A Mother and Daughter Story
by “Anonymous 1″
When my daughter “Sue”* was about four years old, I said to her father that I had an intuition–that I couldn’t explain–that she might be a lesbian. There was nothing specific I could pinpoint–just that vague sense of a deep and painful future that was to come, and the sense of not being able to do anything to prevent it.
I decided then that I would commit her life into God’s hands, and I asked to be given the grace to accept and love her no matter what her sexual orientation would be. That was in 1973. Two years later I was divorced, a single sole-support mother raising my children in a strange town. Their father was no longer willing to be in a Christian marriage, nor to support his three children economically or emotionally.
In my struggle to land on my feet after such home demolition, I became involved with early Christian feminist writings and an emerging group of women who, during the 1975 International Women’s Year, met and discussed issues pertaining to our dual identity as Christians and as women. Three years later, in 1978, I attended my first EEWC conference, in Pasadena, which consolidated my personal journey as a feminist Christian.
However, my journey from heterosexism into a more inclusive understanding of sexual identity has taken longer and has demanded that I confront prejudices and fears that I hadn’t been conscious of. My daughter has been my teacher as I have watched her courageously walk the path of self-acceptance, struggling with her bisexual identity, until now as a mature woman of thirty, she is in a committed partnership with another courageous and strong woman.
But back to the earlier years of being a mother, and the raising of my daughter…
One day at the supermarket, when she was about six, someone asked Sue if she was a boy or a girl. She was highly indignant, and hurt by the comment. Being very athletic and with an outgoing enthusiasm about life, she didn’t fit the traditional “feminine” stereotypes. No Barbie dolls for her! Instead, she played with her brothers’ farm Lego set, drew wonderful pictures, and wrote stories. Her artistic creativity was matched by her leadership gifts in sports teams, classroom discussions, and debating important points. While not exactly a scholar per se, she was a good student and truly shone in drama, creative writing, and–later, in an alternative school–in photography. She subsequently went on to study film and now works as a documentary filmmaker.
During her teenage years, I saw Sue struggle with her desire to be like her friends and even try to have a boyfriend or two. But I will never forget the night she came home from a “date” with an older boyfriend and sobbed inconsolably because she didn’t feel she would ever feel attracted to boys the way her girlfriends were. She didn’t think she’d “ever feel normal.”
I felt that the intuition I had had ten years earlier had come to be reality. My predicament, as a Christian woman, was how to deal with this reality in light of my faith. How could I even raise such an issue with my Bible study friends?
Therapist friends urged me to read material out of the “ex-gay” movement, including the work of Dr. Elizabeth Mowbry. Her thesis stressed that the bonding with the same-sex parent (me) was flawed, and reparenting therapy was needed to help gays and lesbians find inner healing. I went to a Leanne Payne workshop for several days and prayed to find the right kind of help for my daughter. I grieved the broken marriage and Christian community of her early years, the nervous breakdown that had landed me in a hospital for a month, and the emotional scars from that time which I mistakenly believed must have caused her same-sex attractions. I also wondered if a childhood experience of sexual abuse, in addition to the loss of her father, caused her to distrust men and thus affected her sexual orientation. During this period in the mid-1980s, I thought of same-sex attractions as being a result of a cause and effect relationship, a dysfunction that needed to be “fixed” or “healed.” In retrospect, I think I had forgotten my earlier prayer when she was a four-year-old.
Through my involvement with EEWC, I had begun to read Christian feminist books such as Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott’s Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A new way of viewing the world opened up to me, both as a Christian feminist and as a mother of a daughter who was gay. My spirit rejoiced!
However, it took some time for me to integrate all these variables, and to face the painful reality of leaving a church that was openly opposed to gays and lesbians finding their place in the community of Christ (unless of course they renounced their sexual orientation!); but by 1988 I had moved out and refused to be part of an “exclusive club.”
In the meantime, in my work I had encountered many more people of faith with same-sex orientation, and in 1992 I was asked to be part of my denomination’s task force on Gay and Lesbian Relationships in the Church. The focus of the task force was to look at same-sex blessings, and the ordination of practicing gay and lesbian persons. This national task force was a three year involvement, and in the process not only did I read about and discuss these issues thoroughly, but they coincided with my daughter’s “coming out” more formally to her grandfather (my father) and the rest of my family, including all her cousins.
Sue brought her first partner home, and I became more comfortable with entertaining all her friends from the gay and lesbian community. She became involved in a cable T.V. program (the first in our city) designed and run exclusively for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, and confronted her first feminist battle within that community, which was predominantly male!
Throughout these years of her growth and development into maturity as a wonderful woman, our friendship as mother and adult daughter has grown and strengthened. In fact, she has helped me in the writing of this article. Today, I consider her and her life partner to be special friends with whom I am free to share the challenges I face personally and professionally in my own life.
My daughter Sue hopes someday to have a child, and I look forward to being a grandmother. Because of (and due in large part to) her own journey of self-acceptance, her brothers and all her cousins have been very loving and embracing. The older generation–aunts and uncles, grandfather–took longer to process this reality, as Sue was the first “out” gay person in our large extended family.
It was a very stressful and anxious time for her in being open and vulnerable, wondering if she’d be accepted by the people she loved deeply. It took courage and integrity for her to trust the family to know her, and not remain closeted. I am aware that many people do not have this freedom or acceptance in their families and that their story is much more difficult.
Most of my Christian friends and my present church community are now affirming of committed same-sex relationships, though I am grieved by the ongoing controversies and hermeneutical debates that tend to rupture Christian community over the “politics” of sexual orientation. I sense that there is still a long road ahead for churches to deal justly and compassionately with this issue. I am grateful for how God has opened the doors of my understanding and has guided my path in my own narrative as a mother. My daughter is one of my greatest joys!
* The name has been changed to assure anonymity.
Editor’s note: “Anonymous 1″ has been a member of EEWC from its earliest days. She preferred that her story be told anonymously.
© 2001 Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus , EEWC Update, volume 25, number 1, Spring 2001