Celebrating the “Awesome, Splendid Mess” of Marriage

Celebrating the “Awesome, Splendid Mess” of Marriage

By Carol Lynn Pearson

June is traditionally the month of weddings. Who would have thought even a few years ago that some of those weddings could be for our dear ones who are gay? Amazing new doors have opened and couples who used to have to meet in dark places can now celebrate their love out in the open, smiling for all to see.

Everyone benefits from this. Society gets more stable units in which two are committed to care for each other. Families get to know that their dear gay one receives the careful attention of someone who loves them. And the two now-legally joined spouses can list benefit upon benefit, most importantly that superb blessing of being seen as two whose relationship is equally valued and equally supported by the state and by family and friends.

And now the newly married gay couple can join the rest of humanity in that awesome, splendid mess that marriage turns out to be—that invitation to learn and to grow and to forgive and to rejoice in an intimate commitment found nowhere else.

Here is a poem I wrote for a gay friend a few years ago. This is what I hope for all.

FOR A GAY WEDDING

Now that the law of Leviticus
And the law of the land
Have made way for
The law of Love–

Let it be the same in our hearts
And in our home.

Let the law of ego that says
I am right
Open to the law of spirit that says
I am Love.

Let the law of entropy that says
Delight and awe must wind down
Like an old watch
Become the law of spring that says
In the eyes of my Beloved
All things are made new again.

Let the law of gravity that makes heavy
Even our thoughts
Become the law of heaven where
All is light.

Today let us winnow out the illusions
Pride, sadness, fear.
The law is on our side
In our hearts
In our home
There is room only for the real:
You and me and Love.

–Carol Lynn Pearson

CLP

Carol Lynn Pearson is prolific author, writing poetry, plays, and non-fiction. Her book, Goodbye, I Love You, is about the death of her gay husband from AIDS in 1986. In 1989, she began performing Mother Wove the Morning, a one-woman play in which she performs sixteen women throughout history in search of the female face of God. Her musical, My Turn on Earth, is one of the most beloved and successful Mormon musicals of all time. Carol Lynn has spent virtually all of her years since Goodbye, I Love You as an advocate for both women and gays within Mormonism.

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Marching Mama Dragons: Standing up and Speaking Up

Marching Mama Dragons: Standing up and Speaking Up

By Vicki Wimmer Johnson

Long before Mama Dragons began marching in the Gay Pride celebrations of today, mothers of LGBTQ+ children have been standing up for and speaking out for their children’s rights. I can’t imagine the courage Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG organization, had as she walked with her gay son Morty over 40 years ago in New York City following the Stonewall protests. We as Mama Dragons, have a rich history of examples from the first Mormon moms who stood up for and celebrated our rainbow children long before we formally organized. I am committed to recording that history and this post is just a brief beginning.

In my beginning, there was only me, that’s how it felt. I was the mom of a gay son who had only been out to our family for one year. I spent that year loving Stephan and his partner into our family. These things were more than I could handle very quickly so I took my time and I made plenty of mistakes, but the one thing I did right was LOVE. I loved my kid and we were a family, that is what mattered most.

Near the one year anniversary of our son coming out to us, I read about Mormons who were marching in Pride parades. Some wanted to show love and some wanted to also show solidarity for the equal rights of LGBT persons. I read so many articles and cried so many tears. I sat outside, in my garden, on my swing, with my iPad and read and looked at pictures of Mormons at Pride for days. I could not stop the tears and floods of emotion which only meant one thing for me, I also must do this.

 

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That June my son, my friend from high school, and I walked together in Salt Lake City in the Utah Pride parade.  2013 was the beginning of being a Pride mom for me. There are other Mama Dragons who served at Pride festivals in many ways before I did. These mamas walked with their children before me and continue to celebrate every year with me. There are new mamas with us every year as Mama Dragons grow in numbers.

 

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Mama Dragons love making parade signs with all kinds of messages of love. Mama Dragons love all the glitter and rainbows and getting dressed up in their favorite rainbow clothes. We have to have the outfit that matches our joy.  Mama Dragons love to be together and laugh and cry and hug each other and our children.

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Vicki Wimmer Johnson is a wife, mother, and grandma. She loves being a Mama Dragon and is devoted to showing love for her LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

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PFLAG: Uniting LGBTQ people with Families, Friends, and Allies

PFLAG: Uniting LGBTQ people with Families, Friends, and Allies

By Merrie McLean Smithson

I am a mother of a 29 year old son who came out to my husband and me on Christmas Day 2011. I didn’t know where to turn—Mama Dragons hadn’t been invented yet! Fortunately, I found PFLAG. The support, education, and advocacy training I’ve received from this organization have been invaluable!

PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. It was founded in 1972 by the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son. Uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality and full societal affirmation of LGBTQ people through its threefold mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states.

If you’d like to be a part of the positive changes that we make in the community, we invite you to participate in our monthly in-person meetings. During these meetings, members and fellow advocates and friends gather for support and education discussions. We invite a number of speakers and professionals to discuss topics relevant to the LGBTQ community. We take pride in creating a safe and comfortable environment to allow people from all walks of life to come and join our discussions.

Come join us for a meeting and find out for yourself how great it is! The Salt Lake City chapter meets on the second Tuesday of every month at the Utah Pride Center. Our educational program runs from 7 to 8 pm, followed by our support group from 8 to 9 pm. For more information visit our webpage at pflag-saltlakecity.org or our facebook page Pflag SLC. If you do not live in the Salt Lake City area, see www.pflag.org for the chapter nearest you.

 

Merrie joined PFLAG in 2012 and has served on the executive board as secretary since 2013. She has worked for 25 years as a speech language pathologist in the Salt Lake City School District. She enjoys reading, running, going to the gym, watching movies, and playing with her 5 grandchildren.

 

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When Religion Creates Dragons

When Religion Creates Dragons

(Title used with permission from Lori Burkman)

By Wendy Montgomery

My son, Jordan, came out to us in January 2012. The past four years have been both heart wrenching and soul expanding; painful and beautiful. The pain we experienced did not come from having a gay son. It came from being a member of a church that had no place for him. It would not accept all of who Jordan was, despite the profoundly good person he is. Our pain was exponentially intensified on November 5, 2015 when our church instituted what has come to be known as the “Exclusion Policy.” Now our son is labelled Apostate (the meanest word we have in our religious vernacular) and his future children are also cast out. We are not alone in our pain. Never in my life have I been witness to such widespread mourning and devastation. When I look at this beloved LGBTQIA Mormon community, all I see is tears and scorched Earth.

So because of these policies, practices and the pervasive culture of Mormonism, our religion has unintentionally created us, a group of fierce loving women who are committed to protecting our children, and the children of others who do not have the same family support. No mother should EVER stand idly by while their young are wounded.  Mormon mothers are no exception. In fact, Mormons are known around the world for our intense devotion to our families. The need for Mama Dragons has never been greater. Our children have never been more at risk. Because of the policy, they have never been exposed to more rejection and bigotry.

So what do we do as Mama Dragons?

Sometimes we can help in person. Sometimes it’s through social media, texts, emails or phone calls. We have attended same-sex weddings and celebrated with the new couple. We have buoyed each other up when unjust things have happened to our children. We have met with some of the highest leaders in the LDS Church, asking for more visibility and promotion of the church-sponsored Mormons & Gays website, and increased compassion and inclusivity in their talks about LGBTQIA (1) people. We have met with our local ward and stake leaders.  We’ve testified at Capitol Hill advocating against LGBT discrimination bills. We have attended funerals of gay teen suicide victims and mourned with their bereaved families. We have written articles about our experiences that have helped to open the eyes and hearts of the people who read them. We have done podcasts, press interviews, documentaries, YouTube videos, etc. in the hopes of furthering our message of unconditional love, full acceptance and equality, and education of church leaders and members. (2)  We work hard EVERY DAY to make things better for LGBTQIA Mormons, especially the youth. They are our most vulnerable. And unfortunately, the most invisible.

This isn’t just to make LGBTQIA people comfortable at church. This is literally to save lives. The following study was done by Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project and San Francisco State University. Their research and conclusions concerning LGBTQIA children raised in highly-religious families were peer-reviewed and published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. ” (3)

Utah has an estimated 5,000 homeless youths, about 40 percent of whom identify as LGBT people–50 percent of whom were raised in LDS families (4). What needs to be realized about the staggering nature of these statistics on homeless teens is that only 7% of teens in Utah identify as LGBT, so for them to make up 40% of the homeless youth in Utah is horrific.

Regardless of how you personally feel about homosexuality or gay marriage, these statistics and percentages should be enough to mobilize EVERY Latter-day Saint, indeed EVERY human, that reads this. I guarantee that there is someone in your life who is LGBTQIA, whether you know it or not. What are YOU doing to help that person feel loved, valued and included? If you don’t know anyone who is LGBTQIA, it could be because they don’t yet know that you are a safe person to talk to about this sensitive and tender subject. You could send them a subtle message by your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram posts, wearing a rainbow ring or ribbon, a bumper sticker on your car, bearing your testimony in Sacrament meeting or a supportive, loving comment at appropriate times at church. All of these things take courage, but please know that it is not an exaggeration when I tell you that these small actions have the power to save a life.

I hope that one day there will be no need for Mama Dragons. I hope that our children will be fully loved and wanted in their religious community, and not need to be protected from it. Sadly, today is not that day. So until then, we keep fighting. I am grateful for the work these women do, and that they have the courage, talons, and fire needed to protect God’s LGBTQIA sons and daughters from harm.

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1) LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.

2) Small sampling of the above mentioned:

3) “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults”. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW; David Heubner PhD, MPH; Rafael M. Diaz, PhD; Jorge Sanchez, BA.  Pediatrics Vol. 123 No. 1 January 1, 2009 . pp. 346 -352

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/123/1/346.full?ijkey=NrncY0H897lAU&keytype=ref&siteid=aapjournals

4) Standard-Examiner, Nancy Van Valkenburg, Oct 29 2013. http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/10/29/40-percent-homeless-utah-children-identified-lgbt

Wendy Montgomery lives in Chandler, AZ. She and her husband have 5 children, the oldest of which is fabulously gay. She is one of the founders of the Mama Dragons and on the Board of Directors for Affirmation. She and her family are featured in the short documentary film, Families Are Forever. She is an active member of the LDS Church and works hard from the inside to make a place for her LGBTQ brothers and sisters who desire to be there.

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