While Your Child is Still Alive: A Letter to Parents Who Aren’t Ready to March in the Pride Parade

Written on August 12, 2013

I continue to become aware of just how many parents, particularly (but not exclusively) Christian ones, are really concerned about the fact that one of their children happens to be part of the LGBTQ+ community. I used to be one of those parents, but am no longer; instead, I find myself in the very odd and ironic position of being jealous of them.

I have come to the conclusion that it is a luxury to have things to complain about. It is a gift to have something to give away or to even reject. If you chat with someone who has been unemployed for months, you won’t find them complaining about the bad dental benefits at their last employer.

When I talk with parents who have recently buried their infant daughter, I never hear them complain about sleepless nights up with their crying toddler. A friend of ours who spent years living on the streets of Seattle knows that he is more than fortunate to have found affordable housing. He wouldn’t dream of noticing the features in his apartment that aren’t exactly to his liking. It seems to me that it is those of us who have much who also have the extravagance of trivial grievances.

I think parents with lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or non-binary kids are richly blessed. They have the luxury of being able to choose whether or not to love their gay child, because they have a gay child. But for those of us whose LGBTQ children have died, from an accident, medical condition or, far too often, the horrors of addiction or the tragedy of suicide, we no longer have that luxury.

When Rob & I hear of parents who have told their lesbian daughter that she is no longer welcome to come for Thanksgiving, of the transgender son whose mother refuses to acknowledge him as part of the family or the gay teen whose parents repeatedly remind him that he is headed for hell, we experience a plethora of acute emotions: shock, astonishment, envy, confusion and anger. Sometimes, even rage.

I have to be honest and say that if I had come across these words – my words – six or seven years ago, I would probably have felt defensive and upset. I might have stopped reading. But it would have been to my peril. Back then, I needed someone with perspective and wisdom to say the hard but true things. I needed someone who had compassion for my fear and grief to help me figure out why I was so scared, sad and deeply bothered by the thought of our son having a boyfriend.

Sadly, I let my fear keep me from understanding, cherishing and embracing my son. Instead of protecting Ryan, as I intended, my fear and reluctance backfired, causing far greater danger and crisis than any I had ever imagined. This is not just our story; I have heard from hundreds of men and women whose experiences of rejection and alienation from family members have sparked downward spirals of depression, addiction and despair.

I wish someone would have told me what I did not know: that having a living, breathing gay child who challenged me, caused me to be uncomfortable and uneasy and whose desires caused me to lose sleep at night because of fear and worry was vastly, immeasurably, infinitely better than having a gay child who is dead.

No more challenges. No more discomfort. No more worries. At least not the kind we used to have. Instead, all of those relatively insignificant emotions were replaced by overwhelming sorrow, paralyzing grief and crushing regrets.

While your child (whether 4 or 49) is still alive, please treasure the fact that you have the luxury of having an LGBTQ child to enjoy, to love, and to learn from. Please don’t take that gift for granted. It is a privilege far too many of us will never have again.

While your child is still alive, join a support group for parents of LGBTQ kids. Read books written by gay “children.” Make friends with people who are queer and ask them lots of questions. Let them teach you.

While your child is still alive, take advantage of every single chance you get to tell them that you love them just the way he is.

While your child is still alive, call her and invite her over for dinner and ask her to please bring her girlfriend.

While your child is still alive, ask them if you’ve done anything that has been hurtful, so that you have the chance to say, “I’m so sorry. Tell me more about how I wounded you.”

While your child is still alive, reassure her that God adores her and will never, ever stop loving her. God doesn’t only love straight and cisgender* people. He loves every one of His children, all of whom are fearfully and wonderfully made.

While your child is still alive, don’t worry about what your friends will think. Twenty years from now, your friends’ opinions won’t keep you up at night. But your remorse about not loving your child while you still had the chance will. Trust me on this.

While your child is still alive, ask God to show you how to be a reflection of His love for them, so that your child will know, through you, that there is absolutely nothing they can do to lose your love, or His, either. 

While your child is still alive, don’t miss an opportunity – not even one – to get to know each of the people your child loves, her world, her passions and her dreams. Adore your child, just like you did when he was small. Take lots of pictures. Make more memories than your heart can hold. Soak up every single moment you get with them.

While your child is still alive, make sure that they aren’t living in shame because of who they are. Shame causes us to keep secrets, to hide and run from God and others. God calls us with kindness. God delights in us. God is not ashamed to call any of his children His own. He loves us unconditionally because He is God, and God is love.

While your child is still alive, please do all these things and more. We who visit the gravestones of our gay children would give everything that we have to do just one of them.

Once you have lost a child, you get to know lots of other parents who have lost children. Many of our friends had a healthy, thriving child one minute, and the next minute, they were gone. In an instant, without warning or a chance to say goodbye. We never know how long we will have our children; today could be your last chance to love your child while he or she is still alive.

I have heard a lot of Christian parents say, “I love my kid, but I don’t have to like what he is doing. Don’t expect me to go marching in any of those awful Pride parades.” I get that; there were many years when that would have been far too difficult for me, in spite of my fierce love for my son. But don’t give up trying to get to know your child, learning to love them fully, and allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable for the sake of communicating unconditional love.

Learning to love is a task for a lifetime. We get to spend our whole lives learning to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and learning to love our neighbors as ourselves. There is so much more still to know about His love for all of us. I don’t ever want to stop discovering the depths of it; He has given me so many good gifts as He keeps teaching me how to love as He first loved me. I am so thankful He doesn’t give up on me, even when I am so slow to grasp His lessons.

I am regularly reminded, as I read my Bible, that when Jesus walked the earth, He was continually doing stuff that made the religious people say he was a heretic and a blasphemer. He was continually hanging out and loving the people that the religious people condemned. He was continually causing scandals.

So what would Jesus do? Jesus would make those religious people mad, by heading right down to the part of town where all the gay people live and causing an enormous scandal by marching in their parade, sharing a meal with them and making sure that they knew that they were loved.

So while your child is still alive, reconsider marching with them in that parade. It might just save their life – and yours, too.

* A cisgender person is someone who identifies as the gender/sex they were assigned at birth. For example, I was identified, by my external sex organs, as a female at birth. I have always known I was a female, and I’ve always identified myself as female; there is no contradiction between my body and my brain. I am a cisgender female. 

50 responses to “While Your Child is Still Alive: A Letter to Parents Who Aren’t Ready to March in the Pride Parade”

  1. Thank you for sharing from your own pain and experience. No doubt lives are being saved as you encourage us, as parents especially, to love our children and to be on their side and in their corner!!

    You have been a blessing to me and my 22 year old gay son!!

  2. Thank you for your words that teach and encourage. What you are doing is so needed. I appreciate so much what you are teaching me as a mom.

  3. I came across your blog by chance and I praise God I found you. I am the mother of a gay daughter who just turned 21. She is our youngest and our pride and joy. We are devote Christians and she gave her life to the Lord, on her own at the age of 11. She had gay friends but every time I asked her if she was gay she told me no. One day she finally got the courage to tell me and although I was shocked that it was finally out in the open, I hugged her and told her that I loved her. I told my husband that evening and it took him the rest of the night to process the information. The next morning he went up to her and told her “you know the smile I always had in pictures where you were a little girl? Well you are still that same little girl to me and I will always love you”. Her sisters also accepted her “just the way she is”.

    My problem is our pastor. We’ve never talked about her sexuality but I’m sure there are a lot of people in the church as well as him that know. He absolutely thinks that homosexuality is a sin and has even posted things about it on his facebook page. I’ve always taught my daughter that “tolerance goes both ways” and not to expect everyone to embrace the fact she’s gay. I had no idea that when she was still searching for answers about her sexuality a good friend of her’s basically told her she was going to Hell. It pains me to the core to know my little girl was in such agony over something she had no control of. As a “mama bear” I will have a hard time loving anyone who causes my precious daughter grief over this. Including our pastor.

    Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I’m praying for you and your family. I can’t imagine the pain your have gone through. Thank you for allowing God to use your pain to help other Christian parents of gay children.

    • Nancy…what a blessing you must be to your daughter! Oh, how I get why you have a hard time loving anyone who causes your precious girl grief! If you are on FaceBook, PLEASE join our moms group – Friend me, Linda Mueller Robertson, then send me a message asking to join. It is a very private group for moms who love Jesus and also love their LGBTQ child. And the moms are AMAZING. They almost ALL have pastors like yours…and they are a huge encouragement to each other!

      • I would like to join your group. I’m a Christian and a mom of an amazing gay son. I have experienced judgement from my pastor not only because of my son, but also because I divorced. Jesus didn’t judge. Jesus loved and so will I.

        • We would LOVE to have you join our group!! Please find me on FaceBook (Linda Mueller Robertson)…send me a friend request and a short message, and we’ll get you on board! It is such a wonderful group of women…and growing like crazy!!

    • Nancy,

      You are an awesome mother … I dream of a day when more mothers, more loved ones are like you. Thank you!

  4. I’m grateful I found your blog post. I’m the mom of…..gosh, it’s even difficult for me to type it right now so I won’t. But my child knows that my love is forever and charity never faileth. I would love to join your moms group. I’ve been searching for support. Thank you so very much.

  5. Thank you, Linda! I am indeed blessed and honored to be his Mom. God is using you to show us a better way! I love the reminder of who Jesus walked with.

  6. Powerful. I am one of the “kids” who no longer waits for the apology, the meal, the invite with my partner… but deep inside really desires to hear it .. Bless you for this message and for reaching deep within to share.

      • As a father whose 20 year old son died, I thank you, Linda, for this beautifully eloquent post. You captured the pain of grief into the crucible of regret and have produced the purer metal of wisdom. I know it hurts to have learned “too late.” But it is also true that your wisdom is helping so many families now. You are “investing your pain” to yield dividends in countless lives. Your words remind me of John Donne’s “Meditation 17,” especially the lesser known ending comparing pain and adversity to precious gold. Thank you, thank you.

        • These words, coming from someone who is not only a lifelong student – and teacher – of the Word, but who has also faced the horror of having to bury a son mean so very, very much to Rob and I. Just called him at the station to read your comment to him…we are praying that God will, indeed, make something beautiful from our broken mess.

  7. Wow! That was beautiful, perfect and so perfectly timed for me to read this! Your words are like a warm, soft blanket from the dryer. I just want to curl up with them, let them cuddle me in comfort and just make me feel so relaxed, loved supported. You have know idea how much you have changed my life and my views. Your words make me feel so safe. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and love so generously.

  8. This, by far, was the best post yet for me. It was filled with so many applicable `take-home points.’ What rendered it even more powerful was the picture of you and Ryan. It makes the relationship between you two more tangible and gives me an idea of who he is so we can put a finger to your story as you continue to share–and that only makes it more powerful to me as someone reading. We have a chance to get to know Ryan through this blog so as you put it in your last post `he wont be forgotten.’ This has been quite a life changing blog for me as well as my friends and family. Thank you deeply.

  9. I love this. Even as a straight, young, Christian woman; I respect this post so much. Homosexuality and God has always been one of my biggest struggles in faith. But this cleared so much up. Because you’re right. Jesus would be marching in that parade. Reading Galatians also really helped me a lot. We no longer have to be two peoples anymore, but one. God loves both sides equally. And it doesn’t even really matter to him what side you are on as long as you have faith. Keep inspiring people! You’re doing a great job!

  10. I simply have one question, aside from here and Huffington Post Do you post these where they are most needed? ie Fox nation, World Net Daily… Because on Huffington, you are addressing mainly people who have been fighting for people like your son THE WHOLE TIME.

    • You are right, Kelly…I’ve been posting on Huff Post because they approached me, after the essay I wrote for Biola Queer Underground went viral. I haven’t yet been proactive about approaching other sites, but perhaps I need to consider doing just that. Thanks for your suggestion; I really appreciate it.

  11. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I am 29 y/o trans* MtF, transitioning since Nov 2012, about to start living full-time very soon.

    My parents and I have not seen each other since Dec 2011. I have been terrified to come out to them because they’re not exactly LGBTQ-friendly people. That’s gonna change in a couple of weeks when they come to visit, though. The telling them part, anyway.

    I, too, was once a very strong christian, but ever since I stopped denying myself of who I really am, I’ve found it very difficult to stay connected to the faith I once had. It’s very confusing and I continue to feel greatly conflicted in this regard. I still maintain a hold on spirituality, though, just not religion.

    Please keep me in your thoughts as I prepare for probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I can only hope my christian parents someday can be as loving and open-minded as you have become!


    • Kelleigh…we WILL be praying for you as you come out to your parents, AND as you continue to seek God. He is ALWAYS there for you, loving you and caring for you, no matter what. Let me know how it goes, dear friend!!

      • Hi Linda,

        It’s been a couple of weeks, and I wanted to post a follow up.

        I made it through telling my parents. We spent a good 7 days together, and we’re still talking…sort of. They’re not happy with my “choice of lifestyle” and 100% disagree with my decision to continue. I know they still love me, though. And I know they’re going to need a lot of adjustment time, so I will give them their space. That’s easy enough since we live on opposite coasts. In the meantime, I have come out to my coworkers and returned to work today as Kelleigh after my 10-day vacation. It was my first day of really living as myself, and it was wonderful.

        Thank you again for your support, and for the work you do to help others with a most difficult process!

        Much love,


        • Wow, Kelleigh…You are an example of grace, patience and enduring love. I am going to ask God to help me love my family like you are loving yours. Thank you for BEING…and for sharing your journey. What a gift it is to know you a bit!!

        • Linda,

          It is my privilege to get to you know. Your family’s story helped give me strength when I needed it most. So thank you.

          I sent you a FB request so we can stay better connected.


  12. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your story and your encouragement. I have a gay son and a gay daughter and love, accept, support them, and am proud to be their mother. It has not been easy to be a Christian and love and support my beautiful children. Loving and accepting my gay children was/is not hard but my Christian friends and the church in general makes this walk hard. Thank you again for sharing your experience and the lessons learned!

  13. Reading your blog post made me tear up the other day. How I wish you could reach into my mothers heart, and show her all the things you’ve learned and have come to understand. I’ve prayed to God to provide her with understanding and patience. I realized it is her choice to learn to love me again, I cannot make her love me, it’ll simply be out of the graciousness of her heart and in Gods timing. I’ve cussed, I’ve cried, I’ve asked God why…? Our relationship is more enstranged than it’s ever been, not much left, except the idyllic memories that reverberate in the back of my mind, when I remember how our relationship used to be, when she looked at me – just as she does at my brothers. In all honesty, when I look forward in my life, at the life to be made; I don’t see my mother involved in it.

    • Oh, Bryan…that just breaks my heart. I am aching with you, my friend. Your mother is losing out BIG TIME…in the long run, she has the most to lose, and God willing, she will realize that. But you are right…you are going to have to go forward in your life, trusting God, with or without her. But it sucks…big time. Bryan, THIS Seattle mom loves you!

  14. Linda and Rob,
    I have been so moved by Ryan’s story. I am a mother of a gay son and have blamed myself for years over his “choice” to be gay. When my Brad came out to me I told him I already knew and I didn’t care that he was gay; he seemed so relieved. I told him gay did not define who or what he is. I did like you did with Ryan, I told Brad that I would always love him. Inwardly I was falling to pieces because I come from a very religious family; my father, my brother and my uncle are all Baptist ministers. I was heartbroken because I wanted my family complete in Heaven and how was this going to be if Brad was gay. Brad too immersed himself in studying his Bible and his youth group during the teen years. He has told me some of the same things I have heard you say about Ryan, “I have prayed for God to make me straight”, ” I don’t want to believe in God anymore.” I have felt like I am loosing Brad to a community of hatred and intolerance. I think the devil’s ultimate goal is to destroy as many of our children as possible and the church is helping him succeed by pushing our children out the door. I have watched the church forgive and embrace the young teenage heterosexual couple for pre-marital sex but will not lovingly forgive Brad for the same because he’s gay. I know that Brad wants and desires to re-kindle his relationship with our Heavenly Father. I have shared Ryan’s story with Brad as well as my friends via Facebook. What books do you recommend for parents who are “not all like that” and want to help with this healing and growing process? I pray for you and your family and I want you to know that Ryan’s story has just begun. I believe that God started a work in Ryan, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6) and you are the stewards of this truly touching and timely story. God Bless.
    Kim Chaffin

    • Kim! What a blessing you must be to Brad!! We have a private, online FaceBook group of moms who love Jesus and who are also committed to loving and supporting their gay children…would you like to join us? If so, please friend me on FaceBook and let me know! We have a wonderful group of women who are 100% committed to Christ, as well as to their kids. Also, the first book I would start with is Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate (by Justin Lee). It is FANTASTIC!

  15. Thank you for your beautiful words and gracious, loving advice. My amazing brother came out during Christmas this year and I was so HAPPY for him! It really felt like I finally KNEW him and I love that. Some members of our Christian family have a less-than-loving perspective, so I am so happy to have found this site, which I want to point them to. Any other resources for parents/family members of a son/brother who has recently come out?

  16. As a non-american i can never really understand the need to make being gay and religious an issue.

    We all are what we are and if you believe in god – he will love you either way.
    it is just that plain and simple.

    i can call myself a christian – but not religious. i belive in a higher beeing that loves us all.

    Thank you for sharing your story Linda and I am very sorry for your loss!

  17. Your writing here is one of the few rays of light that has made it through the blockaded doors I’ve put between myself and the evangelical community of which I was once a joyful part. I’d given up hope that people like you exist. Thank you.

  18. Mrs. Robertson, I just found your blog today and I’m so glad that I did. Your story is heartbreaking, but I’m so thankful that you’re talking that heartbreak and doing something so strong and using that heartbreak to make the world a better and more accepting place.

    I’m a 32 year old gay guy and I just came out to my parents last Christmas. They are both devout Christians and I remain a Christian. I was so scared of my sexual orientation through the years and tried to date women and change myself, but it just didn’t work. I never told anyone about my orientation until I was 30. I thought I wasn’t really gay or that I could change it myself…

    I met a wonderful, loving, beautiful young man over two years ago and I am so happy and love him so much. I always prayed to God for a perfect wife, but God answered my prayers with a perfect man instead. We are both in the military and we want to get married. We make each other so happy. My life is fully meaningful with him.

    My parents are very devout and I believe they are growing and becoming more understanding of my sexual orientation. They’ve met my partner, which I kind of forced because I was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan (where I am right now). They’ve told me they always love me. They love my partner. But they have said that they are uncomfortable with our relationship. I think they are so concerned with what family, or their friends, or church members will say if they know about my orientation. I believe that they are growing, but am afraid they may always want my relationship to remain a private matter. I believe that they have not discussed my orientation with anyone else, which is just not healthy. I don’t think that they know of any other parents with gay children. They need a support group. They need to talk it out with others. I just don’t know how to approach the subject and help them with this.

    What do you think I should do? If they continue to keep it quiet they will not grow. They will not find comfort. I’m afraid that my relationship will be kept a secret. What should I do? Are there any support groups you know of? Should I talk to their pastor, who is Episcopal? Should I tell them to tell their friends? It was hard for me to come out, and I’ve not come out at work, or with a number of people. But I feel it is even harder for them to “come out as parents”. They associate with an older, less open generation and all their friends are strong Christians. What do you recommend I do? I love them and want to help them in our path together as a family.

    Thank you, Will

    • Will…there are actually several support groups I can think of…determining which one will be based on where your parents are at in their own journey. Can you let them know that, since you love them so much, and want them to be a part of your lives, you’d love it if they would have a greater understanding of what it means to be a gay Christian?
      Justin Lee’s book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate would be a great thing to suggest that they read…are you familiar with it?

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