Freedom and Responsibility
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I was born and raised a Catholic and attended Catholic school for nine years. I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. Because I didn’t know any different, I accepted that as being the gospel truth.
As time went on, I drifted away from the Catholic church and began to seek a different place to worship. That, my friends, is how I ended up at Suquamish UCC.
Eight years ago we moved to Colorado, and again I was seeking a church where I felt we belonged and, lo and behold, I walked into Parker UCC and the welcome I received was awesome.
Parker UCC is a small church that had broken away from a larger UCC. They moved forward with an interim minister. This past January, we called Pastor Malcolm Himshoot to be our Pastor and to help us grow a new church. Malcolm is transgender and a welcome addition to our church family. He also has a documentary out, called “Call Me Malcolm.” He and his wife are the parents of three-year-old twins.
Today I would like to talk to you about a journey that my daughter Ky and I made together.
Almost nineteen years ago, a social worker placed Kyle Devon in my arms and entrusted me to love and care for her. At the time we didn’t know she would eventually become my daughter through adoption.
I wanted to feminize her name, so we added a few letters and called her Kyleigh. These days she goes by the name of Ky St. Valentine.
This young lady struggled at times with her gender identity. She would say to me, “Mom, why couldn’t I have been born a boy?”
No dresses, ribbons, or bows for my little tomboy. The majority of her friends were boys, and she loved doing all the things boys do.
Did I think she was just a tomboy, or in the back of my mind did I realize that she was struggling with who she was? She never really had any boyfriends to speak of.
Suquamish United Church of Christ was my first experience of having a gay minister. Sally Balmer was awesome, and we continued to worship at this wonderful Open and Affirming church.
One day almost two years ago, Ky walked into the room and said, “Mom, I need to tell you something. I think I’m gay.”
And I said, “Really? I kinda thought you might be. I love you Ky, no matter what. You are my child, and I love you, and I will love whomever you choose to love. I will fight for you to be the person you want to be.”
Ky was in high school. It was a very difficult time for her, as she began coming out to her friends, teachers, and administrators of her school. Some days it was just too painful for her to go to classes, and she spent many days cutting classes.
The final straw came one afternoon. I got a call from the school guidance counselor, asking me to come to the school right away — Ky was suicidal. She had just ended her first relationship with her girlfriend, and that plus the bullying at school was just more than she could handle.
We spent eight hours at the hospital, talking with her to see if we thought she would be able to go home and continue living. I think the support she got from all her straight friends — who came to see her and tell her they loved her — is what pulled her through.
Can you imagine how my heart ached for my daughter? Why are people so cruel? Will she be able to survive, living in a world where she wouldn’t be accepted because of who she chooses to love?
We decided to let her try the alternative school, which was supposed to be a more welcoming school.
After a few weeks, the counselor called her into the office. “Ky, you need to stop wearing the rainbow bracelets and gay shirts. You are a distraction to the other students. Also, stop telling people you are gay.”
That was the last straw for her. She dropped out, but pursued getting her GED and registering for community college.
She often tells me she lost out on the years that should have been a happy time for her: proms, parties, graduation ceremony. She lost all of this because she is gay. She can never get days back — they are gone and lost forever.
Isn’t childhood supposed to be fun, and give you all kinds of happy memories to look back on? Why was my daughter robbed of these happy times because she is gay?
Being gay, my dear friends, is not the end of your life as you know it. You deserve all the freedoms that straight folk get, to love who you want, to marry who you want, to serve in the military if you want, to have children, to live where you want, to go to school where you want, to work where you want, to be able to comfort and offer hope to your dying partner.
Coming out of the closet isn’t a death sentence. You are a creation of a loving God. He loves you and has beckoned your fellow man to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
As Christians we have a responsibility to our gay brothers and sisters. We don’t just stand on the sidelines and watch — we fight for the freedoms they are being denied. We fight for marriage equality. We fight to have “Don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed. We march in gay pride parades to show our support. We stand on a street corner with young people who only want their Catholic high school to have a gay-straight alliance, a safe place for them in school.
I have done all these things along with my gay daughter.
I have even gone one step further and told our story in a documentary called “Breaking the Silence.” This film was started by Shea, a young man who attended a Catholic high school. He was forbidden to take part in community activities once he started his movie, was banned from campus before and after school, was bullied and had his life threatened, and “no you cannot bring your partner to the senior prom.”
Another young person denied his freedom, the freedom to live his life without fear.
So, my dear friends, I stood out with him and supported him as he tried to convince the school to form a gay-straight alliance. Unfortunately, the school refused and that day fired two of the administrators.
This Fourth of July weekend is all about freedom. What, as members of UCC, do we think freedom means to us? How are we free?
On this holiday weekend, let’s remember the words of our forefathers in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Gordon Merk says from the worldly and Christian perspective, “Worldly freedom is to do whatever pleases a God, what is beneficial for others, and even what’s good for ourselves.”
And so with freedom comes responsibility. Ian Lawton says, “Freedom doesn’t exist for its own pleasure. Freedom is the basis for responsibility.”
So I ask you today to open your hearts to the gay community. Fight alongside them as they try to convince the world that they deserve the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Don’t stand on the sidelines waiting for someone else to come forward. Stick your neck out, and let your voice be heard.
In the back of my mind and in my heart, I hear the cries of all the gay kids who committed suicide because no one spoke up for them, no one loved them enough to tell them it’s okay to love someone of the same sex, it’s okay to go to school and not be bullied.
But most of all, my dear friends, hug them. Tell them you love them and that you will try to help the world become a more loving place for them to exist, free of ridicule.
This battle will not be won by one voice. It takes many to shout from the mountain: It will get better, you are loved, we support you on your journey.
Please, brothers and sisters in Christ, keep the closet doors open. Let our dear friends live the life that Jesus means for them to live.
My affirmation today is: I love my gay daughter. I love my gay friends. I love all the gay children whose families have turned against them.
Being gay is not a disease. It’s not contagious. As Lady Gaga sings, “I was born this way.”