I was born into a conservative Baptist family. My grandfather had been a preacher for decades and we usually attended church wherever he was pastoring. As with most denominations, a list of sins was given along with a scripture to prove that they were really sins. Of course, homosexuality was on there, but it wasn’t something that was talked about much in my house. I had a cousin who was always more like one of the girls than one of the guys so it wasn’t something that I gave much thought.
When I was fourteen, I started attending a very legalistic church that made my Baptist roots seem like the Kennedys. We had an even longer list of “thou shalt nots” and near the very top of that list was homosexuality. Without fail, the list always contained scripture compiled by morbidly obese and some twice-married preachers (let’s forget that Bible stuff about gluttony) to cement the idea that gay was definitely not the way to Jesus, PERIOD. If you were gay, you were going to hell – no exceptions. Like I said earlier, I had a gay cousin so I seriously had never given it much thought. But, that list! So, I bought into the idea and spent a lot of time judging and condemning homosexuals.
Then, in my late twenties, one of my teenage friends from church was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS. I watched as members of the church shunned him – people who had known him his entire life. He always sat on a pew alone and was not allowed to drink from the water fountain or use the restroom the other guys used. At the time, I tried to reason why it was okay that he was treated this way. Not only was he gay, but he was gay and terminally ill because of his ‘gayness’. He deserved this, right? No, he did not and I decided to go against the grain and continue to love on him, touch him, and allowed him to interact with my son. He died not long after and, to this day, I am ashamed of those who had treated him so unkindly. Even after all these years, it still makes me angry to think about the situation.
About six years ago, one of my dearest friends posted a link on Facebook about marriage equality. I usually pass over that stuff, but I decided to read it. It was very much a lightbulb moment for me. WHY is it okay to deny people who love each other the right to get married? Why did my religious beliefs make it right for me to support not allowing homosexuals one of their human rights? I wondered why we denied couples who had been together for years the right to file joint tax returns or to use the family plan on their health insurance. That is crazy! I began to read more, study more, and pray more. I wanted the right attitude towards my LGBTQ friends and family and most of all, if I was wrong in this thinking, I wanted to err on the side of love. That was the beginning of God freeing me from my judgment towards a group of people that Jesus loves just like He loves me.
Meanwhile, I had noticed for years that one of my daughters was a tomboy. I chalked it up to having six brothers, but I have to admit, in retrospect, I knew her truth. Then, one rainy, December Saturday, I was at my desk studying when she walked in and asked if she could talk to me. The conversation went something like this:
Daughter: “I just wanted to tell you that I like girls.”
Me: “Well, I thought you liked boys??”
Tilley: “I like them both!”
Now, I’m not sure why it caught me off guard, but it did because, like I said, I sort of already knew this. As odd as this sounds, my mind was not thinking, “Oh, no! She’s a lesbian!” But more like, “What about the redheaded grandbabies I’ve always dreamed of having??” Thank God for the option of adoption, if she so chooses. I remember thanking her for trusting me with her truth and that was the end of the conversation. She went on her way and I sat there wondering how people would treat her, how would I deal with comments about my daughter and her girlfriend. I also told myself that no matter what, I would love and accept her for the beautiful, responsible, kind, compassionate woman that she is. And that is exactly what I have done. I’ll admit that with all my kids, hetero or homosexual, it is always a bit awkward seeing them with a significant other, and she was no exception. When she brought her girlfriend home for us to meet, it was just weird. Not because she was a female, but because my baby was spreading her wings preparing to take her flight into adulthood.
I have dealt with more than a few unkind remarks about me accepting my daughter as a lesbian, and all of them have come from Christians:
“Why in the world would you allow THAT around your other children?”
Ummmm, she’s my kid and she lives here.
“You do know it’s a sin for you to allow your daughter in your home with that girl, don’t you?”
Please, drop the legalism.
“Well, I wouldn’t allow that in MY home!”
No one is asking you to do so.
Here is the bottom line: I have buried a child. We put her down for a nap and when we went to check on her, she was dead. I know what it feels like to look in the eyes of my other children and tell them that their sister is now with Jesus. I will not let sexuality separate me from another of my children, EVER. My daughter and her girlfriend of nearly two years are allowed here at my house any time they want to be here. I love her girlfriend and think of her as another one of my kids. She and my daughter love each other, and I am okay with that. After all, I don’t answer to them about my relationship, why should they answer to me about theirs? That is between them and God.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, please don’t condemn your child. Some homosexuals go decades hiding their sexuality behind a miserable heterosexual marriage. Don’t do that to your son or daughter. It is an honor for your child to trust you enough to share this with you, and remember, your child is still the same person as they were the minutes before they shared this information. Take time to process the information and allow yourself to feel the emotions that go along with such a revelation. If you need to, go ahead and grieve for what you thought their adulthood would be like and then continue loving and accepting this child that God gave to you. Gay, straight, or bi, they are still a reward from God (Psalm 127:3).
To my daughter: If you read this, I want you to know that I love you very, very much, and I am SO proud of the kind, loving, compassionate, giving, genuine woman that you are, and I accept and will always accept you exactly as you are.
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.