Hello, my name is Erma and this is my story.
It was in the early 1980’s when I first met a lesbian couple. Someone invited them to our Women’s Church group. We met every month, taking turns in each other’s home, for a pot-luck dinner, discussion and prayer.
Our discussions focused on how women were being affected, positively or negatively by the policies and practices of our churches. Though most of the women were Catholic, all were not. Ours was an open, welcoming group where only two unwritten assumptions ruled our gatherings: first, everyone would be guaranteed the opportunity to speak, and second, no one need be afraid to honestly express her opinions.
One evening Lynn and Gloria were already seated in the living-room along with the regulars when I arrived. As we were being introduced I learned that they were Catholic, lesbian and a couple. This surprised me, and was the catalyst for my education about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.
At that point in my life I was married, had three young children and was preoccupied with getting them all through school safely and successfully. My once-a-month-night-out-with-the-church-ladies pretty much described my social life. It was at this juncture that the little I knew about homosexuals was brought to the forefront of my consciousness and I felt challenged. How can women live as a couple and still be Catholic? Getting to know these two wonderful women set me on a research path that eventually benefited my whole family in an important way.
During his college years, my son, the middle child, gradually revealed that he is gay. This, I was deducing during his High School years. Because of what I had already learned about sexual orientation, I was neither shocked, nor saddened. I was more concerned about the behavior of others toward him than his behavior towards others. His sexual orientation did not change my love and concern for him one iota. Nevertheless, I witness how he struggled within himself about his orientation; cautiously feeling his way not to give offense in social situations, the anxiety of finding friends who would be real friends; people who would not do him harm. Then, there was always the fear of rejection by extended family members, and the hurt caused by the negative pronouncements of his Church that had baptized and nourished him spiritually from birth, as it did for his ancestors many centuries ago.
Years have gone by, The boy is now a man who has grown stronger and wiser for the difficulties he has had to endure. Family and friends love him for the content of his character. And, since New York has legalized same-gender marriage, he and his partner of 17 years are preparing to be married there.
Every parent with a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child will have a unique story to tell when they come to a PFLAG meeting. And each parent’s main worry or concern will be unique to their situation.
I count myself fortunate to have met Lynn and Gloria those many years ago at our Women’s Church meeting. Their kindness, integrity, and example wiped away the negative opinions I had about gay people. They gave me the information and courage to stand by my gay son with loving support until he was able to stand on his own.
My only regret is that the leaders of my Church have yet to find a way to be fully accepting of the spiritual aspirations of gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender members. However, I know the Spirit is moving and God will not be thwarted.