Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"No One Should be Wronged for Loving Who They Love"

Note from blogger: Normally this blog has been about parents supporting their gay children, but in this case it's the mother who is gay.  I know you'll want to know more about my friend Allison Hosler Carr. 

She had everything. A beautiful house edged by a mountain stream, stunning scenery framed in every window, four lovely daughters and a handsome husband. Successful, happy, sweet, an enviable life. At least that was the image. Within a short time, she would lose everything… except for her courage. And she was going to need it. 

I first met Allison nearly six years ago when we were building our home near hers. She had a small cabinet business and had donated a vanity for a fundraiser auction for a family devastated by a farming accident and another family by a fire. We were in need of a vanity and won the bid. So my first encounter showed her generosity. I would find that trait to be consistent with everything I would learn about her in the following year. Late night instant messaging chats revealed her life’s story pecked out a sentence at a time, night after night. There was a fracture in the picture perfect scene that would rip it wide open. 

Allison was adopted. Like many adopted kids, she grew up feeling conflicted in her love for her adoptive parents and the unknown parents, the ones who gave her up. At age 13, she was sexually molested by an adult "acquaintance." She would keep this secret from almost everyone. When she finally told her LDS bishop, he asked her “how she was complicit.” The violation of being molested and then violated again by the assumption that she was responsible would cause further self-esteem issues. Did she bring it on herself?  She began to question whether anyone truly loved her. At 18 she searched out and found her birth parents. Her father hadn’t known about her. Her birth mother, the mother she had hoped could reveal who she really was, rejected her. Devastated, she told me that she didn’t think anyone in her whole life loved her unconditionally. Fortunately, she would find out how wrong she was in that thought, but that realization was still down a very hard road. 

I knew Allison had questions about the church we both belonged to. I naively thought I could help her shelve all those pesky inconsistencies the way I had and remain a faithful member. But my life was nothing like hers. Finally, after lots of long talks, walks, lunches together and deep conversations, she said she had a secret, “I’m gay.” It was a secret that once revealed was about to change everything. 

And it did. Her marriage ended. A downturn in the economy was tough on a sideline cabinet business. Mostly, Allison had supported her husband in his business and was a full-time homemaker. Without his income, she had nothing. They lost their house. Allison’s car was repossessed. No job, no house, no car and no where for her kids to stay when they were with her. Gaining custody of her children was not a given in her case. She told me she wanted her kids to know she fought for them. And she would do everything to make a home for them.

Within a short time, my beautiful friend’s life looked like a disaster. An implosion. An impossible consequence, much too much loss and all because she chose to reveal a not so simple truth about herself. Twenty years earlier, she had been given a priesthood blessing, a promise that her same-sex attraction would go away. She just needed to get married and live the gospel. She followed that promise. She did what she thought was the right thing.  Once after her life fell apart and she had moved, Allison asked me why God hated her so much. I’d long since stopped having any answers for her. Those pat basic Sunday school answers just didn’t apply. All I could do was assure her that in time things would get better. I believe that above all, Allison’s greatest strength is her courage. Her adoptive parents turned out to be one of her greatest supports, showing their unconditional love after all. She’d started putting her life together again. She enrolled in school, got a job, found a place to live, and continued the fight to make a place for her kids. Her children were unsure of the situation They'd been told that being "gay is a sin." But love wins. And her children have rallied so magnificently. It took a while, but finally it looked like Allison’s life had turned around. She found the love of her life, Lauren. And before it was legal in the state of Utah, she and Lauren married in California. But the story is not over. Although Allison has the love and support of her spouse, many friends and family, she lost her dad one year ago. She was fortunate to have found him to be a truly noble man, a father she will continue to miss greatly. 

Jennifer, her youngest was only ten when her world fell apart along with the rest of the family. Just part of the great collateral damage of divorce. I got a chance to visit with Jennifer and  I asked her if she’d thought being gay was a choice. She said, she hadn’t really thought about it before her mother told her. “I wasn’t really shocked. You think I would have been, but in a way I thought it was normal. As I've gotten older (she’s 15 now) I’ve developed an open mind and I’m really grateful that I have. I know no one would ever choose to be gay. We, my three sisters and mom, were kicked out of our house. We were left with nothing. No one should be wronged for loving who they love.” 

“My mom is my hero. She has fought for me, been there, cared, and made me who I am. My mom and I have a special bond. We feel each other's happiness and sadness. I can turn to her for everything. She would do anything for me. I would do anything to be half the woman my mom is one day. I believe that no one should be looked down on or be treated differently for the gender they love. Whether they have the same body parts or the opposite. I support my mom because she's my mom. She takes care of me and who she loves doesn't change that.”

I wondered what Jennifer thought about her mother and Lauren getting married. Most kids have a hard time when their divorced parents marry again, but this wasn’t just any marriage. “My mom and Lauren got married a couple of years ago. And I couldn't be more thankful. For a while I was scared to tell my friends. I didn't want anyone to know. I was afraid of getting made fun of. But soon realized that if I show I'm okay with it, then other peoples opinions don't effect mine, I decided not to care and embrace it. Most kids think its cool, and those who don’t, I don’t need anyway. I love having Lauren in my life. She is a huge supporter. Every teen argues with their parents. But at the end of the day, I know I can count on both my mom and Lauren. They are just like any other pair of parents with rules, support, and love.”

That doesn’t sound all that controversial does it? “Just like any parents.”  I began this post with saying that it seemed like Allison had it all, then nothing. Within a few years of hard work, life was giving back to her in some mighty big ways. But her courage would be tested yet again. Just before her marriage, she would be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Just like Allison is with any challenge, she would not let this get the best of her, even though she has a particularly aggressive form. 
Jennifer said, “I support my mom by being thankful she's who she is. I wouldn't be afraid to tell anyone and everyone about my moms sexuality. She’s an amazing woman and  anyone who knows her knows that. My mom was diagnosed with MS over a year ago. Getting this news was REALLY hard for our family. But for me individually, my mom is my world and knowing she's in pain and I can't do anything to help is hard. I couldn't live without my mom, Or moms. My mom is currently in Chicago fighting for the cure for MS.  Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Treatment (HSCT) at North Western University Hospital. She's fighting for her life and it is so scary but this is her chance. We need all the support we can get . Every cent counts. Anyone can follow the journey on the website: 
Jennifer and her mom

A fighter 

The link also shows more about Allison's journey and her beautiful family. 

So that’s it. If you imagine life’s challenges as a punch card, only so many per life, then Allison’s card should be used up by now. She is a beautiful, generous soul who I also love. I’m grateful that Allison opened my world and gave me a chance to see life through her perspective. To see that Love really is what matters. 

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