I was raised in Cleveland, Ohio and attended Catholic grade school and all-girls high school at the time there was a huge change going on in the church. My home parish was a surprisingly liberal place in the midst of a solidly middle class, factory worker neighborhood. It has been over 30 years since I lived in Ohio but I am still friends with several of the priests and nuns who were assigned there. In fact, it was from one of the priests that I heard about Fortunate Families.
After finishing my residency in Detroit, I moved to Utah in 1983. I actually had to look on a map to see where Utah was since I was not completely sure! My practice is primarily cardiac anesthesia at Intermountain Medical Center, which is a Level 1 Trauma center in Salt Lake City, and I’m president of the medical staff as well.
My husband is also an anesthesiologist at the same hospital and we have been married for 7 years. Between us, we have 10 children, although I am only biologically responsible for 3 of them! All of them are adults (at least numerically) and our house is pleasantly quiet. My oldest, Thomas, graduated from Oberlin College in 2007 and is living in Japan teaching English. My daughter, Sarah, is graduating from Lewis and Clark College on May 10th. My youngest son, Jonathan, is an international man of mystery. He was an exchange
student in Italy when he was a sophomore in high school and decided then to go to college in Europe. He came out to me when he was 15 while he was in Italy, although I was pretty sure he was gay from the time he was very young. He returned from Italy fluent in Italian,
much more self assured and joined the rowing team at his high school. This is a very conservative state and I worried that I would get calls from the other parents saying they didn’t want him on a team with their sons, but absolutely nothing happened, to my great relief. He was even voted the graduation speaker for their class and did a terrific job. He is finishing his second year at Franklin College, an American university in Lugano, Switzerland, about an hour north of Milan. To make you feel even sorrier for him, they have two weeks of required academic travel each semester. It is a tough life.
I have serious reservations about the church’s “official position” on homosexuality, but since my parish is open and welcoming, I tend to compartmentalize it. At our last PFLAG meeting, our roundtable discussion was about the role of religion in our families. The group was about evenly divided between Latter Day Saint and Catholic, which is not the actual demographic here. While we didn’t get to everyone, it seemed like I was the only one in either group who still goes to church, which speaks volumes for how families are isolated from the institutional churches, in addition to our gay and lesbian family members. There is a lot of anger directed toward churches that teach loving one another with the modifier: “as long as they are just like WE are.” One of my friends who is a gay priest was just named the president of a Catholic college in the South and was very open about his sexual orientation– change happens one person at a time!
We have a terrific PFLAG chapter and that has been a source of a lot of support and friendship. Two weekends ago I chaperoned at the Queer Prom put on by the Salt Lake City Pride Center. There were over 650 kids there (you read that right) and it was loads of fun. The women I worked with wondered what it would have been like if there had been anything like it for them when they were in high school. It was wonderful to see these kids just be themselves knowing that no one would hassle them. The police officers who provided the security said it was a much easier group than most of the other proms they work for — no fights breaking out, no yelling matches. I understand the difficulties of being a parent of a gay child in a conservative community. It has been my challenge to become more open about my son and not worry that I am being judged a “bad mother”. My husband is LDS and has had his own challenges in dealing with the attitudes of his church especially with Proposition 8 support and phone banking. He has been incredibly supportive of me, and of Jonathan. I feel privileged to be allowed to engage in conversations with parents who may be struggling for a variety of reasons. It is a long process throughout all the phases of a family’s life but one that is completely worth it.
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