You may think I’m wrong about LGBTQI. So, now what?

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I am fully affirming because of my faith, not in spite of it. I came to believe what I believe after extensive theological study, my own life experience, examining the lived experience of others, research, prayer, and following the leading of the Holy Spirit.

It was a journey. All I did was stay on it, take the next step, and love – while God brought answers.

This is Robert Cottrell, Susan’s husband, writing today.

I am now more in love with God, with Jesus, with my family, with my children – my faith is deeper and richer than it has ever been.

That is the hope I offer to you.

But let’s talk about right now.

What if you are as convicted as I am about your beliefs, but we have ended up on opposite sides of this?

What do we do now?

I suggest that maybe we use Jesus as a model and focus on humanity and on the heart.  Instead of debating theology, can we just talk about people?

Every single day a family – struggling with their child coming out as LGBTQI – are shamed and rejected in churches.  I am not talking about a radical church like Westboro Baptist with their God Hates Fags signs. I am talking about churches with grace in the title, who preach that all are welcome – like the ones I used to attend. Maybe one like yours.

Every day a parent is put in a devastatingly painful position of being made to believe that they must make a choice between God and their child.

Can you imagine that?

And every single day an LGBTQI child is shamed and rejected, told they are abominable to God, disgusting to God – simply for being who they know to be their true self.

Every day a child is kicked out of their home, just because they are gay. 25% of all LGBTQI homeless youth became homeless on the same day they came out to their Christian parents.

Can you imagine that?

If you love and follow Jesus, I know that this breaks your heart – as it does mine.

So, what do you and I do now?

Is this what you want to be known for? Is this how you want to love?

Is this where you want to leave these families and your LGBTQI brothers and sisters – is this the message you want to convey?

I would ask that we both press into Jesus, listen to that still small voice of the Spirit in our hearts and ask ourselves if we are both able to love God, focus on our OWN life, and love others the way that God has loved us.

God is able to handle everything else – especially the things we understand the least.

I’m in. Will you join me?

– Robert Cottrell

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private Facebook support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

Can My Young Child Know If They Are Gay?

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“Stop letting awful parents put these labels on young children! It is going to destroy their lives!”  We hear some version of this every day. What these people don’t realize is that it is not the parent who is doing anything, it is the child driving the vast majority of these conversations.

Gender identity and orientation are complex issues and it can be especially difficult and confusing when your child is young. But the best response can be surprisingly simple. 🙂

A Mom contacted me recently, and I wanted to share our interaction…

Dear Susan,

My 8-year-old daughter asked me today if she is gay because she wants to kiss girls more than she wants kiss boys. My husband thinks she is just confused and too young to know what she wants. My question is: can a child this young know what their preferences are? I myself have thought for years that she may be bisexual or a lesbian, but I never thought anything of it until she asked me. Any information would be grateful so I can make sure I can always support my child with whatever path she follows in life.

Thank you, Jane

Dear Jane,

Well, yes, children often know this very early. I know that idea can be very hard – sounds like it’s hard on your husband. How you should respond might be simpler than you think. 🙂

I would recommend you affirm whatever she is telling you about herself, and let it emerge. If she’s asking whether she is, you can tell her that only she will know, and if she doesn’t know now, she’ll know later. There’s no rush to sort it out.

I would affirm her and who she is saying she is, and leave room for her to bloom.

If she isn’t, great, if she is, great.

Either way, shame or trying to steer her into a different direction will have negative, often tragic effects.

Either way, affirming her will allow her to become who she was meant to be.

You are courageous to write me and ask my opinion. It would be so easy just to shut her down, but it would hurt her. So, good job, Mama.

Love to you on your journey,

Susan

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private Facebook support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

Flowers for the Living

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It was a big day nonetheless. Graduating from seminary, I enjoyed family and friends here to celebrate, and so many more cheering me on from afar. I felt loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and heard! Gifts and well wishes rained down from Mamas in FreedHearts Moms, my secret online support group. I received many more wishes from so many friends online—even the many I haven’t met in person but who have expressed their love and appreciation. I felt that my life mattered and people recognized the work I do that is so often behind a computer screen or on a cell phone! My heart was filled to overflowing for life and the beloved who are in it. I was deeply humbled. And my aunt told me I looked very happy. I was indeed!

And it was not my funeral.

We love to give accolades to people after they die. We gather together and say how much we love them, what a difference they made, the good they did in the world… and they are not there to hear it.

Having stood graveside for too many family members, I always felt sad that the person couldn’t hear all this love being expressed. These posthumous accolades are wonderful, of course, and they help the survivors express their hearts. But how nice it is when the person being commended is actually still alive to hear it!

Flowers for the living, I call it.

Sure, we pile up flowers in the funeral home, and they are an expression of a bereaved heart. But how beautiful it is to give these flowers, these expressions of our love for those around us, while those we love are still living. To shower them with love now, while they are here, alive to enjoy it.

That. Gives. Life.

James Taylor said, “Shower the people you love with love.”

Paul said, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”

And Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Please. Love freely. Love fully. Love well.

Give your flowers to the living.

It’s the primary job we’ve been given.

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

Margaret Court’s Outdated Game With the LGBTQI Community

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Margaret Court was the name in Women’s Tennis. She was the best in the world. She set records. The Australian Open’s Court Arena bears her name. But her game is sadly out of date. She would not have even a teensy-weensy chance against the 100th ranked player today, let alone Serena.

Not. A. Chance.

Bless her heart. I admire her tennis—for the day she played it. Today it’s anachronistic; that is, it’s out of the sequence of time. It’s old, out-of-date, quaint. No one should fault her for that. She was groundbreaking in her day! But her tennis has no place today.

Interestingly, neither would Serena’s tennis have a place in the 1960s. There was no paradigm then in which such a game as Serena’s could have existed! No worldview, if you will, from which today’s top games could have emerged. Today’s tennis would be as out of time in the 60s as Margaret Court’s tennis is today.

If you like women’s gymnastics, watch Nadia Comaneci’s “perfect 10” routines from the 1976 Olympics. You will smile! And of course no one would take any of her hard-earned accolades away from her—but neither are they used to train today’s gymnasts. Even the simple positioning of the uneven bars is far different today.

The fact that the one-time world’s best tennis player is now quaint is as it should be. We only unfold into the time and space in which we live. Those who see beyond their own time we consider prophetic, and they usually get a prophet’s reward—or punishment. Think Galileo and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Another interesting fact on the timeline is that Margaret Court came right after Althea Gibson. Court probably watched Gibson win in the 1950s. Yet those two pros would not have used the same locker room. Blacks and whites had separate bathrooms, separate drinking fountains, separate societies. And though I don’t know Court’s ideas about black players or race in general—racism was the prevailing worldview of her day. She would have been anachronistic if she hadn’t absorbed the racist views around her.

Context, always context.

Court also lived in a day when LGBTQI people were pretty much under the radar and lacking in any recognition, not to mention rights. If she were homophobic in the 60s or 70s, we should not be surprised; perhaps we would not we even hold her to account for that, given the homophobia of the day.

But we should hold her to account for speaking her homophobic views today.

Why? Because those views hurt LGBTQI people and those who love them. Those views empower bullies to take horrific action against LGBTQI people. Those views empower clergy to oppress, marginalize, and speak publicly against a segment of society. Those views hold society back with outdated, fracturing, divisive ideas. They hinder humanity’s movement toward wholeness and healing.

Court bases her opinion on her theology that God created marriage as between a man and woman. It’s a simple enough theology, and by simple I mean lacking nuance, context, and understanding of overarching themes of scripture. It’s a flat, pedestrian read I have deconstructed before.

But as I read more about Court, I became interested in the human element. Court’s biggest competitor was Billie Jean King, also legendary, also a champ. Court won 24 grand slam singles titles next to King’s 12. Their rivalry (aka hatred) was about as legendary as their game.

In the 1970s were two highly publicized tennis matches: The Battle of the Sexes. This during the push for the Equal Rights Amendment—to grant women the same rights as men. In one of these two matches, Court played Bobby Riggs and lost. In the other match, King played Riggs and won. King won acclaim for destroying this “male chauvinist,” as Riggs was called. What hoopla! I remembered King’s winning face everywhere. I didn’t even remember Court had played.

You think Court’s feelings about King (resentment? envy?) played into her view of King? Of course! These were huge rivals. The fact that Court’s nemesis was a lesbian could hardly help coloring her view of lesbians in general. To think it wouldn’t is to misapprehend human nature.

Players, many lesbian players, are calling for the Margaret Court Stadium to be renamed. Some people are aghast at that thought, of course. After all, the stadium was named based on Court’s achievements as a tennis player, not on her opinions and/or theology. But Court’s magnified voice to speak her opinions and theology comes from the platform of her tennis accomplishments, not the views alone. You can throw a rock and hit a hundred pastors who have the same view but not the same platform.

In any case, Court’s view is not profound or unique—it’s not even educated. It’s just an opinion. But the amplification of her views via her tennis platform makes the tennis relevant, and makes the naming of the stadium relevant. Pushback is appropriate. (We pushed back when Court supported apartheid, as South Africa denied entry to African-American Arthur Ashe.)

Personal views are one thing. Public views that divide and hurt are another.

Court’s old ideas about lesbians would not even be relevant were it not for the platform tennis affords her. I contend they’re still irrelevant. She’s not a lesbian; she doesn’t have their experience. If she were saying that her ideas then were wrong and she sees things differently today, that would be relevant—not because I would then agree with her but because that is the direction society is moving: toward greater acceptance and greater inclusion of those different from us, even—especially—of those we may not understand.

That is the very heart of God and the Gospel.

Give Margaret Court her due. She was once the best tennis player in the world, and she moved the game of women’s tennis far forward.

But beyond that, Court is simply another voice opining about changes she simply does not like or agree with. That’s fine—she doesn’t have to come with us as we move life and humanity forward. But neither should we allow her to grasp and claw to hold the rest of us back.

We have ‘pay-what-you-want’ video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

A Father’s Plea to Christian Dads of LGBTQI Children

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Seven years ago, my daughter came out. I love her. Nothing will ever change that. Nothing. I stand with her. I defend her. I believe in her. I protect her.

And my life’s work is now to advocate for her and for all those in the LGBTQI community.

Maybe you have a gay son, or a lesbian daughter, or a bisexual, transgender or queer child. And maybe this is not what you hoped forwhat you dreamed of. But regardless of the labels placed on our kids by others, they are still our children and their dreams are still very much alive!

If you are willing to take an often difficult and sometimes scary journey with me, it will impact your heart and your life in ways more wonderful than you can imagine. It will lead you into a deeper love for your child, your family and for God.

Having a gay child is an absolute blessing!

I never had a conflict between my unconditional love for my child, and my faith… until my daughter came out.

What?!?

The source of that conflict could not be my love for my child. That love is pure, holy, God-given, true, right and everything good in this world. So the source of the conflict had to be somewhere in my faith beliefs.

That is the key moment.

That realization is the decision point, and probably one of the most important decisions of my life and my child’s life. How I as a parent react and respond to that will impact both of our lives forever.

Some parents abandon their child for their faith. Indefensible. Some parents abandon their faith for their child. Either decision is gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, soul-shatteringand either will have horrible, tragic consequences.

There is a better way. But to make it, you have to be willing to take a journey.

If the source of the conflict can only be somewhere in your faith, then you have to open the box you are in and honestly examine your beliefs. And when you do that, God will reveal truth to you about God’s heart and unconditional love, not only for your child, but for you too.

When you take that journey and step outside of the box of behavior-focused Christianity, it can be scarybut the freedom, peace and truth you discover along the journey is exquisite, life-giving, and deeply satisfying to your heart and soul.

I plead with you to hear my heart.

My relationship with my daughter has never been better, my relationship with God has never been deeper.

To get there, I had to step away from religion, fundamentalism, legalism, anything that is part of behavior-focused, expectation-driven Christianity. As I stepped away from that, I realized I was stepping into the very life Jesus taught and showed us.

I learned that unconditional love, affirmation and acceptance of my LGBTQ child is actually consistent with a faith that follows Jesus.

I now say that I am fully affirming of LGBTQI people BECAUSE of my faith, not in spite of it!

Your precious child holds your heart like no other. And you hold their heart in your hands like no one ever will.

What you do, how you react, the words you say, will have a greater impactfor good or badthan you know.

I am just a dad, there is nothing special about me. All I did was refuse to abandon my child, and I refused to abandon my faith. I decided to begin a journeya blessed beautiful journey.

One step at a time.

Will you join me?

– Rob Cottrell

p.s. If you are a Dad and need someone to talk with, please email me at robertcottrell@aol.com. You are loved and you are not alone.

We have pay-what-you-can video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

Wonder Woman, Parents, & the LGBTQI Community!

Diana. Wonder Woman! Just saw the movie, and I kept thinking about you. I will share a few pieces here—no spoilers—to convey how I feel about you and the defense we’re engaged in for the lives of the defenseless, for the lives of our children. It doesn’t stop until all of us are free.

“It’s our sacred duty to defend the world. And it is what I’m going to do.” – Wonder Woman.

When I started FreedHearts four years ago, I had no plan! My mission was to speak up for those who were being decimated by the conservative rhetoric of exclusion. Pain and suffering abounded—that is what I knew. I had no idea how I was going to slash through the rhetoric against marginalized people, specifically LGBTQ people, no master plan to save this community. I just started with a single post.

As Diana begins her training, she doesn’t know what she’s being prepared for. She only knows this is the path for her. As all her training comes into play, she realizes she is more equipped than she thought.

I’ve gotten pushed around and knocked down, but I’ve gotten up and come back. Even as Diana has surveyed the ruins of humanity-at-war all around her, I have wondered if I’m even making a dent in the horrors happening all around me. But the longer I continue, the more clearly I see that I have been equipped for this.

Even as I write, I know there are countless Wonder Women and Supermen out there. Parents fighting for their children. LGBTQI people fighting for themselves and their community.

You are stronger than you know! We are ALL stronger than we know!

“You are stronger than you believe—you have greater powers than you know.” – Antiope

The key is staying in as our strength reveals itself and comes into all its Wonder. If you need to, let my strength be your cover as you fully discover your own strength.

In one battle scene, Diana leaps into an unwinnable situation, and her fellow warriors are inspired and fall in behind her. By leaping first, she creates a place for them to leap in as well!

If you need cover, fall in behind me because I’m going in. Fall in behind me because I am creating a path. Fall in behind me because I will draw the fire to give you cover to do your part.

If you’re a parent unsure how to defend your child, fall in behind me, because I am creating a space of safety for parents.

If you’re a church member who may not know this issue but you know the church has been very unchristlike in their treatment of this community, fall in behind me because we are helping nonaffirmers get hold of this call to be Jesus in a broken, hurting, and war-torn world.

If you are LGBTQI, you fall in right behind me. Take my hand. I will hug you and kiss your head even as we battle against ignorance and hate. Hear me tell you, again and again, that you are God’s beloved, and you have every right to your full humanity. No one can take that from you. NO ONE.

“I will fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.” – Wonder Woman

I will fight for you who cannot fight for yourselves, as you heal and gain strength. I will help you break the bonds of lies told you, of fear conditioned into you. And I will remind you that you are stronger than you believe, you have greater powers than you know.

And soon, you will look around and see that you are the difference-maker, the healer, the love you always had it in your heart to be. You are the Wonder Women and Supermen! You just needed a safe place to let your power soar!

“It’s about what you believe and I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.” – Wonder Woman.

With overflowing love,

Susan

We have pay-what-you-can video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.

An Unclaimed Body – the Last Victim of Pulse. Where is the Love?

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At a time when a parent weeps uncontrollably, mourning the death of their precious child, what would possibly drive a father to refuse to claim the dead body of his son? Oh wait, he told us: the son was gay.

Where is the love?

Is the middle of the unspeakable pain of losing your child to a senseless act of hate and violence, you have to plan a funeral. What would possibly cause a church to refuse to allow you to hold the memorial service there? Oh wait, they told us: the victim was gay.

Where is the love?

The part of the church that is anti-gay justifies the condemnation and rejection of their LGBTQI brothers and sisters based on a handful of Bible passages – passages that are actually misunderstood and mistaught. But it’s that same Bible, in John 13:35, that says they will know you are Christians by your love.

Not by your doctrine, not by your obedience, not by your statements of faith… by your love!

So, I ask the father who refused to claim the body of his son, I ask the church who refused to allow a funeral of a gay person, I ask those in the church who are non-affirming… what do people know you by?

What names would people use to describe you? They may not be words you would like to hear.

You claim to be Christian but Jesus told you to love God, and love others – period. And by this would people know that you follow and believe in him.

On my recent trip to Orlando, I went to Pulse. The sky had just begun to clear as we arrived. It had been raining all day, which seemed only fitting. Colorful canvas banners lined the chain link fence around the black shell of a nightclub, and memorial tributes were everywhere.

We smiled at two young men. The tears in their eyes brought tears to mine, and we chatted a bit about their trip from out of state to visit the site. I was with my friend Debby—we had just come from a gathering of the Orlando moms from our Facebook moms group, so we were feeling maternal.

We signed the banners. We read the notes left by others, feeling their hearts through their words and mementos left behind. In all that I read, I did not see one scripture reference, no mention of God or Jesus, no obvious words of comfort from those who are called, above all else, to love.

Where is the love?

A young woman was sweeping the grounds of bits of debris left from the rain. She told us she comes regularly, that this was her way of showing respect to the victims. She cried a little and Debby hugged her. She said she had seen the killer in Pulse several times before, with a male date. And she started crying again. I hugged her and held her tight, until she finally broke and she just cried without trying to hold it back.

I thought about all the love in this place, from all the words of love and hope to the display of rainbows, flowers, painted rocks, and stream of visitors. I thought of the love of the families whose hearts were ripped out of their chest from their unimaginable loss. And I thought of the victims—sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, workers, students, young adults and mature adults—and the love that follows them still.

And I thought of the murderer. In this kind of killing spree, what kind of messy world must have existed for this man whose father vociferously rejects gay people? How might he have found his way out of his own pain and confusion?

How does the father who refuses to claim the dead body of his son, or the church who refuses to host a funeral for a gay person, or Christians who have refused to come here to express their love, find their way out of all of this pain, confusion, and hate.  How do any of us find our way out?

Love.

Love is the only way out of this madness. Love is the only path that will lead beyond the hatred and self-loathing and rejection that explodes in these horrific acts.

If you are the parent of an LGBTQI child, love is all you need to know, all you need to do. If you don’t understand, if you don’t agree, just love and let the answers come when they come. You will never, ever regret loving too much.

If you are LGBTQI, know in the deepest places of your heart that you are loved and you are not alone. God, the universe, a higher power loves you – completely, fully, as you are, for who you are.

Where is the love? It is in us to give. It always has been and it always will be. It is our choice whether or not we let it out.

Love. Please.

We have pay-what-you-can video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving & fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church & community wounds. We also have private support groups for parents, and other resources. Please click here.