Serendipitydodah – Home of the Mama Bears

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Serendipitydodah – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group exclusively for moms of LGBTQ kids. The group was started in June 2014 and as of August 2019 there are more than 7,000 members. Each day moms of LGBTQ kids gather virtually to share a journey that is unique and often very difficult. The group is a place where they share a lot of information, ask questions, support one another, learn a lot and brag on their kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members nickname themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted there.

There are five subgroups, several special projects and more than 50 regional groups available to the members of the private Facebook group.

Go HERE to put in a request to join the group.

The five subgroups include:

SERENDIPITYDODAH MAMA BEARS TO THE RESCUE is a subgroup for Serendipitydodah Mama Bears who are willing and able to be available to do small acts of kindness for LGBTQ+ people in their local community who may need connection, care or assistance. This subgroup makes it easier for members to coordinate and organize to do things such as attend a wedding as an affirming stand in mom, visit someone in the hospital, help someone get settled in a new area, provide some transportation, include someone in their holiday gatherings, provide temporary housing, send a note of encouragement etc

SERENDIPITYDODAH MTK is a subgroup where the conversation is trans specific. It is mostly made up of moms of trans kids. All the members of Serendipitydodah MTK are in the main Serendipitydodah Facebook group.

SERENDIPITYDODAH BLUE OCEAN FAITH is a subgroup for members of Serendipitydodah for Moms who want to connect with and become a part of the Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor community via it’s online presence. Blue Ocean Faith is a faith community that fully includes, affirms and supports LGBTQ+ people and those that support them.

SERENDIPITYDODAH #BEYOU is a subgroup for LGBTQ+ youth. The group is private – a place where LGBTQ+ youth can make connections with other LGBTQ+ youth, talk about their journeys, and be vulnerable with their stories and questions without fear of judgement.

SERENDIPITYDODAH DOUBLE RAINBOW is a subgroup for moms of LGBTQ+ people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The conversation in this subgroup is specific to LGBTQ+ people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. All members are in the main group.

 

Several Special Projects are available for members:

The Mama Bear Story Project –  Stories have the power to change the world … they inspire us, teach us, connect us. The Mama Bear Story Project provides a stage for the members of “Serendipitydodah for Moms” to share autobiographical essays and personal portraits in an effort to connect with other moms like themselves and to make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all lgbtq people to live.  The project was started in January 2017 and as of July 2018 has published more than 30 essays written by a mom of an lgbtq kid. Each essay includes a portrait of the mom and is shared on The Mama Bear Story Project Facebook page and on the Serendipitydodah Public Blog.

The Mama Bear Made With Love Project invites members of Serendipitydodah for Moms to make heart patterned friendship bracelets for members of the lgbtq community to remind them they are loved just the way they are. Anyone can submit lgbtq people to receive a “Made With Love Bracelet” by sending the person’s name and address in an email to lizdyer55@gmail.com (feel free to also add some information about the person). This is more than a bracelet – this is a movement created by moms of lgbtq kids who are committed to making the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all lgbtq people to live.

The Mama Bear Blanket Project delivers handmade blankets to LGBTQ teens and young adults who find themselves not supported by their family. The hope is that the blankets delivered to them will serve as a reminder that there is someone who loves and cares about them. Moms of LGBTQ kids who are members of the Serendipitydodah for Moms Facebook group are invited to make no-sew fleece blankets and mail them to assigned recipients. You can nominate someone to receive a Mama Bear Blanket by emailing their name and address to lizdyer55@gmail.com  This project was inspired by Mama Bear Anita Cockrum, a member of Serendipitydodah for Moms, who started The Banner Blanket Project.

Free Mom Hugs – Serendipitydodah for Moms is a proud partner of Free Mom Hugs. Free Mom Hugs is a group of affirming parents who love their LGBTQ+ kids unconditionally and take hugs of love and acceptance to others. They are dedicated to educating families, church and civic leaders, and not only affirming the value of the LGBTQ+ community, but celebrating it. Members of Serendipitydodah for Moms often connect with Free Mom Hugs and get involved with the advocacy work they are doing and the two organizations often work together on special projects and events. Visit the Free Mom Hugs website for more information.

A helpful list of resources for parents of lgbtq kids can be found here.

For more info email lizdyer55@gmail.com


 

 

 

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PRAYERS FOR THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY, THEIR FAMILIES AND ALLIES

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“Prayer is an art which only the Holy Spirit can teach us…Pray for prayer – pray till you can pray, pray to be helped to pray and give not up praying because you cannot pray, for it is when you think you cannot pray that you are most praying.”  – C.H. Spurgeon 

My son came out in 2006 and, as a result, I went through a process of deconstructing my faith – re-examining what I believed and why.

One of the things that came up a lot in that process of deconstruction was “prayer”  – it caused me to have a lot of questions about prayer … did it really work? how did it work? how should I pray? could I still “believe” in prayer?

It was a difficult time for me and I went though a period where it was almost impossible for me to pray because I was no longer sure what I believed about prayer.

But, eventually I got to a place where I found peace about prayer. I didn’t necessarily find answers to my questions, but I came to the conclusion that giving up prayer was not an option for me. I came to the conclusion that I was wanted to embrace the mystery of prayer and believe in prayer because I choose to be a serious and faithful follower of Jesus and Jesus prayed and encouraged us to pray the same way he prayed.

I admit that some days my prayers are accompanied with only a mustard seed of faith but I pray anyway; and sometimes I find it very hard to pray or don’t know how to pray, but I pray anyway, even if it is just to pray about my inability to pray.

In 2009, with the help of some other Christians who were on a journey similar to my own, I started putting together a list of prayers on behalf of LGBTQ people, their families and their allies. Some of the prayers were things I simply needed to pray for myself as a Christian mother of a gay son and as an LGBTQ ally. Some of the prayers were born out of conversations I had with people, news reports I read, stories told to me and things that were being revealed to me. Over the years I have changed some of the prayers and added others.

Here is my present list:

·         Prayer for the LGBTQ community, their Families and LGBTQ Allies in general; that God will protect them and bless them, that the Holy Spirit will inspire them, inform them and guide them. 

·         Prayer for LGBTQ Christians and Christians who love and support them will be able to reconcile their faith with being affirming. 

·         Prayer that LGBTQ people would be able to live wholeheartedly into the people they were created to be. 

·         Prayer that LGBTQ people will be able to make connections with affirming Christians and find affirming faith communities. 

·         Prayer for all Christian leaders, faith communities and denominations who are working through LGBTQ issues. Prayer that God will give them insight, wisdom, clear understanding and guide them towards truth,  justice, love and light.

·         Prayer that LGBTQ people, their families and allies who have been hurt by the church or by individual Christians will still be able to receive God’s love and affirmation – that they will be able to know that those people and those churches are not God and do not represent how God sees them. 

·         Prayer that LGBTQ people and those who support them will not harbor bitterness or resentment; that they will find healing and wholeness, and as a result, be able to forgive those who trespass against them. 

·         Prayer for people in long-term same-sex relationships to find lasting stability despite the lack of role models for LGBTQ couples. Prayer for God to lift up role models for same sex couples to help them form healthy and lasting relationships. Prayer of gratitude for the progress being made for same sex marriage across the world. 

·         Prayer for everyone living with HIV/AIDS. Prayer that God will comfort them and give them access to the healthcare they need. Prayer of gratitude thanking God for the medical progress made for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and prayer for continued progress. 

·         Prayer for LGBTQ youth who are experiencing bullying to know that God loves them no matter what and that they can always turn to him. Prayer for teachers, school administrators, community leaders, parents, neighbors, church leaders, youth leaders etc to see any bullying that occurs, to stand up against it, put programs in place to help create safe environments for LGBTQ youth and make it known that they are a safe person for LGBTQ youth to turn to.

 ·         Prayer that God will work in families torn apart by homophobia and that the spirit of God would lead those families to understanding, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

 ·         Prayer for LGBTQ people, young and old, who have been misunderstood, silenced, rejected and/or marginalized by friends and family members directly and indirectly. Prayer that they would find the support and encouragement they need to help them withstand the pain of being misunderstood, silenced, rejected and/or marginalized by their family and friends. 

 ·         Prayer that religious leaders will recognize the problem of homophobia in the church, courageously confront it and work to rid the church of homophobia. 

·         Prayer for all ex-gay ministries and conversion therapy in all forms to end. 

·         Prayer that all countries with anti LGBTQ laws to be moved by the Holy Spirit towards love and justice.

 ·         Prayer against all homophobic and transphobic violence. Prayers for all who are victims of homophobic and transphobic violence.

·         Prayer for courage, wholeness, integrity, understanding, peace, humility, love, freedom, vision, transformation.  

What prayer would you add?

That’s A Really Good Question #5 – Can I just use someone’s name instead of trying to use “they/them” pronouns?

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Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. This series will address common questions that often get asked by members of the group. For more information about the group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

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Someone recently mentioned to me that they were very uncomfortable using “they/them” pronouns for someone because there were sentences where it sounded weird to them. They asked if I thought it would be offensive to use the person’s name instead of using “they/them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her

My response was that it is always okay to substitute someone’s name for pronouns. However, I warned them, if they consistently try to avoid using someone’s personal pronouns it is more likely they would end up making more mistakes. It is extremely difficult and awkward to avoid using pronouns and, therefore, fairly obvious when someone is trying to avoid doing so. That obvious avoidance can in itself be offensive to someone who has shared their personal pronouns.

For example:

Instead of saying:

“They are coming by for dinner. They asked to bring the salad. This is so them.”

You would have to say:

“Billy is coming by for dinner and asked if Billy could bring the salad. This is so Billy.”

More than likely you would probably end up saying:

“Billy is coming by for dinner and asked if he could bring the salad. This is so Billy.”

And that would mean that you used the wrong pronoun which would be offensive.

Therefore, my advice is: if one really wants to honor and respect a person they should use their correct personal pronouns.

If you make a mistake you can simply apologize and correct yourself. (i.e. “oops, I meant to say them”) and go on.

Here’s some more thoughts about personal pronouns:

In English, whether we realize it or not, people frequently refer to others by using pronouns.

Often, people make assumptions about the gender of another person based on the person’s appearance or name, but those assumptions are not always correct.

If someone shares their pronouns with you, it’s meant to disrupt the idea of making assumptions, and to provide you with the information you need in order to refer to them appropriately.

Using someone’s correct personal pronouns is a way to respect them and create an inclusive environment, just as using a person’s name can be a way to respect them.

Just as it can be offensive to call someone by the wrong name, it can be offensive to use the wrong pronouns for someone.

Actively refusing to use the pronouns someone has stated that they go by could imply the oppressive and offensive notion that intersex, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people do not or should not exist.

It is worth noting that a person who goes by “they” could actually be a man, a woman, both, neither, or something else entirely. However, people’s genders tend to be a private issue, therefore, the sharing of pronouns should not be taken as an invitation to ask for potentially private information about someone’s gender.

What about grammar?

There is nothing grammatically wrong with using “they” as a singular pronoun. In English, we already use singular “they” all the time when the gender of a person is unknown. Say you see some money on the ground and pick it up. You might say: “Oh, someone dropped their money here. I’ll set it aside for them, I bet they are looking everywhere!”

Using “he or she” and “his or hers” in this situation is awkward, so we use singular “they” instead.

When someone uses “they/them” pronouns, all you have to do is apply that same sentence construction:

“Oh, Desmond dropped their money here. I’ll set it aside for them, I bet they are looking everywhere!”

Major dictionaries have recognized singular “they” as grammatically correct for years. The word “they” has been used as a singular pronoun since at least the 16th century, and some argue it goes back even earlier. The AP Style Guide also allows the usage of singular “they” in cases where a subject doesn’t identify as male or female.

There are certainly ways to avoid using singular “they” and some people are still insistent on doing so. However, in the end it takes a lot more linguistic gymnastics to not use pronouns and that makes it much more likely that offensive mistakes will be made more often.

So, next time you are faced with using “they” in the singular, you don’t have to worry about proper grammar, because singular “they” is grammatically correct.

Last but certainly not least … Why is it important to get pronouns right?

Using the pronouns that someone has shared with you affirms the identity of the person. It can be a difficult step for someone to find it in themselves to acknowledge their identity.  More than likely they’ve had to find the courage to share the fact that they don’t fit into the binary world and that can be very difficult because as a whole the world is not supportive of intersex, transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people.

When you get an intersex, transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming person’s  pronouns right you bring much needed relief to their emotional and psychological well being. The simple act of using the correct pronouns may give them the courage to keep moving forward and living their life as their most authentic self.

Recent studies have even shown that correct pronoun usage can dramatically decrease the depression and suicidal tendencies that are so prevalent among LGBTQ youth.

Therefore, as I said earlier, if you really want to honor and respect a person use their correct personal pronouns. It is the kind, loving, respectful thing to do.


Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. Our official motto is “Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and as of July 2019 has more than 6,500 members. For more info about the private facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

That’s A Really Good Question #4 – LGBTQ Youth and Sleepovers

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Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. This series will address common questions that often get asked by members of the group. For more information about the group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

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Parents of LGBTQ kids are often faced with decisions they never considered before their kid came out. One common question is “what should I do about sleep overs?”

One concern that parents typically have when asking for advice about sleep overs for their LGBTQ kids include the safety and well being of their kids. Making sure that their LGBTQ kids feel safe and are free from any shaming is of the utmost importance to the parents I hear from.

Another concern parents of LGBTQ kids share with me is about their children exploring their sexuality before they are ready and about their safety if they do. For some, having their teens spend long stretches of unsupervised time in pajamas in a bedroom with someone they may find sexually attractive can be unsettling.

My advice to parents of LGBTQ kids is try your best to find a way to make sleepovers work.

LGBTQ kids already often feel like they are different and existing in the margins of life Eliminating sleepovers because kids are LGBTQ only enhances the feeling of not fitting in.

In addition to helping LGBTQ youth feel like they belong, sleepovers are also a great way to get young people to unplug and spend more time interacting with their peers in person, and is often a trusting and bonding experience.

Although there is no one way to structure sleepovers, parents who have concerns can try to plan ahead.

Some things to consider:

Talk openly with your child about your concerns and agree on guidelines and rules.

Consistently strive to create an open, trusting, shame-free relationship with your  children so they can freely share concerns and ask questions as they grow and mature.

Don’t assume that your child is attracted to someone just because they are the same sex. Talk about how a sleepover is not the place to ever act on a crush.

Talk about some unique situations that might come up and cause discomfort during a sleep over. Discuss what can be done to avoid any such uncomfortable situations. These might include such things as sharing their trans identity, changing clothes and not wearing a binder while sleeping.

Let your kids know that sleep overs are privileges, you want them to be able to enjoy them but will restrict them from having sleepovers if they don’t adhere to rules.

Have sleepovers at your house and in open areas.

Keep rules simple and direct so they are easy to remember. For example:
No Sex, No Drugs, No Alcohol, No Closed Doors

Rules should be consistent for everyone attending a sleepover. When the sleepover is at your home talk to all the guests about your rules and repeat them each time you have a sleepover.

Having rules doesn’t mean they won’t be broken, but, they do lower the chances of unwanted behavior, especially if parents pop in often to check up on how things are going. Offering a snack or cold drink when you pop in can help ease your kid’s annoyance about this.

Sleep overs are a big part of many young people’s social life – our LGBTQ kids want to enjoy that same social interaction. 

 


Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and as of January 2019 has more than 5,500 members. For more info about the private facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

That’s A Really Good Question #3 – LGBTQ and Mental Health

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Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. This series will address common questions that often get asked by members of the group. For more information about the group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

 

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I’m often asked why it seems that LGBTQ people have more mental health issues than heterosexual and cisgender people.

Some have even asked “what comes first? the chicken or the egg”

That’s a really good question because being LGBTQ is not a mental health disorder and it is very important to emphasize that being LGBTQ is not the cause of any mental health illness.

Homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 1974 and being transgender was removed from the list in 2018.

There is one small group that takes a different view but it is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is fueled by conservative anti LGBTQ views. The group is called the “American College of Pediatricians” (ACPeds). It is a fringe anti-LGBTQ hate group that masquerades as the premier U.S. association of pediatricians to push anti-LGBTQ junk science, primarily via far-right conservative media and filing amicus briefs in cases related to gay adoption and marriage equality.​ Though it sounds official, the ACPeds is not the leading organization for U.S. pediatricians; that designation goes to the 66,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). It appears they chose their name to try and confuse the public.

However, even though mental health issues are not caused by being LGBTQ, there absolutely are issues to consider around being LGBTQ and mental health.

While being LGBTQ is not a mental illness in any way, studies do show that LGBTQ individuals show greater levels of anxiety, depression, substance use disorders and suicidal feelings. However, the reason is not because they are LGBTQ but due to the discrimination and stigma that they face.

In other words, the increase in mental health issues for LGBTQ people are not caused because of their LGBTQ identify, but rather by how the world reacts to their identity.

LGBTQ youth are especially at risk, as young people are especially sensitive and vulnerable when it comes to “fitting in” and “belonging” and don’t have the psychological resources or personal independence to handle things themselves that they will have when they are older.

Even when LGBTQ youth have supportive families they are still impacted by the stigma and discrimination they hear about and face in their community, their schools and in society in general.

Some things that can help LGBTQ youth include:

* having supportive parents

* when parents are not supportive having at least one supportive adult to talk to and confide in

* having supportive educators at their school

* Gay Straight Alliance organizations at their school

* comprehensive bullying and harassment policies and laws in place in their community

Some things that can help LGBTQ adults include:

* having more affordable health care

* easier access to health care

* health care professionals that are LGBTQ friendly and knowledgeable

* companies that have LGBTQ inclusive policies

* sensitivity training for employees and management

* having at least one supportive person in their lives to talk to and confide in

Please share your own thoughts and/or resources regarding this subject.

 


Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of lgbtq kids. Our official motto is “We Are Better Together” and our nickname is “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and as of January 2019 has more than 5,500 members. For more info about the private facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #48 – Bee Brody

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears

Bee Brody

 

I stand at the bathroom counter brushing my teeth. Three of my four children are in bed and the oldest, a 15-year-old girl, is on her way home. Our house is locked, the windows drawn. I feel at peace, knowing that this day, I have successfully checked off all the religious to-dos; prayers have been said, scriptures read. My temple recommend is valid, my faith strong. While we are not perfect as a family, I feel God is cognizant of our efforts and pleased with our work.

I hear the front door unlock, footsteps on the stairs, and the bathroom door opens. My eldest daughter, the one we prayed to have, the one we were blessed with after a miscarriage and years of trying, stands, not looking at me, defiant and, I see now, scared.

“I’m bisexual and I don’t want to talk about it.”

My toothbrush stops moving. My child runs to her room. I hear the door close. I don’t drop to my knees. I don’t burst into tears or rail against God or wonder what I did wrong in my parenting to make her this way (all of that will come later, over agonizing years).

I don’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it. She’s been to every standards night, every chastity talk. She sat in class while teachers praised marriage between a man and a woman and she knows that I’m a full-self Mormon—I work with an eye single to God’s glory.

I rinse my mouth, wipe out the sink and search for my husband. We talk. Did we see this coming? Were there signs? Is this a phase, like the year she spent playing Pompeii with the neighbor kids? And, most telling about my lack of education: will she outgrow it? Does she just need to find a nice LDS boy who will appreciate her precocious and feisty nature?

Fast forward four years, and a Policy announcement, and thousands of tears later, and I can say with certainty that no, she will not outgrow it. It is not a phase, and all the nice LDS boys in the world will not make her less attracted to girls. Her understanding of her own sexual identity continues to change and we’re both beginning to suspect that being with a boy, for her, is the shadow of love, not the brightest expression of it. If she seeks to find oneness with her spouse, that fulfillment may not be possible in a heterosexual relationship.

She will also never graduate from Seminary because the test questions asked her to explain why homosexuality is a sin and so she quit going in order to protect her emotional health. She’ll never go on a mission because how can she preach about a God of love when she feels no love in His church? She will not attend meetings, where she has felt less-than, been told that her sexuality is disgusting, that God ranks sins and He puts hers at the top, right next to murder.

My beautiful daughter, who doesn’t kill spiders because everything deserves a life, is told that if she wants Life Eternal, she has to voluntarily endure this life without the companionship that she’s been taught are most central to our existence—that of spouse and children.

She believes in something, but she no longer believes in the god of the LDS faith. The lessons about the Proclamation outshouted those about love and sent her scurrying to find safety outside of orthodoxy. She’s been convinced by well-meaning but wrong leaders that if she can’t get in line with this one item in the Handbook, she isn’t welcome to participate in any of the others. A spouse and children are beyond her reach if she wants to take the Sacrament on Sunday.

So, she has to choose: a personal God who loves her fully, or the hollow appearance of godliness? A family in this life, or a life without this church? She did not ask for this dichotomy. It was forced on her, and at 15, when she innocently believed Priesthood leaders would have her back if she would just be honest with them, she was told she had to choose.

I am currently living tenuously within a religious structure that says we are all gods in embryo but rejects the nature God gave my child. And I feel that separation deeply. I feel violently hewn from the god of my youth because I no longer believe the Sunday School answers: pray, read your scriptures, go to church. We say that God loves you because you are His child but the message sent by the organization is different. The institution of our religion says that He loves you sometimes. He will make you perfect unless.

But I reject the qualifiers. God loves you. God loves you. God loves you. Full stop.

When people stand in Sacrament meeting and talk about how God has blessed them with children who were married in the temple, I repeat to myself that God’s blessings for my child are different but equally powerful. When a child is praised for going on a mission, I remind myself that my daughter is on a mission, no less divine, because she lives every day as an ambassador for love first and leaves the rest to Him.

I have learned to say to every child, and especially my own, “Yes, your nature is Divine, exactly as it is, because God made you and He is perfect. You are beautiful and you are beloved and you are enough because God looked at all that He made and said ‘it is good.’ You, my precious child, are exactly as He meant you to be and He will make this pain and this anger and this heartache right some day. And we will all, together, sit at His feet in joy.”



Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 5,800 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #47 – Katie Barnes Burwell

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears

Katie Burwell4
June is an exciting month for Serendipitydodah Mama Bears as they dress up and get together to go out to Pride events to offer hugs and high fives, and share words of encouragement, support and affirmation.

This is nothing new …  instead, it is a tradition that is being carried on.

Moms of LGBTQ kids have always showed up in support of Pride Protests and Parades.

Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG, was among the first moms of LGBTQ Kids to March and show her support. In 1972 she marched alongside her son, Morty, in what would eventually become New York City’s gay pride march, and she continued to show up and march in many Pride Parades throughout her life. She even served as a Grand Marshal in 1991 and 1993.

Serendipitydodah Mama Bears are proud to continue the tradition that Mama Bear Jeanne Manford started. They love Pride and what it represents. They are honored and proud to show up, march and hand out hugs and high fives. They consider Pride to be an important element in helping to make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all lgbtq people to live.

Katie Barnes Burwell is one Serendipitydodah Mama Bear who went out to a Pride event this month …

I CAN’T SEE MY FEET!!! by Katie Barnes Burwell

I made this skirt as poooooofy as I could manage.

I was going for silly and approachable this year and IT WORKED!!

I got to give and get tons of hugs!!

This picture was me before heading out to Sacramento Pride for the Parade.

It was a good day!

Good and heartbreaking at the same time.

So many whispers in my ear mid hug, “thank you…my mom won’t hug me.”

I have a personal rule about hugging kids.

I don’t let go first.

I let them hang on as long as they need … my kids, my bonus kids, the kids at the festival, and a couple adults too.

It can be awkward, but, when my huggees realize I won’t let go till they do, it breaks the dam and the tears come.

It’s good work we Mama Bears do.

We are needed.

Happy Pride!


Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 5,000 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #46 – Jennifer O’Rourke

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears

Jennifer O'Rourke

In 2017, I watched my daughter, Kat, sit on stage ready to be baptized. A woman who was standing next to her said in front of the whole audience, “One of my favorite things about you is the energy and the light that you have in you for the kids. You’re there every Sunday, worshipping and leading a small group. It is my honor to baptize you today.”

I was so proud of my daughter that day. She was 15 and passionately devoted to God and her church. I was glad to be in a church where the senior pastor, Andy Stanley, once preached that the “church should be the safest place on the planet for gay teens.” I couldn’t have expected then what would happen a year later.

Last June, my daughter showed up to church to lead worship in the elementary environment. The same woman, Christy, who had baptized her told her that morning that because she had come out as gay on Instagram, she could no longer serve in leadership, meaning she could no longer be a worship leader or lead her second-grade small group. She was, however, allowed to volunteer in other ways, such as handing out flyers and working in the parking team — just no leadership roles. Our daughter was crushed. Kat had felt called to work with children (she’s currently working towards a degree in pediatric oncology) and to sing, and she felt that the church had just taken her purpose away.

What followed was the worst three months of our lives as parents. She went from a happy-go-lucky girl to someone who had suicidal thoughts and needed to be watched over 24/7. She’s much better now, but it was devastating then for her to lose her sense of purpose and all of her friends. My husband, who volunteered as a technical director there, and I, who worked with 3 to 4-year-old kids in the church, lost our friend-groups as well.

The loss was doubly painful because we moved to Georgia because we had felt called to be in this church. We started attending Andy Stanley’s church in the late 1990’s. We spent a decade in his church before moving to Massachusetts for my husband’s work in 2009. We would drive for 20 hours down to Atlanta for Christmas and Easter services; we watched Stanley’s sermons online every week.

Five years ago, my husband was offered a choice to relocate to anywhere in the United States. We picked Georgia because of North Point Ministries. We attended Woodstock City Church, where Stanley’s sermons were beamed in every Sunday (NPM has six churches across Georgia). Our entire family’s lives revolved around our church, including Kat’s. Every Sunday, she would go to church to lead worship at the 9am service, lead a 2nd-grade small group at 11am, then worship at the 1:30pm adult service, and then finally attend the high school service at 4:30pm. She “hosts” a bible study in her car before school and writes an inspirational Christian blog.

I’d always been affirming of the LGBT-community. A few years ago, I heard Andy preach that the church should be the “safest place for gay youth.” These words were music to my ears. I had always wondered if my views lined up with my church on this topic and I finally felt I had clear confirmation that we were on the same page. I had also heard him preach a sermon incorporating a story about a gay couple who volunteered at his church. I never felt a need to ask further questions back then.

Before I knew my daughter was gay, my husband and I had already assured her and all our children that we would be a safe place for them if they did come out. We even offered to house any of their friends who might need a safe place to crash after coming out to their parents. So when she did come out to us in February 2018, it was a fairly nonchalant affair. She told her close friends and even her small group in church, and everyone was amazingly supportive.

Things changed in June 2018. Billboard Magazine was doing a series about celebrities who had come out, and Kat decided that she wanted to come out publicly on Facebook. She posted a beautiful “love letter” to the gay community and for the first time publicly declared that she is gay. It was part of a campaign for PRIDE month and I couldn’t be prouder of the words she wrote. The comments she received were so positive and uplifting.

She received no negative feedback until she attended church the next weekend, where she was told she could no longer lead at North Point Ministries. She felt disowned by her church family. When her birthday rolled around in August, no one from church — her main community — celebrated it with her.

The leaders at our church gave various ‘reasons’ why she could no longer lead. One person on staff told her that it was for her safety that they didn’t want her to lead, as they did not want anyone who was against gay people to confront her at church. When Kat responded, saying, “I will have to deal with this my whole life, I don’t mind dealing with it,” they told her that these confrontations would take the focus away from what they were trying to do at church.

The pastor of Woodstock City Church, Gavin, wrote to us in late July that “in most of our leadership volunteer positions (small group leaders, stage, etc.), when a person goes through a significant life change moment (as Kaitlyn is doing), we often ask them to step away for a season for their own health.” I told him that I did consider my daughter’s coming out as a “significant life change,” but it was a “positive” one that should be celebrated. “As far as I know the church doesn’t have you take a break when you get engaged, married, find out your expecting or buying your first home. Why would they?” I replied.

Gavin responded via email* more than a week later with his rationale for why he had to ask my daughter to step away:

“Your daughter’s public pronouncement can be celebrated by family and friends. But if we ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen publicly, we potentially will cause others to stumble: other volunteers who are still exploring faith, other parents who don’t agree or understand, and other kids who aren’t ready for this conversation.

“If I could say it this way: This is so much bigger than your daughter. Paul believed it was way bigger than him, too. This is as big as our mission and the Kingdom, and anything that could cause our mission to suffer is always considered. Sometimes that feels deeply personal. But I would ask you to consider if it’s worth taking this stand and continuing to volunteer in the exact same position if someone else’s faith would struggle or never begin.” (bolding is my emphasis)

Once I realized he was implying that our fight for our daughter would cause other people to lose their faith, and he was implicitly asking us if we wanted that responsibility on our hands, I stopped communicating. I was done.

I do not know why “the safest place in the world for gay teens” has a policy that will not allow gay people to be in leadership. I do know that if I knew about this policy of North Point Ministries, I would not have started going here twenty years ago. I feel misled by Andy Stanley; he was not only lying to us, he was deceiving gay people in his church. My daughter thought her church was a safe place to bring her gay friends, and she still feels guilty for having exposed her friends to that church.

I met with Woodstock’s leadership to let them know that their policies needed to match their preaching, and that if they weren’t going to let gay people in every position then they needed to be clear about that upfront. I was told that it was because of my daughter’s choice to come out publicly that the church’s hands were tied so they had to enforce their policy.

After the last communication with Woodstock’s leadership, my family and I, with broken hearts, began the search for a new church. We’ve since met amazing community and my daughter has found a new place that encourages her to use her gifts. She’s dating someone, and we have found joy in ways we did not expect.

I only hope that North Point Ministries will understand that while they may have ‘good intentions,’ to be unclear is never the loving thing to do. It only causes harm.


 

Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 5,000 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Mama Bear Story Project #45 – Jenny Morgan

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears

Jenny Morgan bw

 

We are all God’s children, and we all deserve love, grace, and mercy.

Throughout my life my faith has been challenged, but I have always found my way back to God. This is a story about my faith, as I understood it, being ripped to pieces and my beliefs about God all but destroyed. It is a story about finally coming back to my faith and to a God who loves all, unconditionally. This is a story about my daughter finding her courage to be true to herself and risking it all to reveal that to everyone around her.

My daughter was always a curious, sensitive child with deep thoughts and a heart of love. But when she hit puberty, it was like a dark hole swallowed up the child I knew and loved. My teen became sullen and angry with everyone, with life. I thought it was because she was bullied at school and because we had moved far away from the only hometown she knew. After much conferring, we felt it necessary and important to enroll her in a private Christian school. Life seemed better, but there were still tremendous mood swings. I figured it was a phase they would grow out of. Soon, they graduated and went off to college. Again, I figured life was going to get better for her, that she would find her wings and fly. Little did I know…we were about to embark on a journey none of us were prepared for.

It became apparent that something was seriously wrong, but Autumn would not talk to us about it. All she said, was that, if she told us, it would destroy us. I assured her that nothing she was hiding could destroy us. As Autumn became more and more disengaged and troubled we decided it was time for her to come home from school and get help. From my view, life continued to be bleak and dark for Autumn, but she would not open up to us or anyone. Finally, one day in November 2014, Autumn came out. She explained, that in short, she had been born in the wrong body. Although, gendered as a boy at birth, in reality she was a female in her heart, soul, and mind. I won’t lie, my world came crashing down. I carried on, but I began to question everything.

Autumn’s fear of her secret destroying us was not far from the truth, but one thing remained – my love for my child. That could not be destroyed. We were devastated – how would our future look for each of us moving forward? So, our journey began anew. No longer a son, but a daughter. Eighteen months later, Autumn came out to the world, declaring her new name and her new identity, an identity she had hid for years, one that she was aware of, but one we had no clue about. That same day, I came out to those around me. People could choose to walk with me or walk away. It was not open for discussion. I have been blessed that so many of my friends and family continued to walk with us and embrace Autumn as her true self.

I have been fortunate – not many people have challenged me on how my faith can accept a transgender child. Those that have questioned, must not truly know my child. This is not a choice and there is no “agenda”. It is not about Satan getting a hold of my child, as some may think. My child is not lost. She is not a freak. And she most certainly is not damned to hell. She is loved and cherished and accepted by a God much bigger than the box many try to put Him Autumn is a delight. She is kind and sensitive. She is a blessing to those around her. She is a true friend to those who know her and accept her. And, perhaps most important – she is brave, strong, and courageous.

My story is about grace, love and mercy. God’s loving arms are big enough to hold everyone. After all, Christ instructed us to love one another, not judge one another.


 

Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 5,000 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com

Tips For LGBTQ Allies

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tips

It’s Pride month – a great time for those of us who are not an LGBTQ person to think about what it means to be a good ally of LGBTQ people.

I’ve been on this journey for quite a while now. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to LGBTQ people about what they need and want from those of us who are straight and want to stand with them and for them. The tips I will share come from listening and learning from LGBTQ people. These are not exhaustive. I’m sure that someone could come up with more. However, these are what I consider to be some of the most important things to strive for if you want to be a good ally.

Before I share some tips I want to point out that there isn’t complete agreement about anything within the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ community is large and diverse, and there are different opinions and ideas about everything. However, if you listen long enough and well enough, you will find that there is an opinion that most LGBTQ people have about many things, including what it means to be a good ally. My advice about situations where there is not a consensus, is to listen to everyone, don’t argue with anyone, but go along with what the majority of the LGBTQ community is embracing and saying.

Now for some tips …

(1) Be a good listener. One of the best things you can do to become a good ally is to listen to LGBTQ people – listen to their stories, listen to their concerns, listen to their opinions. I spent the first year after my son came out just listening and learning from LGBTQ people before I started speaking out or trying to help others. It takes a while to start to see through the eyes of those we want to advocate for and being a good listener is one of the best ways to begin to understand what LGBTQ people need and want from their allies.

(2) Be open-minded. If you are open minded you will be able to grow into a much better ally in a much shorter period of time. Don’t be afraid to let go of your preconceived ideas. Come to the conversation as if you have no ideas about LGBTQ people or what it means to be a good ally. Be ready to admit you don’t know or that you are wrong. Be honest about what you don’t know and be ready to learn. Those who are intentionally open minded end up making the best allies.

(3) Be inclusive and invite LGBTQ friends to hang out with you and your friends and family. Be intentional about it. Make connections and build relationships. Include LGBTQ people in your real life. Invite them to your home, include them in special occasions, include them when you go out to dinner with friends or to see a movie. The best allies are better known as “friends”

(4) Speak up if anti-LGBT comments or jokes are made – even if the intent is not malicious. Let your friends, family and co-workers know that those things are inappropriate and offensive. Be prepared in advance as to how you will gently, but firmly, confront inappropriate and offensive comments or jokes. If you have a plan in place you are more likely to speak up.

(5) Confront your own prejudices and bias, even if it is uncomfortable to do so, and don’t be defensive if someone points out that something you are saying or thinking does not seem supportive. It’s difficult for us to see through each other’s eyes but not impossible. This is where listening and being open minded will really come in handy. One of the hardest things for allies to do is to handle criticism. One of the reasons I think this is the case is because some of the most devoted allies are people who are tender-hearted and tender-hearted people can be easily hurt. However, tender-hearted people can also be very strong and resilient, and those are the qualities that good allies need to lean into. I always say being a good ally is not for the faint-hearted but definitely for the tender-hearted. My friend Rachel Held Evans said her mantra was “tough skin – tender heart” and I think that is a great mantra for those of us who want to be good allies to the LGBTQ community.

(6) Challenge the discrimination of LGBTQ people. Defend LGBTQ people against discrimination. There are many ways to do this. You can do it by supporting organizations, institutions, individuals, laws and political parties that are for LGBTQ inclusion, equality and protections. You can do it by showing up at Pride events and showing your support. You can do it with your vote, your voice, your presence. You can do it on your social media sites and in your community. You can do it when you see any instance of discrimination happening or when any law allowing it to happen is being supported. Being a good ally means defending LGBTQ people against discrimination. This is not an option if you want to be a good ally to the LGBTQ community.

(7) Wholeheartedly embrace the idea that all people, regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, should be treated with dignity and respect. Make it a point to share this belief with others as often as possible. One of the most harmful things that LGBTQ people have to face is the idea that they are less than others. Good allies will make it clear that LGBTQ people do not belong in the margins of society. Good allies will take a strong stand for the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in every way and every instance.

(8) Have a good understanding of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Understand the difference, the language, and the appropriate way to speak and write about the subject. If you make a mistake apologize and learn from the mistake. There seems to always be a new term showing up. If you hear something that is new to you or you don’t understand do your research and learn what you need to know.

(9) Be aware of the coming-out process and realize that it is not a one-time event. If someone comes out to you listen, let them know you are honored that they shared with you and offer your support. Do not ‘out’ a person as LGBTQ to others. Respect people’s privacy and recognize that it should be their decision when and with whom to share their LGBTQ identity.

(10) Educate yourself and continue to educate yourself. There is always more to learn. Keep listening and learning. Keep reading. Keep asking questions. One thing I’ve noticed over the last twelve years is that things change. What was helpful 10 years ago may not be helpful today. The movement for equality, inclusion and protection evolves, language changes, the community grows. In order to be a good ally we have to keep educating ourselves. We can never know everything or too much.

(11) Find ways in your everyday life and in your own community to be a good ally and to advocate for LGBTQ people. Help your children or their friends file complaints about discrimination or harassment at your local school. Help organize events like celebrations for LGBTQ History Month at a local school or community center. Use your privilege to create safe spaces and shine a light on safe places that do exist. Volunteer at a local LGBTQ resource center. Show up at events that support LGBTQ people. Find something that you are good at and use it to support the LGBTQ community.

(12) Be visible. A good ally cannot be silent or invisible. One of the most important parts of being an ally is making yourself known as an ally. Making yourself visible may be as simple as wearing a rainbow bracelet or using inclusive language. It might mean showing up at Pride events or political events with a sign stating your pro-LGBTQ position. “Secretly” and “ally” don’t get to be used together. If you are not uncloseted in your support, you can’t be an ally.

Like I said earlier, this list is not exhaustive so if you have something to add please share a comment.

Thanks for your support – your allyship matters and is making a difference.

Together we can make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBTQ people to live.

Mama Bear Story Project #44 – Glenda Crump

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The Mama Bear Story Project is a collection of portraits and autobiographical essays from members of Serendipitydodah for Moms – Home of the Mama Bears

Glenda Crump
Looking back now I can see that there were signs I/we should have picked up on. Like the many Christmas mornings that she discarded the dolls and frilly things and opted for her brothers cars and sports equipment. I should have noticed the lack of desire to wear lacy pink things and stating they were itchy when questioned. It should have been a clue when she adored only the female heroines in TV shows and movies. Certainly it should have been a red flag the day she told me she wanted to die young and when I asked her why she simply stated that no one cries over old people in an obituary but everyone is sad when someone young dies. I guess If I knew then what I know now I would have picked up on those clues but she didn’t even know she was gay yet how could we have known? In High school she just thought she was a good little Mormon girl when all her friends were having temptations with boys and getting into trouble and it wasn’t an issue for her at all. I suspect she started to realize the truth around  the age of 18. So she chose to go on a mission partly to delay the whole marriage issue and partly to ask her Heavenly Father that if she would serve Him for those 18 months if He would take away those feelings. She served valiantly but those feelings remained. After her mission my husband and I and 3 of her 8 siblings moved to Texas for work, and she went back to Utah State to continue her education….and she struggled. I was too far away to know the depths of her struggle or the pain and anguish she endured as she tried to navigate an unknown path completely alone. I knew she had depression and anxiety, I knew she had been to see doctors and a therapist, I knew she was on medication, I just didn’t know why she was suffering. My heart aches every time I think of how she must have felt alone and scared, knowing her future would never hold for her all that she had been promised, knowing her new path would take her away from the church she had grown up in, served in and Loved, knowing her secret would destroy her family.

I remember when she was having a hard time with a relationship she was having and I guess I just knew. We were talking on the phone, she was once again sad and I asked her if this painful relationship was a girl. Silence! Heartbreaking Silence on both ends! Then she just sobbed into the phone and my world crashed around me. I wanted to grab her through the phone and hold her and tell her we would figure it out. At the time I thought it was something she could “overcome”. I remember getting on my knees many times and begging Heavenly Father to change her, to send her someone that she COULD fall in Love with, have a Temple Marriage and a family with. I lined her up with a friends brother-in-law, he liked her …she is sweet and beautiful and fun… and I had hope. Then one day on the phone she said “Mom I will marry him if that is what YOU want” NO that is not what I want! I want you to marry who will make YOU happy.  Sadly I realized the big wedding she always dreamed of and planned for was gone her Temple marriage was gone. My heart hurt for the grandchildren I would Never have. I did not know how to help her, I did not know where to turn. When I went to my Bishop for guidance he gave me none, except to compare my sweet innocent daughter to a pedophile… I felt all alone. I didn’t know anyone who was gay and I was embarrassed that people would find out. My prayers changed then. Instead of asking Him to change her I began to pray for understanding, for a knowledge of how to help her, and for comfort for all of us. I prayed He would comfort and strengthen her, and keep her safe. How do I combine my Love for my daughter with my Love for a Gospel that is a part of who I am? I wanted to be True to the teachings that have guided my entire life, I wanted to follow the Prophet who I Loved, but I needed to Love my daughter. How do you do both in a religion that basically condemns her? I was confused, lost, scared and alone. I feared for her future, I mourned for the loss of my grand kids I thought she could never give me. They were some of the darkest days I have ever experienced.

 I remember shopping one day and I got a text message from her that read “Mom, I can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to hurt you anymore, I don’t want to hurt anymore.” and she named a long list of pills she had taken. I tried to call her but she wouldn’t answer the phone. I panicked ….I was over a thousand miles away from her. Her brothers and sisters and dad were an hour and a half away. I contacted the only person I knew who lived in Logan and she went and got her and took her to the hospital. I got on the first plane I could to Utah and spent some time with her, trying to help her figure it all out. But I didn’t even know how, there were no resources, no leadership help, no one who would understand and guide us. Every day was terrifying and after that, I hated to hear my phone ring. I never knew if I would one day loose her, the fear was crushing. There were days I couldn’t focus on anything but how to help her. I prayed more than ever and I read every book and pamphlet about the topic I could get my hands on. I watched pod casts and videos, and Ted talks and then I heard about the Mama Bears and the Mama Dragons. I can’t describe how much these groups of Compassionate, Caring, Loving women changed my life. I found solace when I thought there was none. I found women who had the same love for the Gospel AND for their gay children as I did. I found support, comfort, understanding, guidance, and most of all Unconditional Love…Pure Christ like Love ..and it saved me. It was like a gasp of air… life saving air after being under water feeling like you’re going to die. We share stories, we laugh together til our sides ache, we Celebrate together and we Cry together…the kind of crying when the tears are running down your face and your nose runs and your heart can’t take the sorrow one more second. Meeting these Mama’s  in person is like coming home where you feel warm and safe, and it gives you a strength that you didn’t know you even had. We get together for lunches and it is such a comfort to hear their stories and to share my own. I AM NO LONGER ALONE! and I feel empowered to share what I know so that I can help other families and save the lives of other kids who are struggling with their new path of the unknown.

I now have the courage to share what I know with the leaders in my faith so that they can help youth who come to them for guidance. I am so grateful that I can share our story to help bring understanding and acceptance for the LGBTQ community. My daughter still went through difficult times but I was better equipped to help her and I was not ashamed to fully accept who she is and to LOVE her, truly LOVE her the way she needed to be loved. I see my daughter in a more perfect light the way God sees her, the way He created her. I was able to help my daughter see that she had an incredible wonderful life ahead of her and that she had support and acceptance from her whole family. It helped her to know she was accepted and loved but she still has difficult days. She was married to a woman, and she had that Big Beautiful wedding in a Gorgeous white dress. They have a darling 5 year old girl and a 3 year old little boy that we all adore. They have since divorced so my daughter is a single mom who is completely devoted to her children. She is a High school teacher, writer, and an artist. My Heart is full every day for how my life has been blessed with her and her 2 children in it.


 

 

Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for moms of LGBTQ kids. The official motto is “Better Together” and the members call themselves “Mama Bears”

The group is private so only members can see who is in the group and what is posted in the group. It was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 5,000 members. For more info about the private Facebook group email lizdyer55@gmail.com