“They kicked me out on my 18th birthday for being gay… I’ve tried to contact them… I don’t know if they still love me.” Jonathan Allen, America’s Got Talent
My husband and I sat stunned as this young man sang Pavarotti on “America’s Got Talent.” Tears filled our eyes as his story settled on us, that his parents kicked him out for being gay. My husband said in a shaky voice, “How could they be so ungrateful for this son they’ve been given?” I just shook my head. We know that Jonathan Allen represents countless LGBTQ whose parents don’t fully accept their children as they are. My heart weeps.
Over the years, I have had to face my own shortcomings with my children—my ingratitude, selfishness, immaturity. Any honest parent will admit to falling short and taking their kids for granted. I have had to seek forgiveness from my children, and I’ve written them love letters to express my heart for them. Every parent makes mistakes, and love is a healing balm.
So I write this love letter to you, the LGBTQ women and men who have been hurt and rejected by those who were supposed to care for you the most. It is a letter long overdue. If your parents can’t express their love to you right now, let me speak instead. Let these words saturate your deepest being. Wherever you are in your life, this love letter is for you.
You are worthy of love. God created you in His image. For this reason alone, you are love-worthy, regardless of your actions or thoughts, both good and bad, or of what you’ve been told to the contrary. Simply by God’s declaration, by your existence as His creation, you are love-worthy. Love is your birthright!
You deserve a place to belong. You need a place where if you don’t show up for dinner, they go find you, because you belong, because they want you there. We have plenty of social media, yet most of us experience a crushing need for community. Don’t be afraid of your need for others, because you were designed to flourish in relationship. You were meant to be part of a greater whole. Instead, seek out community for yourself and move toward those who love you. It’s okay to let people love you.
People’s judgment reveals them, not you. When they say harsh things, or condemn or reject you, that comes from their heart, not yours. If someone offers advice that can help you grow, take it and keep it. Let the rest roll off you and don’t think about it again. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Shame is that feeling of being defective that slumps our shoulders. Shame says, “Something is fundamentally wrong with me.” There is nothing fundamentally wrong with you — you are made in God’s image! If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, you do not have to own shame. You are worthy of love and belonging and being missed by those who love you. People may condemn you, but they reveal themselves, not you. Rest in that place.
Parents’ mistakes do not reflect on you. Speaking as a mother of five, I know first hand that parents sometimes blow it big time. We might be afraid, angry, hurt, unprepared, immature or selfish. Sometimes you stir up an old wound, and we take it out on you. I’m so sorry. Parents react or reject for their own reasons, and none of that is your responsibility. Disappointment with ourselves clouds our judgment of our children. We can be ignorant and stubborn. I wish it were not true! To hear condemnation from those closest to you really hurts. We want their support, and it’s hard not to internalize what they say. I have said things that came straight out of my parent’s mouth, and I am horrified. Your parents’ harsh words are not about you. The more you can recognize that their judgment is not about you, the freer you will be. Others will hurt you too, and that doesn’t reflect on you either. You may have heard terrible things from friends, Christians or pastors. Their words reflect their own fear and beliefs. Letting go of the hurt is like the freedom of relaxing a clenched fist; do it for you, not for them.
God loves you fully, exactly as you are. You may boldly approach Him in His grace through Jesus Christ. You get to call Him Daddy. I realize the idea of “father” may be a landmine for you, but God is not like a human dad. God loves you without conditions. God is not disappointed in you. He approves of you. Any judgment or condemnation you have heard attributed to Him are not from Him. He is the very existence of love, and His love is for you.
It really will get better! Rock bottom is a cold and lonely place. I’ve been at rock bottom many times—I keep a toothbrush there. But I have always recovered, and I’m always glad for what I learned while I was there. Even though it’s hard to believe when you’re on the bottom looking up, it will get better. Learn to recognize the hands that reach down to help you.
Even if your family has rejected you, allow people around you to become your family. When Jonathan Allen walked onto the America’s Got Talent stage, he was nervous and afraid—rejection takes such a toll. But Howie Mandel said, “This show has become your family. Welcome home.” Other LGBTQ individuals and allies will love you as family—reach out and find them. Let people love you. Welcome home!