This week, we are pleased to publish another letter from Michelle Dooley to her son Matt. Michelle adds to our recent exchange of letters about the joys of the recent SCOTUS ruling, and the challenges that are still ahead for the LGBT community. ENJOY!
As I write this, Dad and I are traveling back from Nashville where we had the privilege of attending the PFLAG National Convention. As I was preparing to depart for the meeting, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had come too late to the party, so to speak.
The recent ruling by the Supreme Court in favor of gay marriage has lead many to believe that the fight for equality in the LGBT community is now over. I can’t count the number of friends and relatives who point out the increased acceptance of gays and lesbians in today’s society. While it’s true that a positive portrayal of the LGBTQ community in the media has increased societal acceptance, there are still an alarming number of hate crimes targeting this group, especially the transgender population and LGBTQ youth.
No doubt, when you look back at the history of the LGBTQ community, there have been major advances made. The legal right for everyone to marry is truly wonderful. Unfortunately, as many of the presenters at the PFLAG convention made clear, there is
so much more to be done. Members of the LGBTQ community still face discrimination in the work place. Couples who joyfully celebrated their now-legal marriage came back from their honeymoons to find they were being fired for marrying a same-sex partner. They can be evicted. They can be refused service by any business. States’ attempts to strengthen their Religious Freedom Reformation Acts increase the likelihood that rights will be infringed upon. Some municipalities, like Houston, the fourth largest city in the country, where you are attending medical school, are fighting Non-Discrimination Acts.
I received a great deal of guidance at the convention about how to lobby for the rights of this community. The fight is not over and the work continues. The first battle may simply be public perception. I met an older woman shortly after the SCOTUS ruling who, after sharing that her grandson was gay, said “I hope the gays will finally stop protesting now that they have their rights!”
Even if all of the political battles had been won, there is still work for a loving parent, friend or ally of the LGBTQ community. Community acceptance is won one heart at a time. If I didn’t know how much anguish the coming out experience caused you, I would wish for every family to have at least one LGBTQ child. It would certainly speed up the process!
Of course, that’s not to say that everyone faced with a child coming out of the closet would be accepting. Filled with optimism and joy on the day of the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, I received a call from a young man asking for guidance. Finally admitting to himself that he was gay, he felt he needed to be honest with his parents. Having heard him speak about his close relationship with his mom and dad in the past, I felt very confident when I advised him to be honest with them. I reassured him that they would eventually be very accepting.
I was wrong. I still feel responsible for the pain and suffering this rejection has caused him. It is difficult for me to understand how a parent can reject their child. PFLAG remains very relevant in this area, supporting those young people whose own family is not there for them, as well as educating and supporting families.
The single largest group of homeless youth identify as LGBT. They were rejected by their families and had nowhere else to go. If PFLAG can help reduce this population through its mission of support and education, it will have made a tremendous contribution to society.
Another area that still needs to be won over is the church. Members of the LGBTQ community should not have to shop around until they find a congregation that is accepting. Like they should expect to walk into any bakery to order a wedding cake, they should be able to walk into any church and be accepted by the congregation. God’s acceptance is a given. God created ALL of us in his image and likeness. He loves EACH of us, not just those of us who are straight.
It may take individual parents, friends, allies, as well as gays, lesbians, and transgender men and women worshiping in their chosen churches to slowly change the hearts and minds of their congregations. Being a lone voice for support of the LGBT in a less than accepting environment is a true act of love and bravery.
As your mom, and a proud member of PFLAG, I promise to continue to do all that I can to make life better for you and all of the LGBTQ community.