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Mom & Dad – part 1: learning to see one another

Mom & Dad - part 1: with LGBTQ parents
Dave & Lorraine Powell

Hello and welcome to Episode 27 of This Little Light Of Mine.  My name is James Powell and I’m glad that you’re able to join me for today’s interview episode.

On today’s episode I’m joined with Christian parenting experts, LGBTQ2S+ advocates, and the earthly creators of me… yup, this is the first part of my interview with my Mom & Dad.

As you’ll hear, I was pretty nervous and awkward when starting this conversation, but wow, am I ever glad that I pushed through those messy feelings.

LGBTQ parents cover

What I think we all realized after having this conversation is how poorly we’ve all been at asking many of the questions that we’ve been holding onto for years.

For most of my life I’ve played ‘the kid’ role and have held onto so many of the rules, roles, and expectations that were laid down and set-up for when I was a child.  Even though those days are long, long, behind me parts of me, the parts of me that connect and relate with my parents have remained almost trapped in my past.

We are only as sick as our secrets

One thing that I’ve been repeatedly reminded of during my recovery journey is that we are only as sick as our secrets.  As much as I’ve tried to keep some of these awkward and uncomfortable conversations in, it doesn’t do anything for the healing process, in fact it hurts it.  Keeping silent and not having authentic conversation was keeping me trapped in my head and living in my past.

Okay… let me take one more deep breath before we hop into Part 1 of my conversation with my Mom & Dad.  I want you to do that too.  And as you listen to this conversation be very present to whatever comes up for you.

Ready?  Let’s do this.

What did you experience as you listened along?  What feelings came up for you?  Did you experience any anger, regret, compassion, shame, empathy, frustration, rage, confusion, love… all of the above?

If you answered i) all of the above or added any other feelings into the mix, you’re perfectly normal.

Families can be messy

Families can be some of the most complicated relationships that we have.  Adding elements of religion and queerness can be like adding fuel to an already roaring fire.

For many queer people, and especially queer people of faith, family relationships can be an extreme source of pain and trauma.  I get why it’s taken over 40 years for me to even think about experimenting this type of conversation with my parents.  It is way easier to play the scripted role of the ‘WASPy’ family and pretend that everything is perfect on the outside.  It’s easy to sweep the past away and pretend that none of the hurt, pain, and trauma existed.  But it did.  It doesn’t mean that it always continues, but for me, I’m learning that I need to clean up the past and to start using my voice in places where I haven’t in the past.

Does your family pretend to be nice or are you learning to have authentic conversation?

But I’m glad that fire is roaring in my life.  After so many years of running, hiding, and avoiding any kind of relationship with my parents I’m starting to get a bit more comfortable with the discomfort of using my authentic voice and allowing them to see more of me.

What questions do you have for your family members?

What are some of the questions you would ask your parents if you had the chance?

What questions do you wish your LGBTQ2S+ children would ask you?

One of the biggest insights I had from this conversation was seeing my coming out from a different perspective.  When I opened that door and came out of the closet my parents, my parents walked right past me, and they went into that closet and closed the door.

Toxic shame for parents and children

Some of the internalized shame and homophobia that I had experienced for most of my life was transferred over to them.  They started to experience some of the same negative experiences of isolation, paranoia, fear, desperation, shame, and detachment.  Sadly, the community that had previously been an important lifeline to them, did have any nourishment, support, acceptance or love to provide them, in a time when they needed it most.

I don’t think I’ve ever taken the opportunity to see things from my parent’s perspective this clearly before.  This conversation has given me a deeper understanding and some empathy for their part of this journey.

Like I said earlier, this was just part 1 of our conversation and next week I’ll be releasing part two of our conversation where we’ll talk a little more about some of the religious trauma that we’ve all faced on this journey, how my parent’s thoughts and beliefs have grown and evolved over the years, my parents thoughts about continuing to attend a ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ Baptist church, and share some experiential advice for other families going through similar situations.

Uncomfortable vs. Unsafe – a big difference

Uncomfortable conversations are part of the journey, these are signs that you are growing.  That being said, there is a big difference between being uncomfortable and being unsafe.  I wasn’t ready to have many of these conversations when I was younger because I felt unsafe.   You might be in a similar position in your life right now.  Only you will know your own situation and I encourage you to go inside and to listen to what you know is true for you.  Don’t force these situations and make yourself feel wrong if you feel you are not safe in having them.

Wherever you are on this journey, know that you are loved unconditionally by God who made you exactly as you are.

You are created for spiritual growth that embraces your full humanity.  You are designed to learn, grow, thrive and evolve, even if that process causes you some awkward and uncomfortable growing pains.

You are loved.

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