Monday, June 23, 2014

"I've Lost Track How Many Times My Son Has Attempted Suicide"

Update: Since this post was published in Dec. 2013, Mikey has passed away. I don't know the details of his tragic death, but in his honor, I'm reposting this piece.

I'm Carole T. Warburton. I'm the author of this blog. I am not gay, nor do I have any close family members who are, but I'm very interested in creating a dialogue to increase understanding. I'm so grateful to the people who have opened their hearts to share personal stories with the desire to increase understanding about our LGBT children, brothers, sisters, and friends. This week I talked with a friend, Shelly, about her wonderful son, Mikey.          

The following is written by Shelley, as told to Carole. 

Our son, Mikey, said he knew he was gay when he was ten. When he was 18, he left a voice message before leaving home. That's how we found out. He’s now 25, and I’ve lost track of how many times he’s attempted suicide. If he really wanted to be dead, he’d be dead. But three or four years ago we almost lost him.  Someone dropped him to Logan Regional Hospital after he'd been drinking or doing drugs. They’d admitted him and he aspirated during the night. So the hospital called me around six in the morning and said, you need to get up here. And I didn’t even know he was in the hospital. When I got there his body had shut down, and then he went into cardiac arrest. He didn’t have a heart beat for seven minutes. It was in January and life flight couldn’t land because of the weather. So they brought a team up from Salt Lake. Even though the roads were really bad they took him to Salt Lake where he was on a respirator for probably five days. He spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit. He recovered but still has lung damage from it. He gets sick really easy. And he’s gone into septic shock a couple of times.

We’ve had a hundred prayers answered. His life has always been up, down, up down. Maybe if he’d been able to accept who he was, he might not have gone down that self-destructive road. He was always fighting with himself and was a defiant, angry and unhappy child. Now I know why, but we didn’t know. I wish we'd known. Even though, he was teased in school, he didn’t tell me. I was supposed to be his protector and he protected me. We had him in therapy as a young teenager. But because of the confidentiality, the therapist couldn’t tell us very much. It’s taken a long time, but for the most part now he’s stable and happy. It’s on a daily basis though, and can be rocked anytime. He’s had a partner for about three years now. They have their ups and downs, just like any other couple, but we just want them to be happy. Mikey has a heart of gold. He’s very caring and compassionate.  He has a tender spot for the elderly and loves to do random acts of kindness. He never hangs the phone up with me without saying he loves me.  He is a very good cook and loves to try new things.  All the cousins just love him and want Mikey to come play and come to all the family parties. My family has been a great support too. 

When I first found out though, I was just devastated. I had been taught that being gay was wrong and that it was a choice. But Mikey said to me, “Mom, do you think I would choose this? Do you think it’s been an easy go? Do you think it was fun in school?” It took me a couple of years to come to terms with it. Now I just hope others would educate themselves. The good ol’ Mormon families that sit in church every week can be the cruelest. I have a lot of resentment about that. People can be mean. People have been mean, not just to Mikey, but to our other two children. Sometime, I want to teach a Sunday school class and just lay it all out. Teach people. We don’t really know for sure what God’s plan is. And sometime science will prove this world wrong, and they already have. It’s not a choice. Sometimes you hear stuff in church that hurts. Sometimes people claim they don’t judge, but then they stab you in the back the first chance they get. I’ve become very protective of myself and my family. I keep to myself a lot. I don’t want to put a lot out there just for people to judge and make fun of. I wish church members would be more Christ-like and not judge. I guarantee you there’s not a person in this world who thought they would have a gay son or daughter. But I also think education starts in the home. Parents need to teach  their kids.

Some church members and leaders have been helpful. I visited with our stake president (when she found out) I was so distraught. I couldn’t deal with anything. I didn’t know where to turn, so I went to talk to him. He just looked at me and he said. You’re not alone. And he said, All you do is love, love, love, love. He said, You’d be surprised, there isn’t one person in your ward, or any ward that is not affected by a gay relative.  Don’t let people tell you different. I guarantee there is someone in every family who is gay. That was very positive for me. He didn’t say, come in and let me meet with your son, I’ve got to talk to him. He just told me love, love, love. And I was just like OK, that’s all I need to do. Another woman said to me. Your wants and dreams are not his wants and dreams. I wanted him to have a wife and kids. I was devastated that he wasn’t going to give me any grandkids. I think for a person just finding out that their child is gay, you have to give it time. It’s sad to say, but it’s almost like mourning a person’s death. You have to grieve all those emotions in order to move on and work through it. Eventually it’s going to be ok. And knowing that in the end you still have your son (or daughter) that you can hug at the end of the day—that’s important. Because we almost lost our son. But when you stop and look back at the picture. Ok, these were my dreams and my wishes. Now turn it around and make your dreams and wishes ones are possible for them. Dream that they find a good partner. Wish them happiness.

Our bishop now is a wonderful guy. He’s always very concerned and asks how Mikey is doing. We appreciate that. Last Mother’s Day, we went to church and took Mikey and his partner. His partner has a niece and a nephew that I just love. I treat them like my grandkids. So we sat in church with these two little kids and our whole family. The bishop came up and talked to them. Mikey and his partner met the bishop. He greeted them. I couldn’t believe we did it, but afterward, I was so proud of myself. I deserve to sit in church on Mother’s Day, or any other day with my family, just like anyone else. I wasn’t even uncomfortable. But I could tell people were staring. I said, well I just wanted to make sure everyone had something to talk about come Monday morning on the Paradise hotline.

Even though there is a lot of judgment and misunderstanding, especially in such a small town, there are also some good families who have been kind and invited us all over for dinner. But some leaders haven’t been as wonderful as our current bishop. One bishop kept coming overm sure he could change Mikey. I didn’t understand that. And then recently Mikey called really upset and said his bishop in Logan sent the missionaries over to their house and one asked, “Do you have a problem with same-sex attraction?” The first thing Mikey wanted to do was have his name removed from the church. But I asked him to let it go. The missionaries were just doing what they were told. But why would he do that? I get really frustrated with that. I think there should be a place in the church for the gays, and for my son.

My faith has changed. It’s hard for me to have faith in the church. I pray a lot. I have a relationship with God. I know he answers prayers. I don’t know why my son is gay, but I know he created him to be who his is, just like he created me. In a lot of ways, I am a better person now. God creates a lot of different people. I think we should be more loving, caring, and be more accepting. It’s just like our former stake president said, love, love love. I can do that.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Faith, Love, and PRIDE 2014

I asked several of my new friends and my cousin in California to share their responses after participating in PRIDE last Sunday. If you didn't get to go, their responses will give you a glimpse into what we experienced. I hope you will take the time to read these. It brought me to tears cutting and pasting their experiences. I don't need to add anything, but too was overwhelmed with the love of complete strangers, not just in the Mormon groups, but more especially from those cheering for us. As one marcher said, "It's embarrassing, when all we are doing is walking to receive so much love..."

Cindy Hatch and family 
 Cindy shared this: Last year I told my son I was coming to the Pride parade.  He seemed surprised and a bit nervous and felt it necessary to warn me it wouldn't be like the small town parades I was accustomed to....I wasn't too worried.  Our whole family, grandkids and all went and loved being there to support our son and his friends as well as the entire LGBT community.  Mid parade the buzz of clapping hands and cheering voices escalated and I was surprised and humbled to see the Mormons Building Bridges group confidently striding up the road.  It immediately brought tears to my eyes and I knew I wanted to join in the 2014 Pride parade marching alongside the members of this group.  My daughter-in-law and her kids joined me for this incredible experience and we all loved it!  Our purpose in marching was to show our love and support, but in the end we became the recipients of the exact gift we sought to deliver.  High fives, hugs and thank you's were abundant and sincere, but nothing could have been better than hugging my handsome, smiling son cheering from the road-side surrounded by his friends and other family members.  My son has always known our love is unconditional.  It's such an easy but powerful thing to do to show how much we wholeheartedly support him.  This experience will never be forgotten and I hope to do it over and over again!!

Carolyn Bently, Janet Roberts, Doree Burt, Pat Burt, Me (Carole Warburton), Brittney Yunker, and son

Carolyn sent me this absolutely beautiful and visual poem to express her feelings.

Poem: Pride Goeth Before the Parade 
by Carolyn Bentley

The other day, a pride of exuberant lions and lionesses,
Birds of many colorful feathers,
Male and female and transgender of the species
Walked freely, majestically, glitteringly, incandescently
Down the street in the center of Salt Lake City.
The moving menagerie was a Disney dream
Mixed in with a little Salvador Dali, but without the melting clocks.
You would have liked it, I am almost sure.
A circus, you say? Yes, of certainty and symbiosis
And without a tent.
A carnival? Yes, of communion and common cause.
But this was not a freak show.
There are no freaks, no outsiders, no rejects,  no misfits.
One big size of heart fits all here -
Even the regulation buttoned-down white- shirted, tie-decked Elders
The modestly dressed, nylon-wearing, well-groomed, conservative sisters
Who skipped out on the Sunday rituals at ward chapels,
And chose to run away with the circus for a day.

Janet Roberts participated for the first time and shares this:

"This was my first Gay Pride Parade. I began the march to show my support to the GLBT community.  I ended the march feeling overwhelming love and acceptance from them.  Before the parade actually started, I saw many of my 'rock stars' -- people whose faces I have only seen images of on Facebook, and whose FB posts have positively impacted me-- wandering through the MBB crowd. It was surreal.  I was not shy, however, in introducing myself to them. Each one graciously shook my hand and gave me a hug.
I met my sister's husband's brother there, who is gay. I had never met him before, but recognized him from his Facebook picture.  He was so happy to know there's an ally in the family and expressed hope that someday his family would  try to reach out to him.
Once the parade started, I was not prepared for the overwhelming humility that engulfed me as we were greeted by cheering, applause, and tears.  I feel peace because of my participation"
My cousin Linda Pulsipher with Affirmation in LA
Linda shared this:
 Why I marched in the pride parade?

I’m not sure if words can adequately explain why I was compelled to march this year in the pride parade. As a faithful LDS mother, there are reasons why I haven’t marched up to this point. 1) It's on Sunday, I typically spend the day with my family refraining from activities that could be done on Saturday. 2) Let’s just say I have seen pictures of the parade and knew I probably wouldn’t be comfortable taking my children to it, so why would I go?

That said, this year I was compelled to go, so much so, that I had to convince my daughter that it would be good thing to break the Sabbath and expose ourselves to sights that we weren't used to seeing for a few reasons 1) My wonderful gay son is graduating with a double masters this week. This kid is AMAZING! I want to shout that to the world and celebrate with people that get how wonderful these kids are. In the church, it doesn’t really seem to matter how amazing these kids are, if they are gay, that is somehow bigger than any other accomplishment or incredible divine gift they possess. 2) I want the lgbt community to know that I see them and they are worthy of love, especially God’s love. In the church, I sometimes feel like we are the Priests and Levites that refuse to see the suffering that our doctrine causes in individuals trying to navigate between what their heart is telling them and what their church is telling them. We can do much better! 3) If my son can sit through four hours of conference and choose not to be offended because he loves and respects his Mormon family, I can attend a gay pride parade, because I love and respect my son and want him to know it. 4) Affirmation is a wonderful group doing a great service and I want to show my support for them.

So, how was my first experience at pride? We had a great day! My daughter and son marched with me. It was wonderful to see how happy (and surprised) my son was that we wanted to come and march with him. We met wonderful people that are putting themselves out there to make a difference, heal broken hearts and show love to all people. People cheered for us. There was a wonderful overall feeling of love and inclusion. It was a great bonding experience for our family (even the ones that weren’t there in person were happy to see us all marching together). Our hearts grew a little bigger along with our capacity to love a little more. Would I do it again? Of course, who can argue with a desire and prompting to show love to ALL God’s children?

Lisa Warburton Glad is the one with the THIS MORMON...
Lisa Glad shared this:

If you had told the “old” me (the Mom who didn’t yet know she had two gay daughters) that I would not only excitedly attend the Salt Lake Gay Pride Festival and walk in the parade, but that it would be one of the most truly spiritual experiences of my life, I would have thought you were completely NUTS.  But that is exactly what happened.   And every time I think about it, I have to find a Kleenex.  First of all, before the parade started, our Mormons Building Bridges group had a LONG wait and a friend and I were sitting on the curb.  I had my poster (“This Mormon Mom <3 L G B T Q I A”) and a young woman asked if she could take a picture of me with it.  The gentleman who shared our curb told her he’d take a picture of us and she sat between my friend and I and we put our arms around her.  She burst into tears and just sobbed, asking “Why can’t MY Mormon Mom love me?”  My heart broke for her and I just wanted to take her home!  And as we walked in the parade, the cheers and the “THANK YOUs” and the tears and the high-fives and the hugs filled my soul.  As I looked into those beautiful faces of all varieties, I felt as if I was being given a small taste of the pure love our Lord has for every one of those souls there, and I felt the sorrow He feels for the pain and heartache our LGBTQIA family members and friends have experienced.  And my already full heart almost burst with joy when my daughters emerged from the crowd to throw themselves into my arms, then their friends joined us and my heart grew again. 

My heart is forever changed; I feel like I gained so much by being there, and if I was able to give even one LGBTQIA person a bit of love and hope, it was truly worth every minute.  I will not only be at every Pride that I can, but I am doing my best to extend that feeling out to everyone I encounter, especially gay young people.