My Daughter--a Lesbian?
By Kathleen Bremner as told to Candace Walters
When my daughter, Susan, invited me to lunch around Valentines Day, 1985, I looked forward to chatting with her about her new job as a political consultant. Although we'd had our ups and downs in our 40 years as mother and daughter, at that time, we were particularly close.
Susan was quite late to the restaurant. When she finally arrived, I could tell something was wrong. Without much small talk, Susan abruptly announced, "Mom, there's something I've been meaning to tell you: I'm a lesbian." Her announcement absolutely stunned me. It is only in retrospect that I could see some warning signs, but then my daughter's declaration was a complete surprise.
I straightened my plate and silverware, avoiding eye contact with Susan. Then I picked up the menu and read it over and over, as if I hadn't heard what she had said.
"Mom, did you hear me?" Susan interrupted my trance.
"Yes, Susan, but you must be wrong," I stammered. "You can't be a lesbian...you've been married...besides, you're a Christian, and the Bible says it's a sin..."
"Maybe your version of the Bible says that, but not mine," she flatly stated. "Mom, you don't understand. It's like some people are born with blue eyes and some people are born with brown eyes."
Susan was defiant about her feelings, and I couldn't think clearly. Further conversation was impossible, so we left the restaurant without eating.
I tried to remember how to drive and where I lived as I found my way home in shock. I wondered how to break the news to Susan's stepfather, my husband of 16 years. Before I could get the chance, he called for me to come quickly and see what was on the television. There was Susan on the news, being crowned "Miss Gay San Diego" and demonstrating in a gay pride parade. We couldn't believe what we were seeing; surely there was some explanation or it was all a bad joke. For weeks following my daughter's "coming out," I couldn't eat or sleep. I cried constantly. Hearing Susan had died would have been easier to bear. It seemed all the dreams I had for my only child had been shattered. A thousand questions ran continuously through my mind all beginning with the word "why?" I didn't think I could continue to live, knowing my daughter was gay.
Our family was well-known in the Christian community. It wasn't unusual to have my name in the paper as president of a Christian women's auxiliary, or for my involvement in evangelistic crusades. Susan was also active in a large church as a musician and children's worker; only God knows if her profession of faith was genuine.
So when our local newspaper covered Susan's involvement in the gay community, we received numerous phone calls from friends and acquaintances asking about her. Some callers were sympathetic, but most were accusatory, asking why I hadn't known my daughter was gay, or how she could call herself a Christian, or what had we done to cause her homosexuality. Other close friends were uncharacteristically silent. I couldn't talk to anybody. I was confused, embarrassed, and devastated.
At first, I began condemning myself. Where had I gone wrong? Like a mother who bandages a child's scrapes, I wanted to "fix" Susan, to pull her onto my lap as I did when she was little, and correct any mistakes I might have made in raising her. I prayed, "Lord, just give me another chance."
I had always loved having a baby girl, dressing Susan in pink, frilly outfits trimmed in ribbons and lace. Susan's father died when she was quite young, and she was raised by my second husband--a prominent physician and chief of staff at a Los Angeles suburban hospital-- until her teens. Unfortunately, he turned out to be a poor choice for a husband and father. He was unfaithful and abusive to me. Many years after my divorce, Susan told me he had sexually molested her from ages five to thirteen. I had no idea this had happened to her and felt terribly guilty.
During adolescence, Susan was the typical "California girl"--blonde, tall, and slender. She was an excellent tennis player, a concert violinist, and an honor student. She was offered a full music scholarship to a southern California college upon completion of high school, but instead, chose to marry a boy she met on the tennis courts. Unfortunately, her husband was killed in an automobile accident during their second year of marriage, which was rocky from the start because they were so young.
Following her husband's death, Susan started college. It was there, I believe, she began a lesbian relationship with a fellow classmate. Once I found a note from one of Susan's girlfriends that seemed overly affectionate, but in those days, I didn't make the connection.
I didn't understand much about homosexuality 14 years ago; it just was never a part of my world. Of course I knew all the Bible verses condemning it. But beyond that I was like most other Christians-- repulsed by the problem. But now I had to confront it. So I began reading literature on homosexuality and talking to others to learn why it happens and how to help families with loved ones caught in its trap.
One day, when I was at my lowest, and the pain seemed unbearable, God sent an angel into my life. I met with Barbara Johnson, author of Where Does a Mother Go to Resign? (Bethany House). Barbara founded Spatula Ministries after she discovered her own son was gay and waited eleven years for him to turn his life around.
Barbara counseled me for hours. She explained that homosexuality is a condition with such deep and diverse causes that no mother should hold herself responsible for "making another person gay." God knows I made plenty of mistakes in parenting--and I'm sure, as with many lesbians, Susan's sexual abuse was a contributing factor. But homosexual behavior is first and foremost an individual's choice. Barbara stressed how important it was to be in a support group with other parents and loved ones of homosexuals. I couldn't find such a group, so I started a branch of Spatula Ministries in San Diego that has met every Tuesday night for the past 14 years. In talking with hundreds of other hurting moms and dads, we have been mutually helped and encouraged by the belief that Jesus Christ can defuse any darkness in our children's lives. I also co-organized an annual conference that features nationally-known experts who help those struggling with homosexuality and teach others how to minister to homosexuals and persons with AIDS.
In the years since Susan told me she was a lesbian, she has been quite active in the gay community. At one time she was the publisher of a gay newspaper (but she claims I prayed that business into bankruptcy). Now Susan travels the country lobbying for homosexual rights on behalf of an influential gay political caucus. She and her companion own a home on the East Coast.
We talk by phone nearly every week, and Susan sends me cards with lovely floral designs she says remind her of me. She knows about my support group and conferences, and has even attended one of the workshops. It doesn't help to give Susan Christian tapes or books about homosexual; she knows what the Bible says and how I feel about her sexual orientation. She interprets the Bible differently, so we get nowhere discussing it. Sometimes, I still lovingly confront her, but she understands my love and approval are two separate things. When Susan visits me, we sample a favorite seafood restaurant at the beach or a Mexican one in Old Town San Diego. I just want to be with Susan as a mother, not as an adversary. I feel it's vital to grasp the moment--I may not have another chance to love her. I've seen too many parents lose that chance forever by cutting off all contact with their gay son or daughter.
I know that God is bigger than homosexuality. All I can do is give Susan to God. I cannot change her, only God can. I love her as only a mother can, but God loves her more. Susan has chosen this path, and I must allow her to accept responsibility for her own actions. My role is to be Susan's intercessor, on my knees praying for her and trusting God for the outcome.
Copyright by Candace Walters. Kathleen can be reached at Spatula Ministries, 8404 Phyllis Place, San Diego, CA 92193