The story of the loss of Rob and Linda Robertson’s son has moved many people. Here, a letter from one man whose life was changed by their story.
Ever since the piece we wrote telling of how God taught us, as conservative evangelical Christians, how to truly love our gay son went viral, we’ve been receiving hundreds of emails from people all over the world telling us their own stories of pain and heartache, either from the perspective of LGBTQ children with parents, or from parents with LGBTQ children.
We’ve been overwhelmed by joy to hear how parents who have wanted to simply love their child feel that they can do just that – simply love them “just because they breathe.” Below is one of our favorite emails, one of many from LGBTQ people who have used our story to help communicate to their parents why they long for – and need – their unconditional love and acceptance.
If Devin’s story was the ONLY good thing that came out of sharing our story, it was worth it!
Dear Linda and Rob,
Just the other day I was sitting in London’s Heathrow Airport about to board a flight to Hong Kong with two of my friends who I had always indicated to my parents were a man and a woman when in actual fact they are two gay guys. Waiting to board I was killing time and was surfing the latest Facebook status updates when I came upon a ‘like’ of one of my friends which sent me to your story. Almost in tears I boarded the plane and spent the next twelve hours reading your article, reflecting, and eventually writing my parents a letter to explain to them that I was in fact gay, something which took me 20 years to build up the nerve to get ready for.
Let me give you a bit of background. I grew up in a small rural town where my father owned and operated a construction company and my mother was a stay at home mom. The community I grew up in was not diverse, no other religion, race or background just very white, Christian and of course most of all straight. Boys were boys and girls were girls. My parents are extremely good and well intended people.
Not only did we go to church almost every Sunday in a very conservative Episcopalian church, we went to Sunday school beforehand at the Baptist Church and later I went to a youth group at the United Church. One Sunday afternoon in the late 80’s when I was about 7 or 8 years in the heart of the AIDS crisis we were driving home from church and my father turned to my mother and said ‘you know, perhaps God created the AIDS virus to exterminate the gays?’. I can’t tell you how that shaped the next 20+ years of my existence. I did everything I could do to be ‘straight’. I dated girls, I worked in my father’s construction company, and did everything in my power to hide my biggest secret. To deal with my anxiety/depression I ate – a lot to the point where I was morbidly obese. I couldn’t even admit to myself let alone my parents that I was gay and I fought and prayed as hard as I could to change my own destiny.
If you ask me how I made it through the ages of 16-25 the only answer that is applicable is the grace of God and a realization that he had a purpose for me to be here. This involved losing 150+ pounds, having reconstructive surgery afterwards, leaving home and going to college and landing a job. I found therapists who helped me work through many things and only after five years of therapy and years of fighting to be straight was I able to admit to myself that I was in fact gay. My furious denial somehow for so many years had somehow led to acceptance. People ask me about this time of my life and I honestly tell them I don’t actually think that today, given the same circumstances that I could do those years over again (well maybe I could but not on my own that’s for sure!)
Over time I came out to dear friends and my brother, all of whom accepted me for exactly who I was, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell the two folks who were arguably the most important people in my life. Although I saw them frequently and all appeared to be normal there was always a tension on my side, and I think they could sense something was up. My father would tell me how proud he was of me which would make me cringe because in the back of my mind I thought ‘yeah, if you only knew ‘. I struggled, in therapy as to when and how to tell them and given their beliefs and some of those remarks I had heard my father say. When news came that same sex marriage was legalized in Canada my father scoffed ‘that it was biblically and morally wrong’.
So the years continued on it was never the right time. Then on July 3 2013 I sat in London and read your story. As mentioned I spent the next twelve hours writing and rewriting the most important note of my life. Knowing that your story would absolutely resonate with my parents I cut and pasted it at the end of my email. I told them to have a read and I would call them when I returned to the country. The email had been written and I mulled over it for a day and finally pressed send around 6pm on July 4 – Independence Day! I then shut my email off for the next 18 hours as I couldn’t deal with whatever their response was good or bad. As the next day went on I finally turned on my email there were a few notes from both of my parents. The first was a message from my mom, as follows:
Mom: It must be a great weight off your broad shoulders. Not that I didn’t know already. I-we knew you would tell us when the time was right. You father has sent an e-mail, which expresses my sentiments as well. Rest assured we both love you with all our hearts and always will.
And then from my dad:
My Dearest Son Devin:
I would like to start this e-mail by saying that if I could select a son based on who you are and what you have accomplished in your short lifetime; I would have no trouble in choosing as I always have: You number 1. I am so proud of you and all the qualities you possess and I always wish you well in all your life’s endeavors and I support you always in all your choices.
You are a beautiful human being and we love you always. I have wondered over the last few years if you might be gay and mom has said she believed you were. The jury was out for me and I wasn’t totally convinced. Actually I asked your brother some time ago and she said she had asked you and you said no.. However mom didn’t agree. She felt you might be. A mother and son have a bond that is beyond a doubt; as close as any one could be, and you and her have that bond.
You and your mate and friends will always be loved and welcomed in your home as you always have. Your Christian walk is essentially extremely important in your life and always maintain it please. The Bible is our guide, but also an interpretation by more men. God is loving and loves you as a Gay person, just as much as if you were straight. I think we are judged as a human being by the way you treat your fellow man, not by whether you procreate or not.
I know in the past I have felt that being Gay may be wrong, biblically and morally, but I have become wise, more mature,
educated and realize that it is not a choice and that you are born who you are: a very beautiful person. You are always loved forever. I again at the risk of repeating myself would like to say how PROUD I AM OF YOU!! and who you are.
All my love
The response from my father was one of the most emotional and heartfelt things that he has ever said or done for me. If I was asked to draft a response that I would have wanted after I told them I couldn’t have actually have written it better myself. There is zero question that reading your recount of your time with Ryan that it absolutely put things in a perspective that dad could understand. It also helped me find the strength and the words that I had so desperately looking for so very long. And now a new journey begins!
The Lord works in mysterious ways. Thank you for your strength and courage in telling your story and also your love and compassion for people in general (kind of like Jesus, don’t you think?) There is no question that God has answered your prayers and you are probably helping others in more ways then you can possibly know.
God bless you both! Lots of love,
Learn more about the Robertsons and their beloved son, Ryan, at Because He Breathes
Devin’s letter reprinted with his permission. Some names have been changed.
Photo: Flickr/Open City