Sunday, July 22, 2012

Children of gay parents: Out of God's will?

 A very good question came in my e-mail box the other day, and it was regarding the worries of one of the children born to a gay-straight mixed orientation marriage.  Because I had never addressed this, I decided to do a post about it.

For background, let me say that Ray and I had four kids in ten years, and they are all loved and wanted.  When Ray came out to us, our oldest was 29 and married, and our youngest was 19 and a freshman in college.  They all graduated from a conservative Christian university, and were very involved in ministry/missions. It was a terrific shock to all of us that Ray was gay, and we all had a lot to learn about what this meant.  We all ended up changing our views as we understood that you don't choose your sexual orientation, and that you do choose what you believe.

Our family is pretty tight, and we really like being with each other.  My counselor once said that we probably insulated ourselves with each other, partly because of Ray's career.  I don't know if that is true, but I do know that we have stuck with each other, even when it was tough to hold up our heads and face the world who knew Ray, versus who we knew Ray to be.

So, although I haven't asked each one of the kids what they think, I did ask our youngest, Sara, since she was a teenager when this big event changed our lives forever:  "Did you ever wonder if you were meant to be, since your dad is gay?"  I don't know how I put it, but it was something like that. 

Sara replied that just this week the subject had come up with a co-worker.  She told her friend that the whole thing doesn't, or hasn't ended, that there is always more to deal with.  Even though she is fully accepting of her dad (and glbt people), there is always someone who hasn't heard, doesn't know, or will react with uncertainty regarding her dad.  But she also told her friend, "My parents probably have a better working relationship that some parents who stay together."  And to my question, she looked at me and said, "No, never, not at all."

So, below I have copied most of what my e-mailer wrote, and I have also included my reply.  I hope this is helpful. 

the question:
Carol,  I am a big fan of your ex-husband's music and I enjoy your blog.  I have a question.  How do you address self-esteem issues related to the children of mixed-orientation marriages?  ...  I am haunted by a conversation with a Christian teenager who was the product of such a marriage.  His anguish, basically, was that if it was never really God's will that Mom and Dad be married to one another, then it was never God's will that he be born.  I basically answered him that God can bring good, even marvelous, results out of bad situations, and that God can "hit straight with a crooked stick," to use an old saying. 
I don't know if I handled that conversation well or not.  What would you say to a young person who is struggling with whether or not he or she was meant to be born due to the fact that they are the product of a mixed orientation marriage? 

my reply:

Thanks, *********** !  And that's a good question, one I've never addressed on the blog.  I went to one of my kids for help in answering, to see if it has ever occurred to her that she was never in God's will to come into existence/been born.  Fortunately, she didn't look at it that way.  She knows how her dad believed the fundamentalist doctrine, how well he did in following what we were taught, and how much he tried.  (It might also help that I've helped her understand through my own understanding.) 

I think you answered the questioning teenager as well as you could.  Since his/her parents had put it like that (that they never were in God's will to be married) that would be how the teen would look at it as well.  What an awful thought, trying to figure out if your birth was never meant to be.  But I would also think that any child who was caught in her parents' divorce, to whom it was explained "we never were in God's will" - whether it was an unplanned pregnancy, a mismatched couple in whatever situation, that that child might assume that he/she TOO were never "supposed to be." 

Rather, in many cases, two people DO love one another, and hard as they try, one is gay.  No, they probably shouldn't marry (I firmly think this way), but in many, many cases, church dictates 1) marriage is supreme, 2) family is the ultimate goal for all (no matter the innate sexual orientation, 3) and that gay can change if you love each other/pray/want to.  Church leaders (fundamentalist ones) teach these things, and gay people who are trying to do the right thing, follow the instructions, despite what their gut tells them.

So, from my point of view, I would never tell my kids that God didn't mean for us to be together.  I believe, in my case, that God did bring us together, for some reason I don't always understand. Some purpose  that is very real...(because there is more to my story that I don't fully try to explain on the blog).  I know, 100%, that God knew and understood Ray's orientation, and God also knows how much we put into our marriage.  (I also probably question God's wisdom in doing this, probably at least every other day.)  And even though I don't understand, I believe that the love I felt for Ray (and his feelings for me) are real, and that our kids are fully intended in the great scheme of things.  

Probably, if I were honest, I'd tell those parents to be careful how they explain their own actions to the vulnerable kids.  I'd want them (the parents) to understand and explain how they got together, why they married, and reiterate their love for their kids.  

I would also add this:  Just like God didn't make a mistake when he created gay folks, he didn't make a mistake in who this kid's parents are. 

Thanks again, for writing.  :)


Jenny wren's nest said...

carol, your four kids are the reason why god allowed you to stay married for so long, they are all so beautiful and outgoing, and such positive witnesses for the lord.

Bose said...

Hey Carole...

I like your summary of what churches too often dictate.

I'd add a 4th: That self-accepting LGBT folks will lose their church, their family, and any hopes of a family of their own.

Thankfully, we know how things are changing, that families of strong faith can be affirming, that gay folks do form healthy families.

It's no surprise LGBT people who grew up in strong families, loving their faith communities, have a long history of silently, hopefully entering mixed orientation marriages. The alternative was pretty bleak.

In that context, I hope it's meaningful to the kids of mixed orientation marriages that they were hoped for and deeply wanted by both of their parents. The relationship between their parents had also been yearned and fought for despite fundamental challenges.

My kids (young adults now) aren't there yet. My decisions to marry and to come out (10 years apart) were both attributed to selfishness on my part; hopefully things will come around to where they want a relationship with me again some day.

Thanks for the good thoughts, Carole...

Linda said...

Carole, my sister and I interviewed Ray on our show Tuesday and through that I found your blog. There's so much I hadn't realized about what people in these situations are going through. I think you're a very strong woman and a GREAT spirit and voice for good. There are many disenfranchised Christians out there--who somehow or another found themselves in condemnation--either put there by others OR by themselves. I don't think a God of love and grace would ever want that. I'm not involved in any religion, but I am a person of faith, and I thank you very much for being a voice of healing here. May God bless every step you take along your journey. Linda

Scott Coulter said...

Great thoughts, Carol, and thanks for sharing them! :)

I don't think all mixed-orientation marriages are the same, and I hesitate to issue a blanket, dogmatic statement that all things are God's will (although I more than half believe that).

But it is also my interpretation of my own experience as a straight spouse in a mixed-orientation marriage (we didn't have kids and were married for only a few years) that our being together, and being married, was God's will. This stretches my categories of understanding--to contemplate that God would have willed us to get married and also willed us to come apart and find other partners, but this is what I believe. So many good things have come out of the whole story, both the being married part and the coming out and coming apart part. (Both of us are also exceedingly thankful for our respective girlfriends as wonderful gifts from God!) It is all part of God's unfolding plan for our lives, and watching that plan unfold continue to be an adventure and an opportunity for praise!

Blessings, grace, and peace,