I write in hope that those who feel judgement and hate towards transgender and LGBTQ people under the guise of religious belief will open their hearts to hear my story. A mothers story.
In 2000 my daughter had just started attending a religious university in Arkansas. She wanted to be a minister. A woman minister. While that was not an accepted practice back then, and still isn’t in some churches, she had dreams. Her dad, a former minister and an active Sunday school teacher could not have been more proud.
And then, at seventeen, she became pregnant. Our world turned upside down. I cried until I threw up the night she told us. There would be no involvement on his part. She was alone.
After a very emotional evening, I lay beside her in her bed. I held this child of my body, not even old enough to vote, and cried again for all of the shattered dreams and plans.
Her Dad and I are pro choice. We believe that a woman has a right to choose the direction their life will take. Kat and I talked about her choices. Abortion. Adoption to another family. Keeping the baby. We prayed. God spoke very clearly to me that night with my daughters voice.
She told me that she had decided to abort the fetus. She actually drove to the clinic. Then she turned around, a decision made. God spoke to her. Your prayers worked and so did mine. I raised my daughter to think for herself. To listen to her heart. To know her own truth. To listen to The Divine.
I am pro choice because I have experienced both birth and abortion. My body. My life. My choice. Kat heard my truth that night, and I heard hers. I respect and honor her decision to do what was right for her at that time, with the resources and support she had. I also honor her right to have chosen differently.
This is an example of prayers being answered. A success story, right? For you, that is where the story ends. You “saved an innocent life”
But there is more to the story.
Kat quit school. Unwed mothers were not welcome at a religious university.
Our church, Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, not only accepted the situation, they allowed her to teach a small bible study group of her peers. They embraced us and the baby when she was born. We never felt judgement or condemnation from our church family. Our church was then, and still is, an inclusive loving Christlike example of what church should be. Unfortunately they are the exception to the norm.
For many financial reasons, our family decided that it would be best if her dad and I adopted the child. It was a very hard decision for all of us, but one that I know was the right thing to do.
Kat fell in love, got married, and moved to Kentucky.
Her dad and I divorced, I moved to Colorado. Keely spent her summers at church camp, went on mission trips including Africa. Just a normal southern kid being brought up in the church.
Flash forward to four years ago. My child was being bullied so unmercifully that we decided to withdraw her from school. She was ridiculed, slammed into lockers and I couldn’t protect her.
Some of the girls that I loved as my own, the girls that spent nights and weekends in our home, that called me “mom” turned on her. Called her names and ostracized her. Wounded her.
She found new friends, inclusive and kind, not part of the popular group. But those friends couldn’t shield her from the attacks.
Because she was different. She never wanted to wear makeup. She wanted nothing to do with blow dryers and curling irons. As her friends were talking about boys and buying bras and stuffing them with toilet paper, Keely was reading and doing puzzles. She was bewildered and frankly disgusted by the changes in her body.
My brilliant, animal loving, sensitive child spiraled into depression. Her grades plummeted, she socially isolated, going weeks without seeing her friends. I got in the habit of waking in the middle of the night and checking to make sure she was still alive. I walked through each day with a knot in my stomach from worry.
One morning around 3am I entered her room, she was on the computer working on school work. I lay on the bed beside her and we started talking. That is when we had the conversation that began my process of understanding my child’s truth.
She told me she was non binary. That she had gone online and found a name for who she was. She did not feel like a woman, she did not feel like a man, she was something different. She wanted to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns “they” “them”
You know, it made sense. As I lay there beside them understanding came. The lack of interest in dating, hair and makeup. The baggy clothes, the sheer horror on their face if we talked about bras or boobs.
I argued with them about the pronouns. “They” is plural, it’s not grammatically correct. That is usually the first reaction by to the request for neutral pronouns from the uneducated by the way.
After we got over that little hurdle, the words flowed. The fear and anxiety of knowing they were different but not knowing how or why. And then, thanks to the internet, finding out that there were others like them. And then the fear of telling, of coming out.
Keely was in counseling by then. They were leaving to visit Kat in Louisville in the next week, a spring break visit and an opportunity for Kat to help them try to pull up their failing grades.
You see Kat had discovered her calling. After attending culinary college she decided to enroll at the University of Louisville and pursue a degree in biology. By this time Kat was in the middle of a five year doctoral program. She was a full time student and was uniquely qualified to help Keely with school, because it was clear that it was way over my head.
The University of Louisville has a strong LGBTQ community. I’ll never forget the excitement in Keely’s voice when they told me about their experience there.
“Mom, we sat around a table and introduced ourselves, and we told people what our preferred pronouns are. And there were others like me”
I cried. My child, for the first time, was with others like them.
A decision was made, a decision that I will always know was the right decision, a decision that saved my child’s life. Keely moved to Louisville. We got them out of the conservative hateful community in Colorado and my baby moved in with their biological mom Kat, who Keely calls Sis.
My family is Transgender. Non binary. Queer. LGBTQ. Rainbow.
Some of you, my friends, condemn them. I’ve read hateful, hurtful , comments and memes making fun of my family in between your requests for prayer and the invitation to join you at your church home. Would you invite my rainbow family to sit beside you? Would you arrest them for using the bathroom of their gender identity?
You call them unnatural and a pervert. You stand in the house of God and say God created Adam and Eve, man and woman only. You say you don’t want to touch them or treat them in a medical environment , because it is against your religious beliefs. Didn’t Christ touch the lepers? Would you help a dog on the side of the road?
I say you are a hypocrite. How dare you think that my child, this child that is here as a direct result of your prayers, is less than human. Less than your cis gendered child. If anyone can tell you the truth it is the mother that knows her children. And I know mine. How can I do anything but defend their right to be honest and authentic? Isn’t that what I’m still trying to do in my own life?
You tell me that I , a mother with intelligence and knowledge, cannot make decisions with medical doctors that affirm my child’s right to be happy and healthy. You support laws that take away that right. How dare you. I am certain of my child’s agonizing and hard fought truth and I will defend their right to live it and be happy in this free country.
My child is Gods child , a child of the Divine and the Universe just as you are, and is created in His/Her/Their image. Non binary and transgender human beings have existed long before books were written and churches were built. We are only now seeing and naming those who have always been.
Some condemn as evil parents that are loving and open minded and support their gay or transgender children. Parents that have Gods heart and listen without judgement, that love unconditionally as we are meant to love, as the Bible and the preachers tell us to love
Do you understand my deep disgust? The betrayal? Do you as a thinking feeling human being, really believe that heterosexual people are better than, more worthy than, closer to God, than my child? Than me? That I don’t have the right to make decisions for my child? Do you have enough Christian love, agape love, to put yourself in my place and feel what I feel?
My hope is that you will read this with a Mothers heart. A Fathers heart. Don’t listen to those that create distance for power and judgement, that justify hurting and destroying another life in the name of …who? An understanding that love is love, and my God does not make mistakes. Queer people, Gay people, Transgender people are Gods children and they are deserving of your love, acceptance, understanding and protection. They are listening to God speak to them too you know. They have the audacity and the great courage to listen to God tell them to be true to themselves. To not wear the masks that their parents have worn. To not listen to the cacophony of domestication of thought that says different is dangerous, change should be resisted. Closed minds and hardened hearts operate in the dark.
So thank you for your prayers. They were heard. And because of those prayers my rainbow kids are going to stand proud in who they are and change the world. And I’m right there behind them, supporting them, loving them and protecting them.
Because I am their Mom.
August 2022: Keely earned their associates degree and has entered the work force. They plan on continuing their education in the near future.
Kat has a PhD in Biology. Their dissertation; How Cultural and Sexual Beliefs Manifest in College Biology Learning Environments. Kat is gender queer. They teach Anatomy and Physiology at a University in Kentucky.
Please note that female pronouns were used in the beginning for clarity and my children gave me permission to tell this story.
Thanks to Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas for your inclusiveness, love and support. You are a shining example of Gods work and a Christlike community