GCN Radio - June 2, 2004
Transcribed by Vombatus
To listen to this episode, visit http://www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio
JUSTIN: Welcome to another edition of GCN Radio for June 2, 2004. I’m Justin…
BRIAN: …and I’m Brian. And Justin, you are back in Raleigh?
JUSTIN: I am back in Raleigh and had a great vacation.
BRIAN: You made it safe and sound. Vacation? A working vacation, nonetheless, but still a lot of fun. It was so much fun to have you in Muncie, recording together right here in the studio. We had a really fabulous time. I hope I didn’t completely alienate you.
JUSTIN: I enjoyed it, it was great. It was our first time actually meeting in person and we got to interview Jason and DeMarco in the studio. It was my first time in a radio studio, so it was a lot of fun.
BRIAN: I think we have some outtakes that will be on a future blooper reel. [laughter] We won’t really go there right now, but… We’re just so excited to have someone very special on the show today…someone that you know. How did you come across this website, Justin?
JUSTIN: You know, I think it was somebody at GCN that pointed me to it, if I remember.
BRIAN: That’s http://www.familyacceptance.com?
JUSTIN: Yes, familyacceptance.com. It’s such a great website. It’s a great resource for kids who are struggling with coming out to their parents or dealing with those kind of issues as well as for parents who are struggling to accept their gay sons and daughters. We had a big discussion about it on GCN a while back, and I said, “We need to have the people that run this site on the show sometime.”
BRIAN: So indeed we do have today on the show Patti Ellis, who, along with her husband Jeff, runs familyacceptance.com. So Patti is it familyacceptance.com, or .net, or .org?
PATTI: We have them all. We wanted to be sure you got there, so we got .org, .net, and .com! You can’t miss us.
JUSTIN: For the folks that haven’t been to this site, it’s a really amazing site. Can you tell us a bit about what led up to the creation of the site and what you do with it?
PATTI: What led up to it was our son, in 1997, came out to us, he told us he was gay. He was 16 years old. And coming from a small southern town, there was really nowhere to go except the Internet: I couldn’t go to my church, or at least I didn’t feel I could; couldn’t go to my neighbors. And so we were just so distraught in trying to figure out what was going to happen to our family because we did not know, we didn’t understand this. But every time I went to the Internet I didn’t come up with sites that gave me any comfort as a mother. I’m a mother that likes to keep her nest together. So I made my mind up that if I ever got through that, I would make an Internet site for parents so that they would have a place to go in the middle of the night, which was what I was doing, a place to go to understand, and to feel comforted, and to feel loved, and to be understood. And that’s really where it started from. It took me about two years to cross that road to acceptance, and that’s probably shameful to say that it took me that long, but it did take me that long. It took a lot of praying, it took a lot of people that God put in my path to get me to where I am today. What we do with that site is we get e-mails from people from all over the world and that’s really what our Internet site is about.
JUSTIN: Well, it’s such an important issue, and it’s a very, very difficult issue for everyone to deal with for the first time. What was it like for you, initially, when your son told you that he was gay?
PATTI: You know, it’s the strangest thing, but when he told me, it was almost as if I had lifted up out of my body. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s like I just left my whole sense, I didn’t know what to think. But the first thing I did, and I’m so grateful that I did this, was I got up and I hugged him and I said, “If any family can get through this, we can.” And I meant that, but I really didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be. I had a lot of fear for my son. He had been through an awful lot of taunting and teasing his whole middle school years to the point of—today I wouldn’t tolerate that—but at that time, you just think you’re going to get through it and you certainly don’t want to draw any attention to it. Before he had ever come out to himself, he had been tagged as being gay, and so my first reaction when he told us was that he was confused, that maybe he’d been brainwashed, you know? But we’d spend thousands of dollars on counseling on that one, but finally one day I realized that it was me that was confused, it was not my son. But I had to go through that process, and he let us. He let us drag him from one counselor to the other. It was a difficult thing, because let me tell you something first of all: I had a lot of conflicts in understanding, but my love for my son never wavered. I just didn’t know how to mother him anymore and I’d only lived in a straight world. I didn’t understand that. And certainly anything you’d ever been told about homosexuality wasn’t who I thought my son was. So we had a lot of myths to get through.
BRIAN: Take us on that journey that you took, in your mind and heart, from the day you heard it to the day you accepted it.
PATTI: Well, you know, I have always been a very spiritual person. ‘Religious’? It’s hard for me to say that, because I’ve always felt that there were times when the religion was very exclusive whereas God’s love for us was never exclusive. So that’s the one thing that kept me grounded the whole time: was knowing that God loved our family just as we are, that I did not have to explain or be anything. However, I do have to live in this world with everyone else, who has different beliefs about different things and my children do. The other thing was that I was brought up as a Christian; the teachings of Jesus was all that I ever knew. And that was so important to me, because in the middle of the night—and I really didn’t get much sleep during that time—I would wake up and I honestly felt the love of Jesus. I knew that if He were in my presence, that He would reach His arms around my family and He would gather us in. And so those very things kept me strong during this process of trying to figure out what was going to happen to my son and how were we going to deal with this in the world that we live in and the prejudice that is surrounding us. So we just went through a lot of dark days and nights in prayer. My prayer every day, several times a day, with sobbing tears, was “God, please direct my feet because I am so lost.” And you know, in the Bible it says ‘come to me as a little child’, and I understand that now, because for the first time in my life, I came to God as a child where I did not know the answer. I was open—my heart was open. You know sometimes when we say a prayer, we pray it knowing what we want God to give us? I did not know the answer, and I prayed every day for God to show me how to be a mother again to my son, and here I am. And he did, he put so many people in my path and there were many times when something would happen and it was obvious that God wanted me to see this. I’d actually get mad at Him. Sometimes in my mind, I’d go, “Stop it! I don’t want to see this, I’m not ready to accept this yet!” And it was just people that I would accidentally meet. There are so many things that are just amazing that He did that were to help me see my way. And then one day I was riding down the road and I realized that I had been making this whole journey about me, about how people were going to see me, how this was affecting me as a mother, how my pride was hurt, or whatever. And then finally I realized one day that this was really not about me, this was about my son and he needs his mother. And I turned around and said, “I will be your mother and we will fight for your rights.” And here we are. I never thought I’d be an activist, but we’ve had to turn into one with all this that’s been in the news these days!
JUSTIN: I know your husband wanted to be with us today and wasn’t able to be here… do you think that this process was more difficult for you or for him, or did you deal with it differently?
PATTI: We did deal with it differently, but I’ll tell you, Jeff is an amazing father. His love for his children, they are so lucky to have a dad like him. He dealt with it the same way that I did: internally and fearful. But he never, ever made Adam question his love for him. We get a lot of e-mails from moms that tell us how the dads won’t put up with it, and they just tell them to leave, and Jeff was never that way. In fact, I think that Jeff came to acceptance quicker than I did, which is an amazing thing, it really is. And now, it’s just like this morning, he was reading me a quote that was talking about the growth of people, and what they have to go through… the things you have to go through to make you stronger, build your character. And he said, “When I read something like that, I always think of our gay community and what they’ve had to endure and how much stronger it’s had to make them.”
BRIAN: What’s Adam doing now? He’s graduated from high school…
PATTI: Adam graduated from college just a couple of weeks ago. He came out when he was sixteen, and that was in 1997, and then he went off to college. That was when we actually asked Adam—when he was in high school and he came out, we asked if he would just stay in the closet until he graduated from high school so that we would not have to deal with that, with those issues in high school. And he’s always been a very accommodating child, to please, and he agreed to that, and I know that it was hard on him, I know it was. But in our little community, that was the best thing for him and I think that he’d agree with that now. But when he went off to college we all agreed that that’s when Adam would ‘be who he is’. And he’s just still a wonderful child.
JUSTIN: If somebody’s listening to this and they have not yet come out to their parents because they’re worried about what there parents are going to say or how they’re going to react, do you have any tips for those kids in term of how they deal with this with their parents to help make the process a little smoother?
PATTI: You know, it’s going to be hard no matter what. It’s a rare situation when a parent just says, “You know, I knew that and it’s okay.” Actually, we have heard of some of those situations, and I’m always in awe of that parent. I would say to a child: be prepared for a lot of things that are said that will be very hurtful, be prepared for disappointing things being said but be patient, and persist. I always say, “Be patient, but persistent”. And that’s where Adam was with us: he was patient with me, but he was persistent that I had to move along this path. And I would say to them that you have to re-educate your parents. They’re only acting out of love for you, and what they know is all they’ve ever been taught their entire lives. And you have to educate them. Hopefully our website will help, it’s printable if they’re not e-mail savvy. There are resources on there, there are books that I would suggest that they offer to their parents, and many times—I know it was for me—it’s “I don’t want to read that, just take that away!” Insist. Keep insisting. And remember that ‘the truth shall set you free’… those words are exactly correct, but sometimes they hurt first. The truth is always the best way to go. I believe that in all my heart, that it’s always the best way to go.
JUSTIN: Well, what about for those parents who are out there who, maybe they have a child that has come out to them as gay or lesbian, and they love their child but they just can’t reconcile it with their beliefs and their values. They just have a really hard time dealing with this and they don’t know what to do or where to turn? Do you have any advice for them?
PATTI: My advice for them is to really pray the prayer that I was saying before, because God will direct them to where they need to be. And I think that you have to know your child better than you know what someone is saying. And I’m sorry, this may sound so negative, but I have to say it: when someone is preaching to you in the pulpit, that is their opinion, that is not what you know about your child. You know in your own heart about your own child. A mother has that, we know. And you have to listen to what you know inside your heart about your child. And just because your child tells you that they’re gay, it does not mean that you quit being their mother or their father. And I say that none of us can ever be the best that we can be unless we are loved and loved by our parents. I think our parents’ love—even now, at fifty-three years old, when my mom is proud of me or says something good, it makes me feel whole again. And I know that that’s the way every child feels. And I say to parents that I believe personally that most parents are looking for permission to love their child just as they are. They really believe in their heart that that’s what they want, but they don’t find that in society. So we’re going to have to dig deeper to find that. You have to dig deeper in your heart, you need to dig deeper by reading, re-educate yourself. That’s what I did, I did a lot of reading. And honestly I tell you that books fell off the shelf for me! And that’s another way that God directed my feet because I would go in looking for a book, and I promise you that some would fall at my feet and I’d go, “Well, I dunno…maybe this is it.” And it would end up being exactly what I needed to hear at the time. But there are resources on our website for that. There’s also a group called P-FLAG and I’m sure you’ve all heard of that, the Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays and that is a place that parents can go to be around other parents who have gay and lesbian children. It makes you feel so much better when you go to a group like and see other parents. I remember the first time I went I looked around and thought, “Well, they look normal. I guess my family’s not so abnormal because those people look okay.” And I see where parents have accepted their children. It just makes life easier when you’re around other people. And that’s what our website is about, to have other parents on the other end of the line that understand how you feel and will help you move along that path.
JUSTIN: Well, it’s such a wonderful ministry that you’ve got going through that website. I’m so impressed and I know when we first started talking about your site at GCN, everybody was just overwhelmed with gratitude for what you and your husband are doing.
PATTI: Well, thank you.
JUSTIN: We want to say thank you, for all of your hard work.
PATTI: I’ll say to you, the times that I know that we have helped a parent stay in communication with their child, the mom and the child or the father and the child being able to hug and love each other and try to understand each other—if we can be a part of that, I think that’s my blessing. That’s where God has blessed my life and given me that opportunity.
JUSTIN: Well, it’s a wonderful opportunity. Thank you so much.
BRIAN: Patti, thanks again for being on our show today, and we want to just remind everyone that we offer GCN Radio each week on the web at www.gaychristian.net/gcnradio and e-mail us your comments or questions at email@example.com.
JUSTIN: And one more time, that website who need resources for parents, it’s www.familyacceptance.com. This is Justin…
BRIAN: …and this is Brian. Thanks a lot for listening.