Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Today in the Seattle Times/Snohomish edition there was a wonderful article about gay teens. One of the things I am most proud about is my children's accepting and loving attitude towards others and particularly their attitude towards gay teens. Yesterday, my daughter came home from school upset because a boy in her government class said he'd be in favor of strict laws pertaining to gays because in his words, "I don't want more gay people running around."

Kaley thought he was joking and when she realized he was serious, she was stunned at the hateful attitude. She felt this statement was a personal insult to her friends who this kid had never met. I told her she had just come face to face with prejudice and it is ugly. The attitude is no different than back in the fifties and sixties when people were fearful of blacks moving into their neighborhoods. I specifically remember my father-in-law, who grew up in southern Kansas, telling me in 1975 that if he went into a restaurant where a black family was being served, he would feel sick and uncomfortable eating in the same room with them. He didn't want more black people running around in his world. This was in insult to me and all of my African American children who were my reading students at the time in Kansas City.

Scientists think that about 10% percent of human beings are gay. This means in every group of about 10 or 12 people, one or two are probably gay. Each of my children has had a group of friends of about 10 - 12 and as expected, they each have gay friends. Luckily, rather than ostracize these kids, they have formed a protective cocoon around them. Kamiak high school is built in such a way that the gym, swimming pool and sports facilities are at one end of the school and the music, choir, orchestra and drama facilities (performing arts center or PAC) are located at the other end. My kids and Kaley in particular have spent most of their time in the PAC end. For some reason, the teachers and the kids in this end of the school foster love and acceptance and a safe haven for children that do not fit into the "football" mentality. And it has been wonderful for me as a parent to see these incredibly creative children be open and caring with one another.

I have no doubt that people do not choose to be gay any more than people are given a choice about the color of their skin. When I was a little girl of four or five, my best friend was Kent. He lived across the street from me. I had an older brother who was not the least bit interested in playing with me. I loved to play with dolls and to play dress-up inside and he was outside on his bike or with a toy gun or with some type of ball. But because I had a brother, I was used to boys more than girls. The large Catholic family up the block had tons of girls but I didn't always like all of the hubbub and the squabbling. But Kent, across the street, was the best of everything. He was a boy but he played with me in a way that my brother never would despite my cajoling and insistence. At his house or mine, we would play cook and dress-up, but most importantly, he would play dollies with me. He was sweet and kind. It was great.

Kent had a nice ordinary family. He, too, had a macho athletic older brother who hung out with my athletic macho brother. His family was stable and his parents were married for a long time. Kent was loved. In high school, Kent was not allowed to openly be what he was but he devoted his talents to puppetry after high school. I ran into his brother at a party when I was about 25 and I'll never forget what he said to me.

"Do you remember how my brother liked to play with dolls?"

"Uh.... yea. I certainly do. How's he doing?"

"Terrific, he's extremely talented. He designs and makes puppets and has made a career of it. It's the weirdest thing--but it's cool," he said with great pride.

I still did not know whether or not he was gay but I didn't care. He had found his thing when he wasn't so comfortable in high school. My Mom remained friends with his Mom and sure enough, years later, my suspicions were confirmed. Kent was born the way he was born just like I was and just like my brother was. But because he had a great family that nurtured him, he did not have to live his life as a lie. The article in the paper today is about kids proclaiming they do not want to live in hiding and with dishonesty about themselves.


If parents are in tune and communicating with their children, they know probably from the earliest years. I bet Kent's Mom always knew. Lucas's friend Robert decided to tell his Mom when he was in high school that he was gay and her response was simply, "I know; I have always known." I knew the minute that Lucas invited Hannah to his rowdy all boy birthday party when he was in pre-school that he was not gay. This gorgeous little girl in a dress with long blonde hair showed up at the door with a bouquet of flowers. Her Mom said the flowers were her idea. Hannah was kind of ignored at the party but if I recall, the boys were more rambunctious than ever. Kaley's first little crush was also in pre-school and his name was Keenan. She still remembers her feelings and it was different than toward her girl friends. I remember my first crush in Sunday school when I was five on a boy, ironically named David. And I did not expect to play dolls with him like I did Kent.

What in the world are we doing to these human beings---all God's children---whose first innocent feelings are for someone of the same sex? We hate them and we teach them to hate themselves and in so doing we destroy them. We tell them they are sinful, evil, and perverted and that they are not allowed in church. I know that in Mukilteo these kids are not welcome in Christian youth groups. We tell them they can change and that they must change to be worthy in our eyes. I can't imagine trying to tell Lucas he cannot like girls or Kaley that she cannot have a crush on the boy up the street; I can't imagine telling Robert he is not allowed to look at other boys. The consequences of the bigoted attitude that society doesn't want gay folks running around have been devastating to these children. According to the Seattle Times article:

"Brenda Newell, a program manager for the health district who runs the support group, said that despite progress in winning acceptance, many gay youths are at a higher risk for depression, suicide, drug use and unsafe sex. Many who have been rejected by their families end up in homeless shelters or on the streets, she said."

And another quote:

"Robinson's mother, Caroline, said Elliott was first called a derogatory term for homosexual in elementary school. A principal intervened to stop the taunts, but the boy was harassed again in junior high, and she watched as her son — bright, sensitive and expressive — became moody and dark.
Caroline Robinson also had her own journey to acceptance once Elliott came out at 16. A devoted Lutheran, she sent her children to private Christian schools for part of their education and had to deal with her fears that being a homosexual meant a lifestyle that included casual sex, AIDS and drug abuse.
Elliott said he has no interest in that lifestyle.
"What I'm looking for is a relationship, someone I can spend my life with," he told the other young people at the GLOBE meeting. "I consider myself very religious. I grew up with it."

According to my beliefs as a Christian, Jesus wants us to gather in these children and love them. He wants us to accept them and to teach them to accept themselves so that they can be launched into adulthood with peace, happiness, and success. Parents should nurture, schools should protect, and churches, as a refuge, have the biggest role of all and need to learn to cherish their souls and provide spiritual guidance.

The article states that Kamiak High School has a gay-straight diversity club in order to provide a safety net for gay teens. Not true! It was not allowed. Our church will welcome them; one of Kaley's friends was involved with trying to get the group going but it failed. Now, this particular girl, a lesbian, is teetering between staying in school and dropping out. Kaley became friends with her when they were in the gifted program together in elementary school. Believe me, this girl is super smart and we should be more concerned about her dropping out of school than that she has a girlfriend. The drama department seems to be keeping her in school at least for the time being.

Our church is open to them but they want to be able to meet at school---they are leery of churches where hatred hasn't always been the antithesis of Love. And that is sad.... My priest says that the doors of our church are flung open wide for these kids and told me through my daughter to get them there.

Because we'd love to have more gay people running around.