Mother’s Perspectives: Part Two

Once again, thank you to the speakers who, on Tuesday, decided to share with us their experiences. From what I could tell based on the conversation that followed, there was a great deal of takeaway from these two families’ stories.

Part Two: Verna and Josh

“I taught Josh when we was younger, and he’s teaching me now.”

Josh is twenty years old, and he came out to his mother, Verna, two years ago. Verna, having been brought up in the same generation as Susan, faced the same situation in a very different time.

She said she had an idea about Josh’s sexuality when he was as young as three. “If any one of my four boys is gay, it’s Joshua,” she retells this thought jokingly.

But she opened her story, not with the distress of Josh’s coming out to her, but with the unconditional love she felt then and still feels now for him and all of her children. She strives to teach them to be strong, knowing they (especially her second son) will face adversity. She taught them to take others’ opinions with a grain of salt. It is within your own self and the people that love you that you should find comfort.

One day, Josh called his mom, and she could tell he was nervous. She could tell he had something big to tell her, and it was tough for him.

“Mom, I’m gay.”

“And…? I know Josh; I’ve always known.”

And the simplicity of realizing that maybe his identity was not as secretive as he had thought has forged an even stronger bond between mother and son. She never pushed him; she never even asked him. It was his story to tell. When asked a direct question, Verna’s advice, based upon her own experience was: wait for them to tell you. Even if you have an idea and you want to test the waters, be vague, generic and open-ended. Don’t make them feel pressured to tell something they’re not ready to tell yet. They’ve got to come to terms with it themselves before they can trust others.

For a time, after that confirming conversation, Verna felt legitimate fear for her child. As a Catholic, she honestly believed that, as a gay man, Josh could not go to heaven. Reconciling her feelings for her son and the knowledge that this is something with which he was born, with the belief system of the Catholic church has been a struggle. From the beginning, Verna told Josh to never “lose his faith in God.”

Josh is adamant that he owes all his success to the encouragement from his mother. As of next weekend, Joshua will be a college graduate, having served on the North Idaho College student senate body (ASNIC), as President for the Gender and Sexuality Alliance and as Treasurer for the NIC Signers’ Club.

Verna said of Josh’s accomplishments, “I couldn’t be more proud– not because he’s gay, but because he’s my son.”

josh and verna

Josh and his mom, Verna

josh swan 2

This award was presented to the North Idaho College Footsteps Committee by the Task Force On Human Relations for their work in diversity and human rights.

josh swan

Josh (center) and his siblings

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Unitarian Universalists of North Idaho

Q: What do you get when you cross a Jehovah’s Witness with a Unitarian Universalist?
A: Someone who knocks on your door and asks you what YOU believe.

Have you heard of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations? For short, and because meetings are generally on Sunday, we call it “church”. But it’s not like any church you’ve ever been to.

uua logoThe Unitarians promote and live their lives by seven pretty basic principles:

1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person

2. Justice, equality and compassion in all human relations

3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to grow spiritually

4. A free (as in uninhibited) and responsible search for truth and meaning

5. The right of conscious and the democratic process, both in the congregations and society at large

6. The goal of the world community with peace, liberty and justice for all

7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part

Sounds great, right? No dogma or doctrine. Just guidelines for living life well and respecting the lives you encounter along the way. A church that encourages the concept of “life before death”. Learn as much as you want by visiting their website.

coexist2The local chapter of the Unitarian Universalists has been serving the Coeur d’Alene area with meetings most Sundays, book discussions, dances and socials. I’ve attended a handful of times over the last year because, personally, I love the community feeling of a church without Jesus Christ being shoved down my (and my kids’) throat. Just one woman’s opinion.

If you are interested in learning more about the North Idaho Unitarian Universalists, please consider attending a mixer being hosted by one of the congregations members or sitting in on a service. The meetings are held at the Harding Family Center at 411 N. 15th St in Coeur d’Alene from 10:30 to 11:30AM. Childcare is provided for free most Sundays, and this is one of the most welcoming bunches of people I have ever met!  uuni bbq invite 2 jpeg

Jamie Sebby – Why I’m An Ally

I shared this on my personal blog last month after being asked by Juli to join up with the new local chapter of PFLAG.

I get asked this question kind of a lot. Why do you care so much? You’re not even gay.

Well, the long answer goes something like this: The saga of my husband and I began eight years ago. We were only together for six months before we got engaged, and although we planned to wait a few years to finish college before tying the knot, we were married the following June. And, you know why? Health insurance. He had great health insurance and a deal on course credits since he worked for the university. We were already living together, so we got married sooner rather than later, without a second thought. It wasn’t a religious act– it had nothing to do with “living in sin”; it was just cheaper.

I am an ally because there are people who don’t have the luxury of making that decision. And the time to change that is long overdue.

My husband and I have two children together, and the laws are such that if something were to happen to me, I know, without anything written down, that my children would be taken care of by him, their second parent. If my husband were to be hospitalized, I could visit him outside of regular hours—I could sleep by his side if I wanted to without worrying if someone is going to call the legitimacy of our relationship into question. When we file our taxes, we both get credits for our children and joint household expenses. There are couples, families, who are denied these basic human rights simply by being disallowed a piece of paper which would consider them deserving.

I am an ally because, even though I try not to, I can take these rights for granted. The only reason marriage is a religious institution anymore is for the sake of tradition. My husband and I were married in a backyard, by a friend who had become ordained over the internet.

why i'm an ally || motherhoodhonestly.comIt’s about human rights. Everyone has the right to work and live and love without fear of discrimination. Unfortunately, being gay is something a person can hide. But at great personal cost. Those who oppose the fundamental human rights of the LGBT community say “don’t ask, don’t tell”, placing blame on the victims for wanting to live freely and true to themselves. People go nearly their whole lives suppressing a central part of their individual identity to avoid victimization and hate. Teenagers grapple so violently with inner demons or are bullied mercilessly by peers and take their own lives as a means of escape. It is unacceptable to judge people by their sexuality.

I joke with my husband that I’m excited for one of my children to come out if and when they know, so that I can show how good a parent I am by being okay with it. He says, “You know it’s not about you, right?”

Well, the truth of the matter is: it’s not about me, but it is. I am a part of the human race, and I am an ally because standing up and being an activist for the equal rights of all people, and teaching my children the same views of tolerance and love, is what I have to offer. And I am proud to say that when the tides finally change, my family and I will be on the right side of history—not the people who stood by and said nothing. We were part of the solution.

“Othering”

I’ve fallen in love with this concept (as a descriptive term, not because I agree with it in any way). I’ve read several articles from blogger, Micah J. Murray

I and even though since I am not religious, I cannot think from his perspective (that of a progressive Christian) I find my inner monologue shouting “Yes, yes you’ve got something here, Mike!”

I wanted to share with you all one article in particular about a term he coins as the “othering”. How we, as a heteronormative society, isolate and alienate the LGBT community. “They” are something else. “They” are somehow “other” from us. I am in love with this terminology. It brings to the stark front what people do when they say love the sinner, hate the sin. The dichotomy of the statement creates such a cognitive dissonance. It is, as Murray puts it, the most condescending type of love. By othering the LGBT community, we are saying that we are safe if “they” are kept separate from us. But we are all a part of the big picture, the human race. Gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights– it is all HUMAN RIGHTS.

Read the full article on why he won’t say “love the sinner, hate the sin” anymore here.

Go here to read a guest post that goes a little deeper into Micah’s understanding of “othering” and how he came to change.

"my god loves everyone"

“my god loves everyone”