How to Parent an LGBTQI (or Any) Child

loving each other

Today’s my girls’ birthday, my lovely youngest daughter. She moves to LA tomorrow. Onward toward her music career.

How the years fly and in the end, and when those kids soar off to their own adventures, we are left to wave and wish them joy and peace and life.

What do you wish you had done differently as a parent? What do you wish your parents had done differently?

Love. That is what a wise older woman told me she would want to do again: let them know how much she loves them. And let them know how much Jesus loves them.

Love well. Be there for them, sure, but be there in the way they need: unconditionally, peacefully, trusting God with these beautiful beings entrusted to us. Trusting the process of life as it unfolds, and trusting our children to be as equipped in their quest for life as we were… or weren’t. Not trying to prevent every misstep (as we see it) but instead letting life do what life does: grow, nurture, teach, refine, mature.

Loving ourselves too and knowing we did the best we could with what we knew at the time. I have only a few regrets, a handful of things I wish I’d known back then. Like how vital love is, above all else. That things will all work out, whatever working out looks like. That nothing is more beautiful in that house we raise our family in than the people in it.

If you’re a parent, go love those children. Hug them, kiss their cheeks, and tell them they are absolutely perfect the way they are, the way God designed them. If they are not “performing up to standards,” get over yourself and love them. That’s what God told you to do: be God’s love, not God’s judgment. If this is hard for you, start with love for yourself; ask God to show you God’s love for you.

If you’re someone whose parents simply won’t love you as you are, let my love cover you. Let my words pour into you until you can embody that love for yourself.

And if you can grasp this, know that your parent’s lack of complete love for you pours out from a lack of complete love for themselves—the problem is not in you but in them, because they have fear where love should be.

Life is big and it goes by quickly. Grab all the love you can in it. Give all the love you can to it.

How the years fly and in the end, when the curtain begins to draw to a close, we are left to love, infinitely.

We have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping those in the faith community be more loving and fully inclusive; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community wounds. Please click here.

The Ultimate Question: What If You’re Wrong?


Are we so terrified of an angry God that we choose to err of the side of judging a person instead of loving them?

Unfortunately, the answer is “yes” for much of the church. And it is destroying the lives of people and entire families – many of whom we call brothers and sisters in Christ.

What if it is wrong to condemn same-sex relationships?  What if it is wrong to affirm same-sex relationships?

“What if you’re wrong?” 

It is an important question, and for those on both sides of the issue, it is a question that must be answered.

Whether you are convinced that homosexuality is wrong, or if you are convicted that we have misinterpreted these handful of scriptures — either way, we are called to love, unconditionally.

And we have done a poor job of it.

It is not our job to correct and control other people’s behavior. God is well able to guide us in truth — on any issue at any time. God sent the Spirit to do just that. We are called to love each other and trust God with everything else. Jesus railed only on the self-sufficient, self-righteous, never on the tenderhearted.

If you judge, condemn, reject, shun and shame those in the LGBTQI community and their families, and you are wrong, what is the result? Devastated lives, people who want absolutely nothing to do with the Jesus you are convinced they desperately need.

If you unconditionally love, affirm and accept those in the LGBTQI community and their families, and you are wrong, what is the result?  You focused on the heart instead of on any behavior – as Jesus did. Love, joy, kindness, relationship – the aroma of Jesus.

I am perfectly okay if I stand face-to-face with God and am told, “Susan, you loved way too much!”

Listen to your heart. Hear God’s Spirit leading you. Love others, and trust God with all the rest. You may not have all the answers yet, but if you are going to err, do it on the side of love.

If you have to chose between love and doing what is right, chose love because love is always right.

We have comprehensive video courses helping those in the faith community be more loving and fully inclusive; helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community wounds. Please click here. 🙂

My Easter Sunday with Jen Hatmaker and Her Downtown Friends

Susan with Jen Hatmaker

What would Jesus do on Easter Sunday? As I stood under the bridge in downtown Austin, a man balancing his hamburger, chips, and a drink walked straight to me. “Will you hold my cigarette?” For a nanosecond I processed the request, then I carefully took his lighted cigarette which freed him to reshuffle his food and drink.

Jen Hatmaker, next to me, kindly guided him to a place at the table where others were eating. I followed. After a little flurry to get him settled, Jen turned and took the cigarette from me to hand to him. Jen is apparently at ease in this choreography of caring—her church has served an Easter meal to this downtown Austin community of friends for ten years now.

Though I am at home in any LGBTQI setting, this is not my usual digs. “Your head is on a swivel,” she told me when I commented on her ease. I could see that, having watched her engage with any of the hundreds of people here for this event as they ate, received new socks and athletic shoes from the bed of a pickup, and enjoyed conversation, live music, and dancing.

This is Easter, when Christians are supposed to celebrate Jesus as their risen Savior. I know Jesus. He’s the one who said, “When you serve the least of these, you serve me.” By least of these Jesus meant the poor, the friendless, the homeless, the rejected, the outcast. Not least in value, but least in the eyes of the world.

He was at ease in settings like this, perfectly at home with those the world considers least. He said other radical things, like, “The last will be first and the first will be last.” Also, that startling idea, “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your love.”

Countless Christians spent their Easter Sunday in a nice, big church, the beauty—and cost—of which the rest of the world cannot even imagine. I’m pretty sure many of them never gave a thought to the rest of the world, especially those marginalized and oppressed, especially those with whom they disagree or just find disagreeable.

The teachings of the nonaffirming evangelical church have very little to do with the risen Jesus.

That’s just the hard truth. And that’s how we often do Easter in America.

Someone says, “He is risen!” And we respond, “He is risen indeed!”  But, lately, I want to respond, “Really? Then where’s your joy?… Has he risen just for you or for everyone?… And why so much fear of those different from you?”

As I watched Jen, her Austin New Church, and her downtown friends enjoy food, fun, and fellowship, where a cool breeze and strains of Stevie Wonder swirled in the air, I couldn’t think of a better place to be.

I am absolutely certain Jesus would join us.

We have comprehensive video courses helping those in the faith community be more loving and fully inclusive; helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; and helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community wounds. Please click here. 🙂

Would You Rather Have a Gay Child or a Dead Child?


I am sorry if the title of this post shocks you, or strikes you as harsh or over-dramatic. But honestly, parents don’t realize what they’re asking of their LGBTQI kids. And they don’t realize what their rejection is doing to them.

This is not about inclusion. This is a matter of life and death.

By making their children stick to their own expectations and standards for them — whether they really think their gay child is going to hell or honestly are just ashamed of them — parents are asking their kids to change something inherent, something that son or daughter can’t change. No matter how much they pray or plead. It’s just not happening.

And the message that sends is absolutely devastating. It tells our kids (young, teens or adults) that they are broken, not okay, for whatever reason.

It’s plain wrong. And it can be tragic.

The suicide statistics for LGBTQ youth is alarming — 40% of gay youth contemplate suicide, 50% of transgender youth – 4 to 5 times the rate for their straight peers. And gay youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as gay peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.

I have been in dialogue with a close friend about my support and affirmation of gays, and I am heartsick. We are going to meet for coffee, to see if we can find any common ground. She follows Jesus too, so that should be our common ground. But people get disjointed about this, bent out of shape, worked up.

She has already expressed her deep disapproval in me. I am simply loving without condition, which my main job in life (and it’s hers, too!). To even think about meeting with her makes me queasy, but I must speak up for those who deserve to be spoken for.

Just imagine the one who IS gay. How do they feel? Having to discuss this with a family member who doesn’t approve, and other family members, and friends, and church, and society. No wonder this is so hard to walk through. No wonder they feel so alone, because they essentially are so alone.

Family… we are supposed to love and support each other no matter what. If our own family won’t do that, how does that impact our confidence that anyone else can?

Imagine the depth of the shame of a child rejected, condemned, shunned by parents. Or the shame that comes from parents who just “tolerate” their gay child, but the child clearly knows the parents are disgusted by who they are.

And imagine a parent conveying the message that God too is ashamed and disgusted?

Shame is not a good motivator, it’s a horrible motivator that can destroy a person’s heart and spirit.  Shame only makes a person feel fundamentally defective, and no one has the right to do that to someone else.

EVERYONE deserves to be treated as a human being. Even people you might disagree with.

I know this can be hard. Please don’t go through it alone. Seek out people to talk to – people who will support and encourage you – people who will affirm, accept and love your gay child, and you too.

I have private Moms groups on social media, Rob has a Dads group — email us about those.

I am so proud of you for reading this. It may be the first step in making the decision to err on the side of love, to affirm your child. You may have saved their life.

I promise you that it does get better. The answers will come. Just take the next step, and find someone to take it with you.

I am here if you need me.

We know of way too many families who kicked out, condemned, rejected, shunned and shamed their gay child – in Jesus name, claiming they were speaking for God – and who lost their child to suicide or drug abuse.

Please. Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t drive your child over the edge.

Every one of us would regret that for every single day of the rest of our lives.

Breathe. Love them for who they are. Err on the side of love. Trust God with all the rest.

It’s what they deserve because they are human – and because they are your precious child. No matter what.

Just love. Please.

We also have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community; and helping those in the faith community be fully inclusive. Please click here. 🙂

Christians, Here’s Why You Don’t Have to be Afraid to Support Gays


“Prejudices are breaking down. Walls are breaking down. Pastors are rethinking their entrenched positions. Parents are choosing their child over learned doctrine that doesn’t reconcile with their lived experience or with the heart of God.”

I wanted to share this, from a Mom who is part of my private Facebook support group for Moms of LGBTQI children. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of moms — and dads — who feel the same way.

Being only two years into this journey with my son, I still once in a great while read people’s anti-accepting comments and blogs and wonder “am I being deceived?” Oh how I wish Jesus would have just come out (haha) and SAID what many of us know he’s showing us. But then I think… this journey is such a challenge, for us on “this” side, for those on “that” side, and for our gay friends and family caught in the middle. And challenges shape us, force us to draw near to God. If we allow them to, challenges CHALLENGE our thinking, our past teachings, make us take a look at our convictions (are they Biblical, just what we’ve been taught, or just the way we “feel”), encourage us to open our hearts AND our minds, to delve deeper, and to fervently pray our hearts out to the Lord.

I love her thoughts here. When I started writing and speaking about LGBTQI issues, I kept saying, “PLEASE God, don’t let me lead anyone astray!” I love Jesus with all my heart, and that’s the last thing I would want to do.

I felt like I’d stepped onto a high wire without a harness. I prayed not to fall before I reached the other side… and it felt like a perilous walk.

But God kept confirming me in gentle ways.

People would comment that they could see the love of Jesus in what I shared, or they felt that someone had finally heard them and loved them as is.

That is the whole point. How could that not be God’s doing? Of course, I’d have preferred a text directly from God early on saying I was doing and believing the right thing, but God is more subtle than that.

Jesus taught outright, “I accept and love ALL people.” Period. He did not add regardless of orientation, just like he did not add regardless of race, or age, or gender. Many Christians seem to need that, and if he had, they would have just moved on to another battle.

Perhaps God gave us the journey this way to focus on relationship instead of on right and wrong.

Perhaps there was a plan here to encourage us to dive deeper into the road Jesus laid out for us, of love first, love last, and love throughout. Perhaps there was a plan to help us deepen our love for and relationships with those we may have been taught did not “deserve” our love and attention, and those we were taught are somehow “less than.”

Jesus did not add anything. Love. Period.

Many Christians add things so that they can have another platform to stand on and be right about. It has led, and continues to lead to marginalization and oppression of groups of people – simply because of who they are.

Focusing on right and wrong is living off the tree of knowledge. That was the whole point of the two trees. The tree of life is about focusing on the Spirit of God leading us in all truth. Leading us in love, and in relationship.

That gave me great comfort and I hope it does for you too.

Now, I have no doubt that God is moving — not just in me but in so many others.

Prejudices are breaking down. Walls are breaking down. Pastors are rethinking their entrenched positions. Parents are choosing their child over learned doctrine that doesn’t reconcile with their lived experience or with the heart of God and teachings of Jesus. I see it every day.

So much is changing, and I believe we are in a time of reformation, a time when people are stepping out and learning how to unconditionally love others, and learning that they themselves are indeed unconditionally loved by God.

Now there are many of us walking that wire. We know we are not alone, and it’s much closer to the ground.

I long since stopped being afraid. I know I am living in truth, and on the right side of God’s heart and the right side of history.

I affirm LGBTQI because of my faith, not in spite of it.

All it required was trust in that still small voice. And it showed me that I was hearing God all along.

You can hear that too. You have nothing to be afraid of.

We have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community; and helping those in the faith community be fully inclusive. Please click here. 🙂

To Christian Parents of LGBTQI Children

Rob Susan Annie NYC

Rob & Susan Cottrell with their daughter Annie

“You want to shove those words back in and put the lid on. But you can’t. Your child is gay. This goes against everything you’ve been taught. It was not what you had in mind, and you instantly wonder where you went wrong.”

When you become a parent, you know to expect the unexpected. But for many Christian parents, nothing can prepare them to hear that their beloved child is gay. This is the child you have cradled, spoon fed mashed bananas, and dreamed a beautiful future for. How could this be? What will the church say? What will your friends say? What does the future hold? You can’t even get your head around this.

If you are a Christian parent, family member or friend to whom your loved one has come out as lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgender or queer, or maybe they are still sorting through it all, then this is for you. I invite you to sit down, relax, maybe get a cup of tea, and soak in what I’m about to tell you. My hope is to guide you as we walk for a bit through this maze of confusion, to help you find your way to wholeness.

In many Christian circles, this is not good news, and you may begin to spiral into reflection and self-searching. We’ll get to that. But at the bottom of it all, this is not about you. Most parents’ first mistake is to make it about them instead of about their son or daughter. So let’s talk about some of the major stumbling blocks for Christian parents.

1. This is not an offense against you. This is not something your child did to you. They did not “choose gayness” to rebel against you, get back at you or make your life miserable. In fact, it really has nothing do with you. You did not cause this; it’s not a failure on your part. As a younger Christian, taught that homosexuality is a sin, I believed that trauma somewhere in someone’s past caused homosexuality, even if they didn’t remember it. To my surprise, God completely shifted my understanding and revealed to me the many people who had a great childhood and are still gay. He also reminded me of the many straight people who had traumatic childhoods, yet remained straight. Your expectations may lay shattered at your feet. But those are your expectations for your child. Quite simply, they may not be God’s expectations. Ask God to replace yourvision for your child with His.

2. This is not news to your child. They likely did not tell you the first time they noticed their same-sex attraction, or felt that they were different in some way. In fact, they have probably lived with this quite a long time. They had to discover how true it was. They had to watch other young teens grow into puberty, and realize they weren’t developing the same feelings. Perhaps they dated the opposite gender to see if passion might develop, and yet none did. By the time they come out to you, they are pretty sure of what they’re saying. You may have to work through a slate of brand new emotions about this, and your emotions will affect them, but theirs are not brand new. Do not ask them if they are sure, if maybe they want to take a little time and see what happens. Instead, consider the journey they have been through. Ask them things like, “When did you know?” “How long have you felt this way?” and tell them how you are grateful that they are including you, that they don’t have to go through this alone anymore.

3. Now is a key time to embrace your child. Imagine for a moment the courage it took to tell you about their sexuality, especially when they know it seems to contradict your core beliefs. In this moment, your child needs to know he did the right thing by telling you. You may flood with fear, doubt, anger, grief, disappointment, shame, anguish or guilt, but do not let those hinder you from expressing your unconditional love and admiration for your child. Your child will have their own list of emotions to deal with; don’t hand them yours. Give yourself time to process all of your own emotions. Be kind to yourself and your child through this.

4. They were terrified to tell you. The risk they took is very real. Some gay teens have been shamed, banished, threatened, beaten, and shunned. They know that once it is said, it cannot be unsaid. They took this chance either because they trusted you and hoped for the best, or because they could not stand to live inauthentically any longer. You have a strong child. Be proud. You have the opportunity to make the most of their trust and come through for them with the unconditional love of a parent. That’s your job as a parent and a Christian — to love unconditionally.

5. Praying, wishing and believing will not make your child straight. If doing these things meant that homosexuality would not visit a Christian home, then we wouldn’t see it cropping up so often. I have heard countless stories of people who prayed without ceasing, but nothing changed. Picture with me the false faith-healers who pray to heal audience members’ maladies; when there is no result, those charlatans tell the poor kid in the wheelchair, “Maybe next time you’ll have enough faith to be healed.” Where does that place the blame? If anyone has ever been healed in that setting, it is God’s choice, not the one in the wheelchair. Has anyone prayed themselves straight? I don’t know. Meanwhile, countless stories of those who prayed, did everything right, followed every suggestion, and poured themselves wholeheartedly into being straight–only to experience disappointment and self-loathing. Your child does not deserve this.

6. For teens, there are still many changes to come. Don’t panic! Let them discover themselves. What did you know at 18 that you feel the same about today? Come to think of it, sexual orientation is probably one of the few things you were sure about. Do not require a certain life path for your son or daughter at this time when the world is their oyster. Haven’t we yet learned how crippling it is to have to please someone else? Do not tell them that it is a phase that will wear off. Acknowledge how far they have come, that they have an exciting future, and that you will be with them every step of the way. If they discover that their orientation may not be what they thought, then they alone will discover that. Telling them you are praying that they change, or that they will likely “straighten out” as they get older, will only distance them from you. Worst of all, do not send them to “reorientation” camp. This traumatizes countless teens, cementing deep shame and self-hatred.

7. Adult children are out of your hands. Even more than teens, adult children are beyond your parental authority. You have done your best as a parent, however flawed you were. (We all were!) You must trust God with this child you have raised. Embrace them and love them as a fellow believer–Jesus asks that of you. Do not shun them or take other action, which will only alienate you from their lives. Instead, look forward to the many major life events ahead, and be there for them as you wanted your parents to be there for you.

8. Put other peoples’ responses aside. The opinion of your pastor, your Bible group, or your extended family are not as important as your son or daughter’s well-being. Put others’ opinions aside and focus on how God would lead you specifically. If you can’t say in your heart that your child is more important than others’ opinions, then seek the Lord about this and ask Him to restore your priorities.

9. Bear your son’s or daughter’s burdens. Let the weight of unanswered questions and discomfort rest on you. You are not the one being pressured to change your identity. Your child has the whole rest of the world to navigate; you are uniquely equipped to help bear their burden and so fulfill the law of Christ, as Galatians 6:2 tells us. Your relationship with your child calls for that much. Don’t press for answers or easy solutions. As with other big events in life, get comfortable with not knowing, and patiently let God reveal answers in His timing.

10. Finally, remember that we are not responsible to change people’s behavior. Not our job, even with our children, especially as they get older. If you think you’re going to make your pianist into a football player, give it up now. Jesus is not about behavior modification; He is about life, His life flowing through us. That is what grace (kharis) means — to let Jesus’ love flow through us instead of feeling obligated to fix everything. Your job is to love people, especially your child. Let God use this situation to show you what it means to love unconditionally. While we love others, God is at work in ways we can’t see.

I discuss Bible passages in depth, especially in our comprehensive video courses. I encourage you to read more here, look at my website’s resources page and especially look at the video courses. There is a special link below. But please understand that even if we disagree, nothing changes regarding our responsibility, our blessing as a Mom or a Dad to unconditionally love, accept and affirm our gay children – as God has done with us.

This journey is likely not one you would have chosen, nor initially welcomed. But if you seek it, God will show you the beauty of the journey.

My love for my child, for God and my faith is deeper and richer now than it has ever been. I affirm BECAUSE of my faith not in spite of it.

Perhaps God has chosen you for such a time as this, to shine love amidst all the anger and hate (even if your beliefs about it never fully change). Perhaps God will work through you to restore the love of Jesus that has been so maligned to a group of people who need God — as we all do. God is good at giving us quandaries we didn’t expect, to rock our little tiny worldviews. God shakes everything that can be shaken until all that’s left is what is unshakeable. Cling to God in this time, and you will discover something wonderful — for you and your family.

Please feel free to comment below on your experience of your child coming out, or email me directly through the contact page. God bless you on this journey.


We have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community; and helping those in the faith community be fully inclusive. Please just click here. 🙂


Can You Tell Which Woman is Transgender? And Why Does it Matter?

Trans Brady Bunch 2

With all this conversation about who we pee next to, I wondered if you could tell who was actually a transgender woman. Can you spot her? Can you tell? Do you care?

Unfortunately, many seem to care, and have responded with fear-mongering and vicious lies, trying to make this about the safety of our children.

Honestly, they should be ashamed of themselves.

Anyone who takes an authentic look at this knows there is no connection whatever between transgender people and pedophilia. Most predators are straight men who already have arranged their lives for easy access to children.

This is nothing new. We have been going to bathrooms with transgender people for as long as we have been alive.

Those who stir up fear pretend it’s about the children when it’s really about fear, and power, and personal dislike of trans people. We have been through this before with left-handed people, women, blacks, interracial marriage. You would think we would have learned.

Sad. Truly.

So an entire group of people is being marginalized and oppressed and discriminated against, simply because we disagree with them, or just plain do not like them. Its called the “ick” factor.

Who really needs protecting? The one who says “ick”??

The truth is that when a transgender person goes into a public restroom, THEY are the most vulnerable person in the room, subject to harassment and attack—the stats bear that out.

And the ones who may not be able to pass as easily as the women in the photos are in increased danger and in even more need of protection.

So, take a look again at those photos and tell me…  When your son uses the restroom, would he be traumatized, upset, uncomfortable seeing any of these woman in the same restroom?  Yeah, I think so.

What is really the most disruptive? Letting them use the restroom that fits their lived identity or the one on their birth certificate? Because that’s the seedy underside of this debacle: to require the latter will bring more upheaval than we now imagine.

I asked at the beginning if you could spot the transgender woman. Well, it’s not just one of these women who is transgender—it’s eight. All BUT one.

Who is the cisgender woman? (The one who is NOT transgender?)

I’m not going to tell you. 🙂

Because when you use a public restroom and see someone who reminds you of one of these lovely women, you won’t really know, will you?

Instead, let me leave you with this advice…

Go to the bathroom, wash your hands, and get on with your day.  There is much life to live, much love to give. Focus your heart there. ❤

We have comprehensive video courses helping parents love, accept & affirm their LGBTQI children; helping LGBTQI heal shame from family, church and community; and helping those in the faith community be fully inclusive. Please just click here. 🙂