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Making the choice

By |2009-12-03T09:00:00-05:00December 3rd, 2009|Uncategorized|

It’s funny how, with a personal experience, the most complacent people can become some of the most passionate activists.
This is often the case with friends and family members of LGBT people who, when their loved one comes out to them, can turn from passive supporters – or even ardent opponents – to strong and active advocates for gay rights causes.
But the choice is theirs to make.
This week in Between The Lines, we tell the story of Linda Karle-Nelson and Tom Nelson, two parents and practicing Catholics, each with a gay son from a previous marriage. When Tom and Linda’s sons came out to them, each was shocked, scared, confused and maybe even a little bit angry. But they both – on their own and now, together – chose love over their fear and anger. They chose to learn instead of clinging to the beliefs indoctrinated in them by their church. They chose to be activists.
Over the years, as Tom and Linda became more and more involved in their local PFLAG chapter, in various religious LGBT support groups and in Fortunate Families, an organization for Catholic parents of LGBT children, they probably never felt themselves become activists. But now, looking back, they know that’s exactly what they’ve transformed into – and they’re proud of it.
Now, Linda and Tom’s mission is to reach out to other parents and help them make the same choice they made – to love their children and others unconditionally, no matter what they have been told to believe. It’s a big endeavor, because, as we in the LGBT community know, religion is perhaps the biggest barrier we face in getting our families, communities and politicians to support our lives and our issues.
Many parents face the realization that their child is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, but not all react the same way. Some become activists, while others go “in the closet,” lying to themselves and people they know about their son or daughter.
Linda and Tom complain that the most difficult part of outreach to families of LGBT children is getting people to listen who don’t want to hear what they have to say. Reaching parents like them who want to learn and have already chosen love is easy. As for families – and members of the clergy – who have not made that leap, the message is much harder to get across and doesn’t always stick.
In a perfect world, parents of gay kids who fall in that second category will read Tom and Linda’s story and invite their estranged children home for Christmas, or at least make a phone call to let them know they love them. There’s no way to know, or ensure, that will happen. But with every parent or family member or friend who does make that choice to be an advocate and love unconditionally – over their morals, their church, their society – the rest will come. The fear will dissipate. The education will happen. Views will change. And hopefully, we can all help someone else facing that difficult choice make the right one.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.