I embrace my promise in the Baptismal Covenant to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” and use it as a lens for my life and my work as a Youth Missioner in the Diocese of North Carolina. That promise has taken on a very personal quality since my child came out as LGBTQIA+. It became more important to work for social justice for all who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual or any other identity under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, especially for youth. Part of this work comes from my mama bear instinct to make sure my child is healthy and safe. It also comes from my new understanding of the challenges that accompany being LGBTQIA+ in a very heteronormative world. As my child put it, “Mom, you just don’t understand how straight the world is.”
Identifying The Need
I have done a lot of studying, reading, talking, and praying as the mom of an LGBTQIA+ child, so I know how difficult it can be to find Episco-friendly resources and a safe community to work through questions and emotions. I knew there had to be many other parents in our diocese that had similar concerns and wanted a place to process and explore this world. I decided to use my diocesan platform to create a course for parents of LGBTQIA+ youth.
Developing The Content
I have taken every class and webinar I could find from groups like Q Christian Fellowship, The Trevor Project, the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), The Safe Zone Project, and “You Are Loved,” a deep dive conversation with the Rev. Matt Welsch and Rev. Lauren Kay at the FORMA 2020 online conference. I have consumed countless books, articles, videos, and movies. I wanted to share those resources and provide a safe space for parents to learn and be in fellowship together.
I came up with a course that met weekly for 4 weeks, over Zoom, for an hour and a half each session. I used a flipped classroom where there were articles and videos for participants to read and watch before we met, and then discussions and activities to do together. I also utilized small groups during our sessions so participants could get to know each other and have time to really go deep in their discussions.
- The first session was an introduction where we met, created a group covenant, went over vocabulary, talked about the Queer Umbrella and Genderbread Person from the Safe Zone Project, and discussed the origins of gender.
- The second class was ‘Knowing Better’ and focused on the coming out process, the journey that parents of LGBTQIA+ youth take, what they may be grieving, and what support looks like.
- The third session focused on answering questions like, “Is this just a phase?”, “Did I do something wrong?”, “What about my child’s health and safety?”, and “What about faith?” This was not a session to debate LGBTQIA+ theology. An underlying premise was that our kids are “Queerfully and Wonderfully Made” (from an awesome book edited by Leigh Finke) – complete, whole and beloved as they are.
- The fourth and final session was about ‘Doing Better’ – being LGBTQIA+ allies and advocates, loving our children well, and creating churches that are inclusive and truly supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community. We considered ways to live into the statement “All Are Welcome.”
I created this course to reach out to other parents, but it was a healing step for me as well. My child came out almost three years ago as “not straight.” Our family began to adjust. Then eighteen months ago, they came out as bisexual and gender-queer with a new name and new pronouns. This was even more of an adjustment.
I would love to say I handled this truth with grace and whole-hearted acceptance. I could in my head, but my heart hurt and I struggled. It was a Q Christian Fellowship, parents’ group that lifted me up and sustained me with resources, love, and lots of prayers. I hope that this course did that for the twelve parents and two grandparents that journeyed with me. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” This was a step towards doing good works for a beautiful rainbow-hued group of young people who need us – all of us – to truly welcome them into our churches.
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