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.


  1. Thank you! You are a wonderful, beautiful, compassionate family and I admire you greatly!

    1. Thank you for reading. I will make sure the Maughan family sees this, if they haven't already.

  2. This family continues to amaze me! What a fantastic mother--in the truest sense of the word!

    Again, several things stood out to me & resonated with my own experience, but these parts in particular really hit hard:

    1) Understandably, Charlotte was heartbroken that Adam had held this secret in so long and not confided in her. My mom felt very much the same way. The only way I could explain it to her was to tell her that if me knowing the secret made me hate myself the way it did, how then could anyone else conceivably love me if they knew the secret, too? That was the driving factor behind me holding onto it for so long. I once had a counselor ask me (after I put myself into counseling post-mission unbeknownst to anyone) what it would really mean to my life if I were gay. I told her my life would be over. And I firmly believed that. So, that deep-seated internal sadness, depression, self-hatred, frustration, etc., is really a driving force for not sharing with others, no matter how close you may be to them. My mom's first words after I broke down and told her in a phone call one night was, "Honey, what took you so long? I've known since you were five years old and have been waiting for you to come to me." She knew that I needed to do it in my own time without her pressuring me, but even then she still took it personally. It's just a tough thing on everyone.

    2) I love that Charlotte gives credit to the church leaders for doing the best they can, even if it's not the best that is needed. I was very fortunate to have loving church leaders in whom I confided, but their answers and solutions were far from what I truly needed. I was frustrated for a while by it, but ultimately came to the realization that they are men doing the best that they can in a situation about which they really have no experience. Instead of providing the best guidance, they became supporters of my overall happiness and well-being. And that had to be enough for me. To this day, I appreciate their efforts--but they were far from what I had hoped I would receive from my spiritual counselors. I can't blame them either. Had I not gone through all that I have, I can't honestly say I would even begin to know how to help. But, hopefully the Church will at least start providing more real-world insight to leaders so that they can be of more assistance. With the large population of gay LDS members, there are plenty of people who could be leveraged to provide insights for the Church to build more compassionate and insightful guidance to leaders at all levels.

    3) I've only ever known of a couple of missionaries that came home early, and I well remember the stigma that was attached to that by the ward members. Until reading Charlotte's insights here that Adam completed the mission he was supposed to do, I wasn't quite sure how to frame my thinking around this. I think that is a fantastic way to look at it! I've never believed that anyone who came home early from a mission had somehow failed, but I wasn't quite sure how to explain that it's completely fine that they served the amount of time they did & that they're a better person for it. So, thank you, Charlotte, for phrasing that better than I could.

    Carole, I'm jealous that you have such fantastic neighbors! Mine are great and all, but nothing like this family. :)

  3. Kade, again thanks for your wonderful insights. I'm excited to have you and your mother on my blog. I'm glad you are reading. It's interesting that we often look at a family as active in the church as the Maughan family and somehow think that they have to make a choice between supporting their son or supporting the church. Charlotte was an inspiration to me because her faith is strengthened, plus she's using her journey with Adam as a resource for other families. I also love that she seeks common ground with those of us (me) who come at this with less faith. I'll send you an email about doing a blog.

  4. The comments here are very kind. Thank you for taking time to read and think about the things that we choose to share. I appreciated hearing the things you shared from your perspective as well.

  5. Thank you so much. I am blessed to be the mother of a wonderful FtM transgender child. My son's situation has taught me so much about compassion and unconditional love. I am so happy there are other mothers who want to spread this message and help other parents who are learning how to deal with their challenges of parenting SSA or LGBT children.

    1. Karen Penman, It's refreshing to know there are mothers who are so accepting and loving as the ones I've met doing this blog. Maybe someday soon, I can feature you on this blog as your situation would provide a needed and unique insight.

  6. The video Adam made made me weep. I'm so grateful that he made it, that he was helped, and that he is moving forward knowing he is Good. This is an important blog and I thank you for it! Your insight that authenticity is the key., well, it is RIGHT. To be authentic in oneself makes all the difference. Being accepted starts with accepting ourselves, but people around those with SSA need, no, MUST accept them, love them, just as they are. Compassion knows no boundaries. Adam, thank you for your courage, for your choice to live, for making that video. I understand. I love you.