by Stephanie Logan
(Part 5. New readers can click here to start at the beginning of the story.)
Caleb was gesturing and speaking with an urgency that made me immediately regret making him wait to tell me.
As I reached out to hug and reassure him, I wished that there was someone there to hug and reassure me. I knew there was no turning back from this and I no longer had the safety of pretending it was not so.
At some point in his frantic talking, I did something that experienced parents and therapists tell you not to do. I said, “I know, Caleb. I have always known.”
“You did?” He stared at me.
Of course, only Caleb could have known. What I had was maternal instinct, not knowing.
That night, as Caleb talked, I learned just what my parenting choices, my dedication to Dr. Nicolosi’s directives, evangelical dogma, and even my determination to keep my unhealthy marriage intact had done to my son.
A couple of years earlier, not long after my ex had left, Caleb sunk into a deep depression. It was something that I watched hopelessly because he was 18 going on 19 and man-sized and I had no control over his choices and behaviors. Our family was in turmoil. He was beginning to learn things about his father that I had protected him from for years, and he was watching it all eat away at me. The whole godly, Christian world he had been surrounded by up to this point was breaking apart.
As he told it, he was broken hearted over far more than the divorce. He was old enough to have memories of the past and some significant trauma from our many family upheavals. I had hoped that I had softened those things, maybe even hid them completely, but I was learning that isn’t how a family dynamic works.
And Caleb was hiding his sexuality, knowing it went against everything that he had been taught and everything that he knew I believed. Caleb was still attending church regularly and hearing our pastor’s frequent condemnations of the gay community. He knew that these people that he had known and loved and been taught to respect would never be willing to genuinely know and love and respect him. And Caleb had always been so dedicated to his friends in the faith, that he was the last member of our family to leave when the church finally pushed us from their midst.
I carried on as I watched him spiral. I tried to keep the lines of communication open, but I didn’t know what else I could do.
Then one day I got a panicked phone call from him. Caleb told me through tears that he had been having suicidal ideation and on his way to work had been contemplating driving off a long bridge that spanned a river now swollen with spring rain. That morning he had almost done it. He was afraid to get back in his car and drive home. I drove to his workplace, reassured him of my love, and told him our family would make it through the current difficulties. I had arranged for him to meet with our pastor to talk and so I followed his vehicle back to town as we talked on the phone and I parked in the church lot as he went inside to speak with the pastor.
It had not occurred to me that that kind of counseling would be bad for him. It was the only thing I knew to do at that time.
In conversation with a friend, I briefly mentioned the events of the week and they encouraged me to have Caleb chat with their husband who was trained and experienced in working with troubled youth.
Within a week, Caleb called me from work again. Again, I went to him, reassured him of my love, and followed him back to town as we talked over the phone. I intended to take him to speak with the pastor again, but he refused. Then, I called my friend and we drove to their house instead.
And so, Caleb began to get some sound advice and, even more, some genuine love and acceptance. It was just the support he needed. As he spent more time at their home over the months, he began to do much better, and when they moved later that year, he planned and took trips to visit them in their new town.
The night that Caleb came out to me, I learned that his suicidal ideation over those months was driven by his desire to protect me from more hurt. He thought that it would be easier for me to have a dead son than a gay son.
I would love to tell you that his coming out and my growing understanding of the harm I had caused him made me change overnight, but it didn’t happen that quickly.
Though by this point my mind had already shifted, I was still driven by anxiety. I jumped almost immediately into protective mama bear mode. I wanted to keep the church from hurting him more than it had. I wanted to keep my family from hurting him and I wanted to keep his father’s family from hurting him. I wanted to protect him from the whole community I had chosen to raise him in. I wanted my son to stay at least semi closeted, and I laid in bed many nights worrying about what might happen to him if he didn’t.
I knew well the myths the church would continue to teach that would make many within their ranks imagine my loving son to be a predator – maybe even a pedophile – and it made me sick. I quickly came to understand just how horrid that kind of baseless propaganda is and how dangerous the “studies” done, in the kind of biased manner ministries and church organizations use, really are.
It took months and several very serious conversations for Caleb to talk me down from this protective stance. And then an online friend helped me to find a support group for moms of LGBTQ+ kids and I began to feel that sense of community and hope that I really needed.
Since studying and writing have consistently been the way I learn and work through my problems, I began a new learning journey. I started reading history and culture books, watching documentaries, and listening to podcasts. I found more online friends and support. And it all helped me out of that bubble of fear. I also began to find healthier ways to deal with my anxiety than those provided by a lifetime of fundamentalist and evangelical teaching.
The changes didn’t come quickly but eventually my fears leveled out to what might be normally expected for any mother when she thinks about her children.
And I watched my son begin to become so many of those things I had always hoped he would be – not because of the church and the faith system we left, but despite it.
Former Evangelical homeschool mom and one-time missionary and pastor’s wife, Stephanie Logan, aka Snicklefritz, writes from her life story and four decades of experience in the evangelical movement. Her views and stories are her own.
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