In Honor of Our Lost LGBTQ Children

by Susan Cottrell

Ryan Robertson died five years ago this week. In his honor, friends and I have chosen an orange icon on Facebook as it was Ryan’s favorite color. We also honor all the LGBTQ people who have died from rejection, bullying, and ill-fated “therapy”—marginalization, in all its forms.

Ryan is one of many LGBTQ men and women who was pushed out of churches that could not accept them as is.

I have shared the Robertson’s story before as they continue to share their story publicly—not to relive those horrible years, but because they hope to prevent others from living through it.

Many of the readers of my personal blog site have also lost their LGBTQ children who were marginalized. By marginalized, I mean thrown to the margin, to the edge, under the bus. By marginalized, I mean we have reduced their value and not heard their voice. These are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love.

So I gather us together to grieve.

I gather us to consider the consequences of our collective marginalization.

Marginalization might look like not believing our children are really gay (or whatever letter of the acronym they are). It might be requiring them to change who they are as if that’s possible. It might mean kicking them out until or unless they change. All of this drives intractable stakes into their hearts, even if we don’t know it.

The non-affirming church is especially hostile to the LGBTQ community, whether they mean to be or not. Unlike any other issue, non-affirming evangelicals treat the LGBTQ community as a special class of rejectable, disposable people—as a “them,” instead of “us.”

Because the pastor and church body is where its families turn in a crisis, they have exceptional input into those hurting families. They are in a powerful position to cause irreparable damage to those families by even insinuating that that person deserves to be rejected.

These are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love. 

We can go back to the foundation of our life in Christ: it’s not about us. That is, it’s not about our need to have our theology neatly boxed up, including going to a church not “tainted” by LGBTQ people. On the contrary, we are to give up our desires for how others live, give up trying to change or minimize them when that is, literally, killing them.

As John said, “Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for a friend.”

Instead, celebrate the different people God brought to life, including those we don’t understand. God’s prerogative is to create them—our challenge is to love them…all of them.

LGBTQ people are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love. 

I leave you with this quote from Nicholas Wolterstorff, author of Lament for a Son.

Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote [Lament for a Son]. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides.

So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it. I do not try to disown it. If someone asks, “Who are you, tell me about yourself,” I say—not immediately, but shortly—“I am one who lost a son.” That loss determines my identity—not all of my identity, but much of it. It belongs within my story. I struggle indeed to go beyond merely owning my grief toward owning it redemptively.

But I will not and cannot disown it. I shall remember [my son]. Lament is part of life.

Originally published on FreedHearts; Photo via flickr user Boris Kasimov