I recently watched the movie Prayers for Bobby, and I was very moved  by this story.  The movie is based on the true story of Bobby Griffith and his family.   In it Bobby experiences many challenges as he shares his life more completely.  It is particularly challenging for Bobby to affirm his gay identity because his family vehemently believes that homosexuality is a sin, based on their religious teachings.  His mother receives the news particularly hard and takes it on as her mission to help Bobby to cure his sin.  Eventually, things get very tense between Bobby and his family, and the resulting stress leads Bobby to commit suicide.

It is important for me to share this movie and my reaction to it because this story is all too familiar.  My friends watching the movie commented that it was "suicide by parents."  This is quite a harsh representation of the story, but it rings true in this story and in the experiences of many young LGBT people who have chosen to end their lives.  In the story, Mary Griffith is not at peace with her son's death.  She searches and searches for the answers, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that indeed she and her husband were responsible for Bobby's death.  

She eloquently stated, "I deeply regret my lack of knowledge about gay and lesbian people.  I see that everything I was taught and told was bigotry and dehumanizing slander.  If I had just listened to my son when he poured his heart out to me I would not be standing here today with you filled with regret.  I believe that God was pleased with Bobby's kind and loving spirit.  In God's eyes kindness and love are what it's all about.  I did not know that each time I echoed eternal damnation for gay people.  Each time I referred to Bobby as sick, and perverted, and a danger to our children, his self esteem and his sense of worth were being destroyed.  His spirit broke beyond repair.  It was not God's will that Bobby climbed over the side of a freeway overpass and jumped directly into the path of an 18-wheeler truck which killed him instantly.  Bobby's death was a direct result of his parents ignorance and fear of the word gay."  You can see the complete scene on Youtube .

The transformation that Mary went through to arrive at these words was extremely challenging for her and her family.  However, she needed the answers.  Along the way she was supported by some people she had never reached out to in the past.  These were other parents and friends of gay and lesbian people.  It was her local PFLAG chapter that helped her to revise her understanding and interpretations of her religious teachings.  She also sought out religious answers from the Metropolitan Community Church.  Combined, these resources helped her to cure her ignorance of gay and lesbian people, albeit much too late.

Recently, some billboards have been displayed in the Toledo area that send a powerful and positive message to everyone, but especially to religious communities.  The Central United Methodist Church has initiated a campaign called, "Being Gay is a Gift from God" as a "prophetic call to the Church to get out of the business of marginalizing gay and lesbian persons from the Church, and to welcome them as full members."  Signs like this, no pun intended, show that society is progressing.  However, signs like this also remind us about the ignorant oppositional voices.  There is no shortage of people commenting against the signs.  Regardless of these oppositional voices, it is refreshing to know there are churches making strides to include and support all people in their worship.  For a list of other gay-friendly and affirming churches in Ohio please visit this link.

I mention these resources, because if there is anyone reading this blog that just does not know where to turn, I am certain you can find help at the places mentioned above.  Just click on the link and you are on your way to a plethora of resources. If you are a parent who has just learned of a child's LGBT identity, please seek out these resources.  They will help you to cope and to educate yourself about how best to support your child.  If you are an LGBT person, look to these resources as an access point to community.  I know I have found great support in making friends and interacting with others in the LGBT community.  It has helped me to know myself and to learn my history.
To end this entry I would again like to quote Mary Griffith, "There are children like Bobby sitting in your congregations. Unknown to you they will be listening as you echo Amen, and that will soon silence their prayers.  Their prayers to God for understanding, and acceptance, and for your love.  But your hatred and fear and ignorance of the word gay will silence those prayers.  So, before you echo Amen in your home and place of worship.  Think, think and remember a child is listening."