed to the car when her sister called and asked if she’d seen Adam’s Facebook post. She told her she didn’t have time to read it, so just tell her what it says. She said, “No, it’s not what it says. You just have to see it.”  Because they were traveling, she couldn’t see it until late that night. The rest of the family had already seen it, but she, David and Abby (Adam’s youngest sister) watched it and Charlotte sobbed during the whole thing. She is so proud of him, “all of who he is.” After viewing it, she just cried and hugged Adam.

It’s been such a blessing to the family that Adam put this video out there. Now Charlotte and David can be authentic about who they are too.  Charlotte hopes to be a resource for other parents who are facing similar situations. They are no longer the same people that just over a year ago, received a phone call that Adam was coming home.  When they first went to talk to the stake president, they were devastated. They wanted answers. They wanted help, but they quickly found that the fairly new stake president didn’t know how to help them.

“I think the initial reaction from leaders and others can make or break the individual. I used this analogy when I talked to the stake president because I felt like it hadn’t happened right with Adam. I said it’s almost like a little kid who is going to go into a swimming pool for the first time. And they have to test the waters. If they run up and they stick their toe in and it’s freezing cold, they are like ‘I’m not going in there.’ If they go to into the pool and it’s warm then they will go in farther.  I know they have a lot of obligations on their time, but I think that this is something the priesthood leaders need to realize. When people have enough courage to come in, I think it’s critical that these people leave their offices with hope. They met with the Stake President again in November of 2013.  “I think he was quite shocked when we walked into his office because we have a totally different demeanor now. We aren’t devastated. We don’t think this is the worst thing in the world. As a matter of fact, we are thankful for it. It’s something that has blessed us and made us better people...”

She believes that authenticity is a key part to unlocking their ability to be able to move past some of the walls that they’ve built, where they hide who they really are. For Adam it’s been key for him to say who he is and to have people know this about him. To be able to say, “Here I am and I’m still a good person” and to have people validate that has been invaluable for him and for us.”

Charlotte has become passionate about education that leads to understanding. A friend referred Charlotte to a quote from Ghandi. She said that it hit her like a ton of bricks and became her mantra. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  She believes people become passionate about the things that affect them personally. While she doesn’t expect people to become passionate about this issue, she hopes that they will care enough to become compassionate. She realizes, she could focus on the negative and be angry about church leaders that didn’t respond the way she would have liked them to, but she chooses not to. She knows that they were doing the best they could at the time. “Can we be compassionate to the person who comes to church who has smoked all their life and has problems with that? Can we be compassionate to the person who is covered in tattoos? Or piercing? Or things that don’t make us feel warm and fuzzy? Can we still love those people? In my experience everyone like that, that I have opened my heart to has been a positive thing for me. They haven’t dragged me down. There’s some things in my life that I don’t want people to know as well. I think it’s really brave of Adam to come out at this time.” Charlotte had always tried to have open communication with Adam. It breaks her heart that he held this in for so long. In spite of the loving family Adam had, he wasn’t ready to deal with this any earlier. She’d like to see a more safe environment for these kids. “We need to do more as a community, as a people to not be judgmental and say things that are hurtful because that puts these kids in a place where they think, ‘I’m never going to admit this,’ or, ‘I need to hide this,’ which leads them to depression.  They don’t even want to admit it to themselves. “…I think it’s important to help young people experiencing SSA, and their parents, to understand that they aren’t “bad or broken” because of these feelings.”  She hopes other kids can find people to talk to, if it’s not a parent, maybe they can talk to someone at school to get guidance. Above all, she wants them to know, they, just like Adam, are valuable and loved and that God doesn’t turn his back on anyone.

In spite of the frustrations with finding resources that Adam’s parents felt when they first started this journey, they have relied on their faith and this has brought them peace.  They knew that even though there were a lot of people that they sought help from, who had no answers, they knew God could guide them.  They have always approached this knowing that Adam was His son before he was theirs and they knew He would guide their path, and He has.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Meet Adam. "Too Mormon to be Gay and Too Gay to be Mormon"

Written by Carole Thayne Warburton after interviewing Adam.

I met Adam a little over five years ago. We’d just moved into our new ward just a few miles from the ward we’d lived in for over fifteen years. Adam was the nice boy in a class of mostly disinterested and sometimes rowdy sixteen-year-olds in the sunday school class I taught. He was the one I called on for the answers when no one else would speak up, or when I didn’t know the answers. I remember saying, help me out here Adam. He’d smile and flip to the appropriate scripture, or come up with the answer. It was never boastful. His kindness permeated his countenance. A few months later, classes changed and I didn’t see much of him again, but he’d made a very positive impression on me. 

A few years later, I’d heard he’d come home early from his mission. Depression. I wondered how he was doing over the next year, but didn’t see him very much. Then a close friend who has a gay son sent me a message to be sure and watch the Adam Maughan video. To say I was shocked is not an exaggeration. I was moved beyond words and cried, then watched it again and again. I couldn’t believe that the young man with kindness in his countenance had been hiding a secret. I couldn’t believe that he’d felt that the secret was so shameful that his life wasn’t worth living. But, I rejoiced in the message of hope that we all deserve a happy life. If you haven’t watched it, before you read another word, or even if you don’t choose to read the rest of the story behind the video, watch it. 

Adam Maughan is a student at Utah State University, currently pursuing a degree in English with an emphasis in secondary education.  He also has interests in psychology, theater, and music.  He hopes to be able to teach in a juvenile detention center or similar facility, as he is particularly passionate about helping at risk or troubled youth.  In his free time, he enjoys writing books, piano improvisation, singing, going for bike rides, and spending time with his friends and family.Despite the occasional ups and downs that all of us have in life, Adam feels that his depression is finally under control.  He finds hope in the positive reactions that he has received since coming out, and feels that he has a strong support system that he can always turn to.  While balancing his sexual orientation and religious beliefs is often a struggle, Adam takes comfort in knowing that there is a loving God who is always in control.  “I firmly believe that God knows what He’s doing.  All the experiences we have, good and bad, are there to help us become the person He knows we can be.  Obviously there is still so much we don’t know surrounding this issue, but I have faith that God hasn’t forgotten or abandoned me.  He will lead me where I’m supposed to be.”

When Adam was in an 8th grade math class, a student who was at his same table told everyone around him that Adam was gay. To stop the boy, Adam kicked him under the table and the boy said, “The gay kid kicked me!” And another said, “You should burn your shoes.” Adam knew he wasn’t gay. He knew gay was a bad, evil thing to be, and he knew he wasn’t. It was a choice and he chose not to be that. But he started to wonder. Everyone says I am. He had a problem with pornography, so when he talked to his church leaders, he told them he had an addiction to pornography and that sometimes, he looked at pictures of guys. But he knew that if he prayed hard enough, if he read his scriptures, if he did everything he was supposed to, it would go away. He had fasted many times, sometimes for two days in a row…but he was the same. 

In high school the teasing continued. He was never shoved into the lockers, nothing physical, it was more subtle than that. Once he remembers walking down the D hall at Mountain Crest and one of the football players was on the opposite side with a couple of his friends. The guy winked at Adam, and said, “Hey cutie, how are you doing?” Then chortled with his friends. The emotional abuse bothered him. He distanced himself from anything that might be perceived as gay, even who he associated with. He loved drama, but  made sure he didn’t hang out with his drama friends, even though they were great people. He analyzed everything he did, how he walked, did he put his hands in his pockets, did he swing his arms too much like a gay person? I still knew I wasn’t gay, but I didn’t want anyone else to think I was either. 

He went to an addiction recovery group with his dad as his sponsor. He worked on his pornography problem for what seemed like forever trying to get rid of it so he could go on a mission. He reached a point where he had a girlfriend.“We planned for a month how we were going to first kiss. We had the perfect place sitting on a dock at Bear Lake. We held hands. And finally I kissed her, and the first thing I said was, well we made a bigger deal about that than it needed to be.” He’d hoped to feel fireworks and it freaked him out that he didn’t. He’d made her feel badly too. She must’ve wondered what was wrong with her. Even though, he had a huge emotional attachment to her, there wasn’t any physical attraction. 

He was called on an LDS mission to Indiana, the same as where his father had served. Even though he was at first disappointed that it was state-side, it ended up being the being the best place for him. The best place because he had a very understanding mission president. The depression came because the feelings that Adam had tried to stuff and pray into oblivion were not going away. He had lots of sexual dreams and always about guys. He felt like he must be the worst person in the entire world. “How could I be on a mission and preaching the gospel and yet still have these feelings completely against what I am teaching? And I remember thinking I don’t want to go to hell. I want so badly to do what God wants me to do. I believe in what I’m doing, but why do I feel this way? What did I do wrong? I’d tried my entire life to be perfect and    do the right things.”

He started seeing counselors on his mission, but the depression worsened. Eventually when it became clear that he would have to go home, his very loving mission president, who had someone close to him who was gay, responded only with love and concern for Adam. When the president talked to Adam’s parents, Adam’s mom pressed him for the reason Adam was depressed. What Adam didn’t know was that his mom had been educating herself on the issue and had prepared herself for the possibility. The mission president didn’t want to break confidentiality, but when Adam’s mother said, “I want to be able to help him. I’ve had my suspicions. Does he experience same-sex attraction?” The president, said yes, that is what he is dealing with. 

His mother paved the way for him to come home to a loving family by telling them what the root of Adam’s depression was. In a very real sense, she outed him to his immediate family and to some of his extended family. “By the time I came home there were about twenty people who knew and who still loved me anyway. That was a really great experience for me. I don’t think I would have had the guts to tell them. I already felt like such a failure.” He feels like his mother did him a favor. 

Even though, he had a loving family, that didn’t solve Adam’s depression. “I hadn’t lived up to everyone’s expectations. And I felt like God had abandoned me. The atonement is supposed to cover everything, every sin, everything, and yet He couldn’t change this about me. It made me question whether God was really there. I was extra worried because I had just come back from a mission and I felt like everyone thought I was questioning my testimony, so going to church was hard.” 

Adam had a friend who had been dealing with similar issues—he too—called it an addiction. Adam had been his example because he went on a mission and had written to his friend and had told him, he could beat this thing. When Adam came home from his mission, the two young men with similar trials developed a strong friendship. Adam felt like he was the only one who completely understood him, and the only one who really cared about him. Before long they fell in love with each other. Then, the young man rejected him. He told Adam, “I can’t see you ever again. I can’t talk to you ever gain.” He made it clear that he wanted to see Adam again very badly, but felt like he wouldn’t be able to reach his goals in life if Adam were to be a part of his it. Adam felt like this friend was the only person he could ever fall in love with and now he was out of his life—forever. I felt like a part of me had been killed too. I was stuck. Too Mormon to be gay, and too gay to be Mormon. 

Everything piled up. Had his whole life been a failure? There was no use in trying because nothing could go anywhere positive. With that in mind, he began looking up ways to kill himself on the Internet, trying to find the most painless way. “It scared me. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I wanted to die.” He told his counselor about his plan to take all his meds at once and to end it all. The counselor asked him if he thought he could make it through the night. He said, he didn’t know. The counselor urged him to tell his parents. His mother did some research and he along with his parents and counselor decided to admit him to the University of Utah Neuropsychology Unit (for suicidal intent). There, he had intensive one on one therapy with psychologists, psychiatrists, group therapy, music therapy and met some great people. Even though his parents had told him they would love him no matter what, he still felt like it had to be conditional. They believed in the Mormon church wholeheartedly. He felt like they would only love him if he remained celibate or if he married a woman—the only options for a gay Mormon. He was still broke up over losing what felt like the love of his life. His immediate family came to the hospital for a frank discussion with Adam’s psychologist. When his mom learned that Adam felt like he could only be loved by the family if he walked that fine line, his mom burst into tears. She said, “Adam, I love you so much and it’s not conditional. If you have a partner, he will be welcome in our home.” His siblings were supportive too. His younger sister said, “If you end up with a boy, it will be weird at first, but it could become my new normal.” 

While in the hospital, Adam met people who endured unbelievable trials. The girl across the hall from him had been raped multiple times and had seen her mother killed right in front of her. Her kidneys were shutting down from all the pills she had taken to try to kill herself. For one devastating reason or another, everyone there had been suicidal. In the ten days he was there he learned to love them all so much. He wondered why he was even there. “All I am is gay.” He learned that everyone is just searching for happiness. Everyone just wants to be loved. Everyone just wants to find joy in their lives. 

The video idea came about only weeks before the one year anniversary of his admission into the hospital. By the time, he made the video, he’d already “come out” to his closest friends and his family all knew. He wanted to tell others not to commit suicide, but wasn’t sure about the best way to do it. He was so grateful for the hospital experience and wanted to commemorate that, do something to let people know he was ok with who he is, and share what happened. The idea of the video came through prayer and fasting. “It was the most spiritual prompting I’d felt since my mission.” He found the song he wanted to use and put it together using clips and photos from his journey. When he showed the powerful video to friends and family, every reaction was positive. “I never thought coming out would be a spiritual experience but it was.” 

Adam hopes that people will get educated so that attitudes can change. In schools, bullying isn’t allowed. He would encourage young people to find someone they can trust to talk to. There are counselors at the schools. At USU they have an ally program where instructors and professors who would like to be, are trained. They put a sticker on their office doors so that the LGBTQ students know safe people to talk to. Adam wonders if public schools could adopt a similar program.  Adam thinks about his parents and their reaction to him. They are strong believers in the Mormon church, and yet they want to be there for him no matter what he does with his life. If bishops and other church leaders could have a similar attitude, it would be great. If the bishops could just say, if you want to stay in the church, or if you don’t, I still want to be here for you and be your friend. If leaders had that attitude, we’d see more choosing to stay involved in the church. There are so many groups for the Mormon gay person to be involved in for support—no matter what they believe in. There is Northstar, Affirmation, Mormons Building Bridges and others. 

Unfortunately, the message people are hearing no matter how much they are taught about love at church, is to love everyone as long as they fit the norm. There’s a lot of people who for some reason or another just don’t fit in. Everyone has something they aren’t super proud of, which is nevertheless a reality for their life. Or even if they are proud of it, that’s fine. The church should reinforce that we should love people no matter what. The church has made huge efforts. But the tone in the message is important. “I feel like the tone could be changed.” In an effort to reach as many people as possible, Adam worked to achieve the right tone with his video. 

Even though there are so many things about the church that Adam loves, he still has a really hard time attending. He has PTSD with church. Church can cause him to tremble and he just has to leave sometimes. It’s easier to attend his home ward with his family. But regardless, if he can ever feel the same way as he used to, his love and faith in God is the same. He used to really be bothered that the atonement couldn’t fix everything, but then he realized the atonement isn’t going to do anything that is against Gods will. So he’s learned to be okay with that. He’s come to recognize the blessings that have come to him and to his family through his being gay. “I thought my family was really strong before, but now we are so much stronger.” 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Mother's Testimony

Let me (Carole Thayne Warburton) introduce Wendy Montgomery. If you are a mother who has had a child who has been bullied or marginalized for whatever reason, you'll understand what makes Wendy passionate about protecting her son. Many of us who are LGBT allies have known of Wendy for sometime because she fights a very personal battle. We look to her for courage. Today she took this battle to the front lines of her California ward. Here is the testimony she gave over the pulpit in her ward as she recalled it. 

Good afternoon, Brothers and Sisters. My family and I have been in this ward now for several months, but this is my first time bearing my testimony here. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Wendy Montgomery. It's interesting - I speak in public quite often, but I'm usually not nervous. Right now, I'm absolutely terrified because of the things that are in my heart that I feel to share with you. They are not easy things to say in a setting like this. The past 2 years have been some of the hardest I have ever experienced. And that's saying something, because I have had a difficult life. 

We found out about 2 years ago that our oldest son, Jordan, is gay. (This is where all the air got sucked out of the room.  ) I apologize for bringing this topic up because I know it makes many uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable 2 years ago, too. My intent is not to make anyone uncomfortable, but to ask for your help. 
(This is where I started getting emotional)
My son has a very hard time being here. It is extremely difficult for him to be in a place, week after week, where he feels unwanted and unloved. He doesn't know where he fits. Or where he belongs. 
As parents, I'm sure you all feel like I do and want this same thing for your children: I want Jordan to know what I know - that his Heavenly Mother and his Heavenly Father know who he is and love him exactly the way he is. I want him to have a deep and lasting relationship with his Savior, Jesus Christ. I want him to come to church and feel God's love and be around people who see what a beautiful person he is. Outside of our home, these things can happen best at church. 
But it is not happening for him. So I ask you to help me. Please. Please love my son. Treat him the same as other young men here. Look him in the eye. Offer him a smile, a hug, a handshake. Please be his friend. Because I want him sitting with me and the rest of our family in church each week, if he is comfortable there.
I am grateful to those of you who have reached out in friendship to my family. I know our circumstances are difficult and uncomfortable for people, so I am very grateful to those few who have been willing to put aside their own discomfort and befriend and welcome us. 

I have a testimony of this gospel. It has taken a beating in the last 2 years, but there are some things that haven't changed. I believe God lives. I believe He knows me and loves me. I believe in Jesus Christ. I love him deeply. He has carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life. I have spent every day of my life as a member of this church and I have always loved it. There is much here that is beautiful and good.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.