Horribly sad story of a mom who regrets how she handled her now-dead son’s coming-out

A real blockbuster of a piece by Linda Robertson over at Huffington Post, published a bit over a week ago. She’s a mom who accepted her 12 year old son coming out to her as gay, but only just. She proceeded to talk to him, as a Christian mom, about how he needed to follow Jesus, and how embracing his sexuality was not an option.

Ryan ended up in a downward spiral that led to, drugs, including crack and heroin, made him suicidal, and then led to his death from a heroin overdose at the age of 20.

It’s a horrible story. And includes a photo of the mom kissing her presumably-brain-dead son in the hospital before saying goodbye to him for good (anyone who’s been through one of these will immediately recognize the photo).


The mom now works on HIV/AIDS issues, and she and her husband spoke at the final Exodus International conference on June 20, 2013 – this was the day Exodus renounced “ex-gay therapy” and closed its doors for good.  First, a snippet of what the mom told her 12 year old son when he came out to her:

We said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say:

We love you. We will always love you. And this is hard. Really hard. But we know what God says about this, so you are going to have to make some really difficult choices.

We love you. We couldn’t love you more. But there are other men who have faced this same struggle, and God has worked in them to change their desires. We’ll get you their books; you can listen to their testimonies. And we will trust God with this.

We love you. We are so glad you are our son. But you are young, and your sexual orientation is still developing. The feelings you’ve had for other guys don’t make you gay. So please don’t tell anyone that you are gay. You don’t know who you are yet. Your identity is not that you are gay; it is that you are a child of God.

We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is not an option.

Clearly, from the rest of the story, the parents now get it.  But, as they note, it’s now too late:

[W]e lost the ability to love our gay son, because we no longer had a gay son. What we had wished for, prayed for, hoped for — that we would not have a gay son — came true. But not at all in the way we had envisioned.

Now, when I think back on the fear that governed all my reactions during those first six years after Ryan told us he was gay, I cringe as I realize how foolish I was. I was afraid of all the wrong things. And I grieve, not only for my oldest son, whom I will miss every day for the rest of my life, but for the mistakes I made. I grieve for what could have been, had we been walking by faith instead of by fear. Now, whenever Rob and I join our gay friends for an evening, I think about how much I would love to be visiting with Ryan and his partner over dinner. But instead, we visit Ryan’s gravestone. We celebrate anniversaries: the would-have-been birthdays and the unforgettable day of his death. We wear orange, his color. We hoard memories: pictures, clothing he wore, handwritten notes, lists of things he loved, tokens of his passions, recollections of the funny songs he invented, his Curious George and baseball blankey, anything, really, that reminds us of our beautiful boy, for that is all we have left, and there will be no new memories. We rejoice in our adult children, and in our growing family as they marry, but we ache for the one of our “gang of four” who is missing. We mark life by the days B.C. (before coma) and A.D. (after death), because we are different people now; our life was irrevocably changed in a million ways by his death.

Here are a series of photos of Ryan, from birth to death, that his parents have posted on Vimeo:

And here’s the video from the parents’ appearance at the Exodus conference – basically they’re reading the post Linda publish at HuffPo.  I’ll give them credit for doing all they can to now right this terrible wrong.  But geez.  Be forewarned, they’re a bit too peppy-Christian at the beginning of the video.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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