Tonight’s film Families are Forever, directed by one of our guests Vivian Kleiman, raises the question: How does a typical suburban Mormon family cope when they discover their 13-year old son is gay? For the Montgomerys, the question never crossed their mind until Mrs. Montgomery discovered her son Jordan’s journal in which he expressed an attraction to boys. The Montgomerys were good church-going members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints who had rallied for Prop 8 and put a Prop 8 lawn sign in the front yard. In retrospect, they realize how much this might have hurt their son. Jordan said:
I was mortified at the idea of being disowned by my parents. I was like, I do not want to be thrown out of my home. I definitely expected to be excommunicated and restricted from church. But I still wanted to be with the church, like, I’d grown up with it, it was my life … until now.
The Montgomerys realized that their son may not ever have traditional Mormon experiences: going on missions, becoming a father, but their love for their son was stronger than traditional church teachings. Jordan grew more and more despondent, at one point contemplating suicide, as he realized that he might spend eternity in the afterlife with a family who hated him for who he was. But his parents were able to transmute their faith into a healing process. Jordan’s father, as head of the family, offered a deep and profound blessing on his son. Then his mother held him and asked Jordan if he was struggling. Jordan answered honestly, and she replied
Jordan, this changes nothing. … You are perfect in our eyes. … We will figure this out.
She consulted LDS literature, but found it dated and unhelpful, believing that being gay was a sin, but she did but see her son as being a sinner. She turned to current psychology and medicine and learned that homosexuality was not a choice but an identity. Additional research lead her to the Family Acceptance Project, whose executive director Caitlin Ryan is also a guest tonight.
The Family Acceptance Project has produced a series of videos that show the journey from struggle to support of ethnically and religiously diverse families with LGBT children. Along with using these videos is their work to educate and support diverse families with LGBT children. The Family Acceptance Project uses the videos to train health and mental health providers, and to help providers understand the critical role of families in supporting their LGBT children.