Daniel Ashley Pierce was kicked out of his house for being gay. The video he secretly recorded of coming out to his parents went viral. In it, you hear one family member confess that she knew he was gay since he was a “tiny little boy,” but soon after, tells him he made a choice. “I’m going by the word of God,” she says. It isn’t long before the incident escalates and his Christian parents start calling him names. The video becomes even more difficult to watch, as the altercation turns physical.
As a parent, it’s difficult to imagine what my children could do for me to kick them out of my house. Even if they did something “against God,” I’m of the opinion that that’s between them and God. I’m here to nurture them and help them be loving, kind, and productive members of society. Not all parents feel this way.
Unfortunately, when it comes to LGBT kids, many parents draw the line. 20-40% of homeless youth, in fact, are LGBT. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 42% of the youth say that the communities in which they live are not accepting of LGBT people, 26% say their biggest problems are not finding acceptance with their families, bullying at school, and fear of being outed. They are also twice as likely as their school peers to have been physically assaulted.
Liz Dyer, the parent of a gay son, and Debi Jackson, the parent of a transgender daughter will have none of that. Both became painfully aware of how LGBT youth were treated as they faced the issues head on in their families. Neither were content to quietly provide a loving environment for their own kids, they wanted to do more. In fact, they aren’t just putting up with their kids’ idiosyncrasies; their children are their pride and joy.
“I am especially tuned in to the difficulties and challenges that LGBT people have to face and my heart is especially tender for LGBT youth who are particularly vulnerable,” said Dyer. “Over the years, since my son came out, my greatest passion has become to work to make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for LGBT people to live.”
Similarly, Jackson, whose brief, but powerful six minute speech on having a transgender daughter went viral, said, “I grew up in the South with gay friends, who weren’t treated well or accepted by their families or church.” Her compassion turned to action when her 4-year-old child told her she is a girl on the inside. “I quickly learned everything I could about what it was like to be transgender, and after facing complete rejection by most family and friends, I realized that until more of our population was educated on trans issues, that kind of rejection would never end,” Jackson said.
When two horrific news stories aired in less than a week of each other, one a murder and the other a suicide, both due to parental reaction, Jackson said, “I realized that I needed to focus on reaching parents with LGBT youth first and foremost. If parents bully their kids, [their children] won’t stand a chance at feeling confident enough to face the rest of the world.”
It was just a matter of time before Liz Dyer and Debi Jackson got together to create the Pride and Joy Campaign. Dyer had already created a blog for parents called Serendipitydodah, which she says was “created especially for open-minded Christian moms who have LGBT kids and want to develop and maintain healthy, loving, authentic relationships with them.” The corresponding private Facebook group currently has more than 250 members. Anyone can join by contacting Dyer at [email protected] and typing “Mom’s Facebook Group” in the subject line.
It was in this group that the idea for a Pride and Joy Campaign first emerged. Members of the group were invited to share photos of their kids and tell the group why their kids were their pride and joy. “The event was a huge success,” said Dyer, “and we ended up sharing pictures and stories with one another about our kids and what they mean to us.” The event revealed a passion from the moms for all LGBT kids, which caused Dyer to think about how they might reach more people. “I heard Debi Jackson say that she was trying to put together a campaign to educate and support parents,” Dyer continued. “I approached Debi and we ended up working together to create the Pride and Joy Campaign.”
The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness that LGBT youth have great qualities, which should make their families proud; to raise money for The Trevor Project, a leading organization of suicide prevention for LGBT youth; and to educate and support parents on LGBT issues through groups like Serendipitydodah and Trans-parenting.com. “I want all parents, who find out that a child of their’s is part of the LGBT spectrum, to stop and think about all of the good things that child has to offer,” said Jackson. “I understand that LGBT issues can be confusing, scary, or even go against long-held personal or religious beliefs, but that child was loved and valued before coming out as LGBT, and there is no reason that love and value should be diminished.”
The Pride and Joy Campaign was intentionally set up to run during the holiday months. “We particularly chose to run the campaign in November and December because the holidays can be particularly stressful for young people, who feel isolated from their school friends during the winter break and/or without a family that accepts them for who they are,” said Dyer. Drawing attention to the Trevor Project helps young people, who are particularly susceptible to depression and suicide during this time, reach out for help.
The Pride and Joy Campaign offers a simple and tangible way to help parents begin to work through acceptance of their LGBT children. Dyer said, “We would love for our supporters to get personally involved by taking a photo of themselves with a ‘Pride and Joy’ sign.” While parents may need to work up to the place of allowing it to be posted to the website, simply writing down what makes their children their pride and joy and having a picture reminds them of all the great qualities that make their children unique and lovable for simply being who they are.
People can support the Pride and Joy Campaign by Liking it on Facebook, sharing the Serendipitydodah and Trans-Parenting.com websites with parents or family members looking for support, and donating to The Trevor Project.
Photo – Flickr/Nanny&Poppa