My youngest son, Colby, came out as gay on his social media this weekend, so in a sense, our whole family came out. Yes, we are now one of “those” families, whatever that means to you. I suspect some of you will let me know what that means to you–and I sincerely hope you do, but let me share a portion of what that means to me. The story of the last two years in particular, cannot be told in a blogpost. What we have experienced, gone through, endured(?), and survived to get to the place where my son can post beautiful pictures wearing make-up (yes, make-up) does not lend itself to quick regurgitation or easy reflection and dissemination. However, that does not mean I can’t and shouldn’t start to try to share. The story behind his genuine smile is full of tears and horror and moments where he, and I, did not think we’d get through to the other side intact. Actually, truth be told, we aren’t intact–we have been broken into so many pieces–but we are okay–better than ok, really. We are good. We are in a solid, grateful space and place. There were a lot of possible conclusions to this chapter in our story. I’m thinking this is the best possible one. Far too many parents and families have lived this story to lose their child to suicide. If you are one of those families, you have my heart. You have my tears. I am so, so sorry. I watched my child slip away. We grabbed and grabbed for his hand, a bit of his clothing. But he was slipping from our grasp. Something held in our case but it could have gone the other way. I weep for you. It is deep, deep pain you feel. I am sorry you have this hard road to walk. I see you.
[Sidenote: all of our family has lived/is living this story. We are each being given the freedom to process and share in whatever way we like. The others are and will have their say in their own ways. But let me say, I am super proud of each member of my family. They are fighters. They are strong. They are kind and fierce and loving, They have and are doing hard, hard work on themselves and their/our story. They may use swear words sprinkled in here and there. I am okay with that. Swear words fit this story. It’s not all puppies and rainbows, people. (But then again, dear reader and fellow journeyer through this thing called life, you already know that, don’t you?]. None of us are making any claims that we have done or are doing this perfectly. We are human beings being human. We are doing our imperfect best. But we are giving each other grace for imperfectness. It is the way things are. Thank God for that. There’s freedom in imperfection. Brene Brown is one of those sharing the research to back that claim up. Thanks, Brene.]
So, what does being one of “those” families mean to me? What does it mean for me to “come out” with my family, our son? Please hear me that in using the “coming out” terminology with relation to myself and family in this post, I am in no way implying that what I, or any ally does, is at the level of significance or terrifying import of what a person on the spectrum faces when they reveal themselves and come out of the closet. My son lived in terror for years of what coming out could mean for him. In fact, for years he saw no way he could come out or tell anyone (this just makes me sad and I’ve had to ask myself why that was he felt that way). His isolating beliefs around this led to severe depression and high anxiety. It led to him believing there was no place in the world for him. It led to all sorts of bad. Make no mistake, this is ferociously terrifying, this coming out for many LGBTQ+ people. When I use this term “coming out” in relation to myself, I am appropriating it to say I am not hiding what I think or feel and I am not avoiding taking a public stance. I am willing to talk about my journey and support for not only my son but also all of the LGBTQ+ community. Clear? I hope so. (And I hope that those of you who might be tempted to put me in a box and close this post will do my son and I the honor of reading a bit further). I ask again now, with this terminology clarification, how am I understanding what becoming one of “those” families means?
At the barest minimum, it means I am deeply, deeply sorry I haven’t been “out” sooner. I understood myself to be an ally on the margins. However, through my experience and more education, I’ve learned that the word “ally” is a verb (this is a great short video about what it means to be an ally to any marginalized group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0&t=116s), To the LGBTQ+ community and its out-there allies, I am sorry I have been quiet on the sides. I know this is paltry and inadequate. If it helps, I have fought damn hard for my son. Last year, on the “family trip of a lifetime to Italy”, I was down in the dirt by myself on a little road in beautiful Tuscany, sobbing, like in childbirth. Heaving sobs. So many times these last couple of years I have been doubled over with grief or anger or fear. I have fought and prayed for my boy. And now that he is doing better, I’ve got energy to fight for you. The Jesus I love and seek to be like was not in the quiet background on this. In his three years of being “out”, Jesus lived and interacted fearlessly with all of society’s marginalized and condemned and hated. I have been asking myself, for many, many months now, how did I not throw open wide my arms in embrace? How have I not had more of you beautiful folk at my literal table? That all changes. NOW. I pray much these days in all sorts of directions, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy…please.” I am hopeful those of you in the LGBTQ+ community can offer me grace. Many of you seem to excel at that. Is it because you’ve had to in order to not grow bitter or angry? Or is it because your edges have been worn off by your pain?
Coming out also means I have an idea of the depth behind each of your stories. Those who have lived this journey with my family get the beauty of this weekend’s announcement and the layers upon layers that built and shaped the words and pictures and means of expression. A number of our friends and trusted professionals poured countless hours into my son, me, and my family. People who loved us who didn’t know all that was going on still prayed their hearts out. We would truly not be where we are but for those who have shown up for us in the mess, day in and day out. This includes affirming and non-affirming persons. This is also something I’ve learned. It’s not that black and white. It never is. And I give you permission and freedom to be where you are on this LGBTQ+ issue. But I hope you know this about me. I love scripture (after all, I grew up in a family with an uncle who spent years trying to make scripture come alive and be more accessible to us all). I am a pastor who has studied and wrestled with this issue. If you are someone certain there is only one faithful way of understanding the scriptures, I would ask you to consider that there are faithful Christians who have come to an affirming posture not as a capitulation to culture (or because they have “skin in the game”) but as a result of diving deep into the scriptures (three books worth looking at for how we read scripture are The Bible Tells Me So and The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns and Inspired by Rachel Held Evans). This is a down-in-the-dirt wrestling match matter, particularly if you are a person of faith who is committed to deeply engaging your sacred texts and the messages that have been preached and communicated to you through years and years of pew-sitting, youth-group attending, Christian school curriculum or whatnot. This is not an easy-peasy issue. If it was, there wouldn’t be all the fracturing of families and churches, the awful suicide rates in the LGBTQ+ community and the systemic discrimination and fierce need for safe places. Rachel Held Evans, who recently died and leaves a tremendous hole, has a number of things to say on this issue. Particularly relevant to this paragraph is this one: https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/huck-finn-hell?rq=all%20right%20then%2C%20I%27ll%20go%20to%20hell
A few years ago, I did a Survivor Mud Run with a couple of my kids. I actually looked forward to getting in the mud and getting dirty. But it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. As I was crawling through mud, there were all sorts of weird textures and things and I started thinking about all the people crawling through the mud before me–how unsanitary, and not-just-dirt-filthy this mud really was. I suspect my thoughts helped my finish time–I wanted OUT of the mud, ’cause it really is gross, if you think about it. Crawling through all the mud on this issue is not fun, people. Facing yourself, your God (if you believe in God), your deep-seated values and beliefs, your church (if you attend or The CHURCH at large, if you don’t), your culture, whatever, is not a beauty pageant walk on the LGBTQ+ issue (just as it isn’t on any of the real issues). While I’m on the topic, if there is a book that might rock your world and your thinking on this and a number of other related topics, I commend to you Unclean, by Richard Beck. Hands down one of my most important reads in the last years. It is a mind-blowing, knife-cutting, incisive, “wow” exploration of what Jesus means and how the church has interpreted Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'” However, only read this book if you are willing to get muddy…
I didn’t know what I was going to write when I started this. I am finding I have a lot to say now that I have full freedom, being out and all (we can have a little fun, right?!). So I will wrap this up soon and write another part later. This will be a series. I’m making that call right now. Because I get to make that call as the share-er of this side of the story. And there is a lot I need to say–want to say. For myself. For my son. For my family. For others living this story. For those on the outside who don’t have to live this story but who know others who are. For those who don’t know anyone living this story. I get to speak for some who don’t have a voice (yet). Or don’t have a family that accepts, loves and is fierce for them (if this is you, please message me. I have a family waiting to love on you). For those who have lost hope or been deeply wounded. Who are angry, so, so deeply angry, and rightfully so. I’ve got things.
I am going to stop right here. The main purpose of this post was to out myself. My son already courageously outed himself. He has already let it be known to us he will be vocal and expressive from here on out, now that he’s found his voice. And it is precious to hear it. He lost it. He lost a lot of things for a good while there. A year ago, when Colby got brave enough (with the support and love of two amazing people–thank you, thank you, Cecilia and Sean) to share this with us, we all wept. We love you, Colby, you stunning boy, you. I, your dad, your siblings and your other peeps are here. We have your back (and this is probably more true than I even know because you are so fast–you’re already out in front, running such a fast and hard marathon). I, for one, am all in excitement of where this is going to go. I’m throwing my hands up in the air on this roller-coaster. I’m also a wee bit terrified. But hey, I was as well when I ran off a mountain in Switzerland to paraglide. The air caught me and I had the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I kept thinking as I was up there soaring in the Swiss Alps, “I can’t believe I get to do this!” I think it is going to be the same here. And I suspect there are Spirit-winds to catch me (and any others) as I (we) run off this mountain.
If you want to hear my son, in his own words, and see him in his own expression, you can find him on Instagram @colbycrispeno. I have posted some of the photos he posted at the end of this post. If you are uncomfortable, that’s okay. I know this feeling. It’s good to sit with the uncomfortable. I’ve learned it’s most enlightening if, as I sit with my uncomfortableness with something (okay, discomfort for those of you English majors who want me to know there is an actual word for uncomfortableness), I ask myself, “Why are you so uncomfortable here? What’s going on? Where does your discomfort come from?” Maybe you’ve been walking a lonely road and need a safe place to speak the things that are hard to say or tell. I would be honored to be a sacred and safe place for you, whatever it is going on in your story. Maybe you are living with some questions yourself and just want to process and talk; I am ready for it–well, I hope I am. I’ve been thrown for enough loops that I wasn’t ready for that I am not so certain I am ready for things as I used to think I was. But I’ll show up. Do my best to be present and listen. I won’t have all the answers. I’m still living many questions. Anyway, isn’t it most helpful if we give ourselves space to wrestle with the questions? And, guess what? I’ve got resources. I’m a plethora of resources these days. Please, message or contact me. And big loves to you. All of you. Wherever you may be. We are all living in a grand, grand, big, big story. It mostly doesn’t feel like that though. I get that, too. I need to put this aside to figure out dinner and venture into the laundry room. All three kids are home for a few weeks and the laundry–oh, the laundry. But thanks be to God. My family gets another go at this, together. Last year, when it was all fracturing, I prayed for a season like this. I didn’t know if I would get it ever or this soon. Gratitude. That’s what I’ve got, today. Tomorrow, who knows?
WOW! Thank you so much for this post. There is HOPE!
You are welcome, Tana. And there is indeed hope!
Love this so much! So proud of you all! Can’t believe how brave C is. And he looks great in his makeup! Thanks for sharing this beautiful writing.
Thanks, friend, He is so brave, isn’t he? He makes me proud. He’s shaking things up.
Congratulations to Colby and your family. I have always been accepting of the LGBTQ community. That said, it was still a shock when our daughter came out. She has had to shut out her self righteous uncle because he really gets on his Old Testament bandwagon about the subject. Thank you for being like Jesus and accepting your son for who he is. Those who understand the teachings of Christ will accept Colby, just as Jesus does. Those who call themselves Christian simply because they go to church probably won’t.
Thank you, Darlene. Your daughter sounds like she has learned good boundaries in an unfortunate way. I am glad you have received her well. We’ve gotten a mixed bag of response, but we expected that. I am thankful for those who are able to accept and love our son and us. Blessings to you and your daughter and family.
This is just wonderfully said. Thank you, mamabear! And Colby is pretty darn amazing!
You are so welcome! I am finding joy in being a mama bear. And yes, he is pretty amazing. Thank you for recognizing it! Blessings to you.
💗Kimberly, your transparency is refreshing…just the overall, honest, human transparency. In a culture where a lot of humans live “above” the deep – (I mean, suppress emotions to the point that I wonder at times who the person actually is underneath the surface) – I so appreciate that you are unafraid / courageous to just say things that probably A LOT of other humans think about. Mess…imperfect…pain…doubt.. etc etc – all those great emotions that we experience). I love that as a mom you give your kids the gift of unconditional love and acceptance! (That’s one thing I really miss about my mom who passed away last year – that unconditional Mom love)! Your kids are adorable. My love and hugs to you, dear friend.
Thanks, Trish. I think we moms are supposed to offer unconditional love. Too often, around this issue in particular, that is not the case. Your mom was so loving and accepting. I am sure there is a huge hole there for you. Hugs.
THANK YOU, Kimberly, for sharing this. I live this in a different context with my son who lives with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum and is misunderstood every day of his life. Different issue, similar experiences, judgments, expectations, and feelings of depression, anxiety and hopelessness.
Colby is SO blessed to have you as his mom. I just feel God smiling down on him and SO happy that he is FREE to be himself.
Have you seen the documentary “Far from the Tree?”. If you haven’t, I think you would really appreciate it!!! LOVE AN HUGS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY!!!!!!
Thanks, Suzanne. I have followed the journey with your son you have posted on Facebook and yes, similar in many ways. You have been such a strong advocate for him. CC and I are familiar with FAS because we nearly adopted a child with it and spoke to one of the premier specialists regarding it and what it might/would entail. Blessings to you on this journey. I haven’t seen the documentary but will do so. Love and hugs to you and your boys as well!
Love and praying for you and your family! Who Are we to judge ❤️
I would love to get more resources on this topic. Aria came to us as Pansexual. Which she and us are navigating along with her depression and anxiety. Thank you,
Hi Candice. I am sorry Aria is battling depression and anxiety as trying to navigate a road that is little understood by many. I would love to connect if you have time this summer. You might check out Serendipitydodah for moms. It is a private group on Facebook for moms of LGBTQ+ kids and they have fantastic resources.
Thank you Kim for your very will written post ! I certainly learned a lot about reading it and look forward to part two.
Thanks, Pat, for reading and being willing to learn! I am learning a lot myself.
Hello Kimberly! I’m Geri Bodine’s daughter in law and I’d love to follow your blog. We have something in common with our sons! It is a journey – A joyous one for me!
Please add me as a friend, and/or subscribe me to your blog. Or you can call me: 206-799-7400
Hi Terri, thanks for responding and for the connection. I am so glad it is a joyous one for you. I am hearing from many people that they are on similar journeys and wouldn’t change it for the world because of all the good that has come from it. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know if I have a built in way on this blog to follow but I’ll check and get back with you. I’d love to connect sometime.
So wonderfully written, Kim. Moms will do anything for their children and I am glad for your son and your family. God does answer prayers. Life is messy but God is good.
New Life Church
Thank you, Sharon. Good to hear from you. I hope all is well with you and yours. And yes, prayers do get answered.
Kimberly thanks for sharing your family’s story.
Thanks for reading it, Donna!
What a beautifully written invitation to play in the mud. I’m in with you, Kim! Thanks so much for this!
Jerry, I thank you. This means a lot to have those I respect and love willing to get in the mud with us. It is a lot more fun with others. Blessings to you and Linda.
That is some “Capital T truth” you got going on in your family. In so many arenas it is hard to hate up close. God is still good and revealing His truth to the world – God is Love and LOVE WINS! ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💖
Love your comment, Amanda! Yes, love wins. And I continually am asking myself, where do I need to get up and close to things because it teaches us so many, many wonderful things.
Amazing writing. What a blessing it is to read about your family and the journey you have taken and continue to walk through
Thank you, Lisa!
You have completely blown me away with you transparency and wonderful blog. I want to join you in the mud!!! I have several friends in the LGBTQ community and years ago I wrote a song for two of them. Thank you for the invitation to travel this road and learn from you and your beloved son. Huge big hug! Lynn Kelly
Yay, Lynn! Happy to have you in the mud with me. Would love to see/hear your song. Maybe message it to me?
Love your post. Used to work out with Colby at ECF. What a gentleman. One time, we had to run carrying a bar together. He was extremely patient and kind : “come on, Cecilia, you can do it, we are almost done and you are doing great” Colby is kind, generous, a big heart human being. Thanks for teaching me that giving up does not exist. Fantastic runner as well. Hope to see you again. If you or your family would like to visit Brazil one day, let me know. My family and friends will take a wonderful care of you. Promise. All my best, Cecilia.
Thanks, Cecilia! You’ve just bumped Brazil to the top of the travel list!