Rob and Kathryn
Q: Let's start out and talk about your family. What about being the perfect family? How does religion play a part in that?
A: : Well, people would comment that we seemed to be a perfect family. And we had four children in five years, and so they were all close together. And then six years later we had Eric; he is our gay child. And so this group of two brothers and two sisters who were very smart and out there and very religious. And doing everything right. This sort of set the tone that we were a perfect family.
I remember once a neighbor walking by our house and we were outside, and she said, "Are your children listening to that rock music?" I said yes. She said, I didn't think your children listened to music like that. And I said, What do you think they listen to? And she said, well, I thought maybe Beethoven. So, that's you know the feeling that we had. And it was sort of uncomfortable for us because we didn't think we were perfect. I think that how religion might have played into that is that we really were seen as living all the commandments. With four children, all went on missions, and they seemed to do everything right. Would you agree?
Q: Describe Eric and his childhood.
Rob: Eric, being the last of our five children, was a very delightful child. Very outgoing, happy, fun to be around; the kids all loved him. He was different in some ways, but nevertheless he was just a delight to have as a small child. And as he grew up, he just kind of continued that way. And liked him, relatives liked him, his neighborhood liked him. He was well liked in other words. And so we just enjoyed him essentially.
Kathryn: His teachers really liked him.
Rob: Yeah, he was a teacher pleaser.
Kathryn: I think because he had all these older, he lived with adults. So, he....
Rob: Yes, he was six years younger than the next child in our family. And that's a disadvantage in some ways because you have five, or four high powered older brothers and sisters. All of whom have much to say, a lot to say about everything. Trying to find equal time at the dinner table to say anything was really a challenge. So, Eric had to struggle trying to say things that he wanted to say. As he grew older, he was able to say them. But, nevertheless the kids are very close to one and other. And you can see in our pictures, for example, how they all loved him and liked to hold him when he was little and play with him. And do all those kinds of things.
Q: You mentioned a minute ago, and in your letter that you felt he was different. Would you explain that? And how being different impacted his childhood and/or adolescence, or did it?
Rob: Yes, Eric was different in several ways from the other children. And since we had two other sons, that we could draw some comparison, we noticed things about him and his behavior that were different. Do you want to describe some of those things?
Kathryn: One of the first things was that he engaged in an atypical gender play. I found out that's what you call it now.
Rob: That's a fifty dollar phrase.
Kathryn: But he was always dressing up in my high heels. And finding my purses and my jewelry and putting scarves on. And we thought it was kind of cute, you know, ecause we had never seen this. I had never seen this ever. And I took childhood development at the U. and watched in the nursery school and everything. And I never saw anything like this. Then it began to disturb me as it kept going on. And I didn't want to ever make him feel there was anything wrong with it. So, I didn't ever say anything to him, but I would hide my shoes and, you know, quietly take the beads off of him and this sort of thing. But, that was the first clue.
Kathryn: You know, but we didn't think anything unusual. Possibly because he was an artist. And we thought artist were different. And I was teaching school. From the time he was in second grade, I began teaching. And my whole philosophy was to accept individual differences and to help people become the best they could and not try to make everyone the same. And so, my whole bias was in that direction. And he asked me once, recently, you know, Mother why didn't you notice how miserable I was in Junior High and High School? And I said, well you know, I thought that artist suffered. I thought you were suffering because you were an artist. What did I know. And he laughed his hearty laugh, and said, Oh, that's it, that explains it.
Rob: Well, and in regard to the atypical gender behavior, we have since read studies or had studies pointed out to us that the atypical gender play, especially as it relates to dressing up in a Mother's clothes and so on, has a seventy-five percent predictive quality that points to homosexuality. So, this is one of the things that they can use to either predict or to determine homosexuality. So, it has been scientifically studied and shown to be the case.
Q: So, when did Eric finally come out to you and what was your response?
Rob: Well, that was really kind of a slow process. As we became aware of Eric's differences and so on.
Kathryn: And his struggles. Rob: And his struggles, we could see how he was struggling. And how painful school was in many ways. And how painful going to church was, because he was made to feel uncomfortable by many of the kids. Though he was not overtly ridiculed or harassed or persecuted physically. But we could see that he wasn't happy. And this was a really great concern to us because we hadn't seen this in any of our other children. And so, we were really quite dumbfounded how to deal with this.
Kathryn: Well, it was when he was at the University that he began to, we began to suspect. Up until that time we were in denial; we saw these signs but we sort of thought, if we don't even entertain this thought it can't happen.
Rob: It'll just go away.
Kathryn: We couldn't believe it could happen to our child. You know, he was so bright and so good, why would he choose to be one of them? And he had a girlfriend in college with whom he talked, and she said, Eric, this is just Satan tempting you and if, you can overcome this. And he was so relieved. He thought, I can handle that, I am disciplined. I can overcome this. So, there was this intense year or so, of what I would call really pious behavior.
Rob: Very pious. Bible studies on the weekend. Fasting, praying, all this kinds of things. In a hope to overcome, the tendencies.
Kathryn: And it, it didn't work.
Q: You were getting to the point, where he did come out to you and let's talk about that.
Rob: Okay. Well, it was quite a period of time between our first observance of Eric being gay and his actually formally telling us that he was. As a matter of fact, one of his sisters with whom he lived in California while he was going school, she was practicing pharmacy. She mentioned it to us. Well, she just kind of blurted it out: "Well, you knew, you know of course, Eric's gay, don't you?" And that was our first concise admission of the fact that he was gay.
But, it wasn't until he was twenty-two years old, we were in California and he said, "There's something I want to talk with you about." And he was really cute about it' he made a reservation at one of the beautiful restaurants up on the hill in LA. We went up there, and we sat down at this table. And he proceed to describe, he said, "I need to tell you that I am attracted to men."
And that's the way he told it to us. And it was not a shock because we already kind of knew. But, making it official made it kind of shocking, because now we have to deal with it on his terms. He had, he's the one who defines it, tells it to us, and then we have to deal with it on his terms. The result was that it kind of made us go into the closet. He came out, and we went in. It was because we thought that we were the only parents who had a gay son. We'd had no friends that we knew of who had gay children.
Kathryn: We didn't know any gay people at all. We didn't think we did. And we went into a period of grief. Really, a loss of expectations. W never, ever withdrew our love from Eric. When he told us, this evening in this restaurant, he said, "I don't believe I'm an evil person." And tears, came down his cheeks. And we knew he wasn't evil, that he wasn't the kind of person that society had described to us as a gay person. He was the same wonderful son, we had always known and loved. But, we really didn't know how to help him or even help ourselves.
Rob: Well, we didn't even know what it was. When somebody describes their sexuality in terms of a son being attracted to men, it's just totally foreign to us. And to me particularly as a heterosexual male, it is so foreign as to be quite upsetting. To even come to grips with the idea.
And so, we began to realize that we knew our son well, we knew what kind of a person he was. We knew that he was pure and clean and in his thoughts and in his actions. And yet, he was a homosexual. In, innately in his orientation. And so we compared that to what society was saying about homosexuals, and we realized that there was a huge gap between what society says and what we observed in our own son. And this prompted us to say, well we better start looking into this and try to study this. And try to find out really what's going on. So, that really led us into quite a pursuit of study and investigation.
Kathryn: And he's the one who helped us. He sent us books and he's the one who got in touch with people; he called national PFLAG and found a small support group in Salt Lake that we went to. That was the first time we ever publicly said, before nine people, "We have a son who is gay." And you can't imagine how difficult that was. And this was a hard period, because we were isolated.
There's a conspiracy of silence, nobody wants to talk about this. And we didn't want to talk about it, we didn't know anybody who wanted to hear about it. And it was difficult. It took a toll. I had a heart attack. And nobody in the hospital could figure out why I was there. This one male nurse just kept saying, "I don't know why you're here. We've got to figure out what's causing this. You're not overweight, you know, you don't smoke or drink, you're not old enough. What is it?" And I realized then, that I had been wanting to die. I had really, pretty much given up, you know I just thought, this is too hard.
And then I realized I didn't want to die and that I was going to find out about this, and I was going to use whatever time I had left to help people like me. Because nobody else would help us, we were going to help each other.
Rob: In addition to that, I'd like to say that this formal announcement caused a real difficulty as far as our marriage was concerned. Women do not react to homosexuality the way heterosexual males do. And you really begin to see a great difference in the sexual natures of people when you get into a problem like this. And so, this created some problems between us. And we finally realized that we were having to deal with something that may have been very powerful and something we need to be very careful about.
And so, we started to come together and study the situation. And we became involved happily with a group called, "The Fourth Sunday Study Group," which consisted of a licensed clinical social worker, a college professor who had a brother who was gay, and some other people. We met on Sunday once a month and reviewed the research. Everybody would come prepared with a different piece of research, and we began to study these and think about them. And this lead after a period of months, to decide on holding a conference on homosexuality at the University of Utah. And that's when the first conference was held up there, co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Work, by this group of people, in 1993.
Q: And that became Family Fellowship?
Kathryn: Yes, some of the parents from that decided that we should form a group that would be gay-friendly. We would be willing to be kind to gays, and we didn't agree on that. Rob didn't want me to...
Kathryn: ...to go to it. He didn't want me to be on the board he.. You know it was a problem.
Rob: Well, this is something that I felt that this is something the church ought to be doing. Our church ought to be reaching out and helping our gay children. There's a significant group; they're a talented group. They should be receiving help from the resources of the church. And I thought that having another organization, setting up another organization was in a sense in opposition to what the church should be doing in my mind. But, I realize that there was so many LDS parents who had gay children that there needed to be a place and a way of LDS parents coming together, sharing their experiences, giving support to one and other, and so on. And so this eventually evolved into what is known as Family Fellowship.
Kathryn: He wouldn't want to come, and he would keep saying, "Oh, you're doing this...." But he would gradually start, and he said, I just love these people. And that's what we found, that we came to love each other and need each other. We're all reluctant activists. We didn't want to do anything, but I just didn't feel comfortable turning my back on people. And when people come up to me and throw their arms around me and say you have saved my life. And I know that they weren't suicidal or anything, but they didn't feel like they could go on. And I can do that: I can be there for them. I can love them. I can share with them and make them feel safe. And this is something I can do, and I am happy to do it.
Rob: We both are.
Q: Rob, I'd like to back track a little. When you were talking about how as a heterosexual male and father it was difficult for you, can you explain that to me a little bit more?
Rob: It's hard for me to admit that being a heterosexual male is a problem. One of the things that's really been a significant piece of learning is the fact that my sexuality really differs from her sexuality. And it really differs from our gay son's sexuality. I just have a natural aversion to homosexuality in terms of behavior, and that gets in the way of understanding the phenomenon and dealing with the person--a person that I love, very much and admire and want to be close to.
And so, being a heterosexual male is a disadvantage in a way, because there are natural feelings that get in the way. And I see this occurring also in homosexuals. Their feelings kind of get in the way of accepting heterosexuality. And that may be one of the reasons that they are homosexual the way they are. So, I just happened to realize this at one time, and realize that I was part of the problem of our understanding this whole thing. And it's taken some time to try to come to grips with that, to answer it, and to deal with it.
Q: Kathryn did you want to make a comment about that?
Kathryn: Well, it caused strain in our relationship, because I was reacting differently. My whole attitude was this is our child we love him. Let's not do anything or say anything that will cause him anymore trouble and anguish then he's already felt. Because we did feel some guilt because we weren't really there for him during all those difficult years. We just were not accessible to him, he didn't trust us with this information because we were so religious. And he knew what we expect of him, and he knew he could never be that. And so, we weren't there for him.
I felt that we've got to make sure, for we had lost a daughter a year before, and I just thought that I am not going to lose another child. And that we've got to keep him alive as well as possible and help him. And I couldn't believe the things that Rob was saying to him, and he's the kindest person in the world, but he didn't realize how he was hurting his son. And so, it got to the point where I just said, we can't talk about this. I couldn't, we couldn't even talk to each other. Talk about isolation.
Rob: Well, these were very natural expressions on my part. This is the way I really felt. This is the way I honestly felt. In order to have some integrity for myself, I felt like I ought to be at least conveying to my son how I truly felt about this. And yet, it was so extremely hurtful. And I am so embarrassed over some of the things I said. When I knew for example that he was loaded up in the car, they were ready to go to California, and he's going to school and so on.
And I realized that
he was living in an apartment house where there were several other gay
people, living there and so on. I said, well Eric, if you're going to
associate with these people, I don't see how I can possibly support you
at school. I would love to able to take those words back. And I have confessed
to him my horror over ever having said that to him, realizing that it
was a terribly egregious kind of a thing to say. And he told me that he
forgave me, and so that doesn't make it go away entirely.
Q: What happened to change your attitude? Because you're not the person you described.
Rob: Well, we studied a lot to help change our attitudes. And ah,..
Kathryn: And we met a lot of gay people..
Rob: Yes, and we allowed ourselves to meet people. We didn't allow ourselves, we want to meet people.
Kathryn: And we associated with them socially, and went to fireside with them. And we discovered our common humanity. That we're all so much more alike than we are different, and we were pleasantly surprised to find out how many wonderful, wonderful gay people there are. I think Rob began to feel that I had felt in the beginning that he was choosing the church over our child. And at the first I didn't see how he could reconcile the church and my child. You feel like you've got to choose one or the other. And that was a painful period.
Rob: Well, the reason for that is because unfortunately there had been statements made by responsible people in the church that were in our point of view, after studying for ten to twelve years about this subject were incorrect. But they created a lot of harm, a lot of hurt. And this hurt of course and is what caused our son to be alienated from the church. And I think he became alienated from me because I kind of represented the church as being the head of the house and so on.
But I hasten to add, that we really socialized all of our children to be heterosexuals. We held up the ideal of temple marriage, and we didn't even accept the possibility of there being anything other than heterosexuality. We didn't even use the term, we didn't even realize the significance of the term. And so, I began to see that there were some real gaps in what was being said about this, what I saw in my son, and what I read in the literature and in the studies.
Q: Let's talk about some of those messages from the church and your reaction to those messages.
Robb: Well, fortunately there is no clear-cut statement coming from the church which defines homosexuality. But the leaders of the church have devised policies regarding the handling of the phenomenon. And we do not consider these doctrinal policies. There are the scriptures, and the scriptures that are used to deal with this talk about the desirability or undesirability of the behavior relating to homosexuality. But we resolve it in the fact that we believe that our Father in Heaven loves all children. Loves everyone. We believe He understands the diversity better than we do, far better.
And we see teachings in the life of Christ that suggest that we should be accepting people like the Parables of the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Talents. And many of the teaching of Christ suggest that we should accept people who are significantly different from us. So, we do not feel that it is our responsibility to determine what constitutes valid or invalid behavior. That's our religion's responsibility. We respect their right to this responsibility. But, we have some very strong feelings about cause and other kinds of things that help us to bridge the gap, so to speak, between what has been said and what we see is happening.
Kathryn: One thing that has influenced me is that one of most enduring images of the New Testament is that of the Savior as the good shepherd. And we see him with his sheep, you know, in his arms, and he's gone out to find the lost sheep. And he says to one of his apostles, you know at this spot, he says "Do you love me?" And the apostle says, "You know I do," and he said, "Then feed my sheep." And he said that three times, I believe. And so we have this image of Christ as a loving, caring, reaching out to all people.
And then it's very difficult when you see most of the Christian religions with a different image. I mean there the shepherds are driving away the sheep. And this is disturbing to me. And I just choose to believe that God and Jesus are the shepherd who seek out the sheep. And that's the image I go by.
Rob: Well, we believe in the inherit goodness of our church. We believe all Christian churches have goodness. And we believe that there is goodness inherit in our church and a strong desire to be helpful to people. Help people all over the world in in need, various kinds of kinds, and so on. And so, we believe, truly, that there is a good feeling towards all people.
In fact, when Elder Dallen Oaks wrote an article for the Ensign in 1995, he explicitly stated, one statement goes like this, he said, "Many general authorities are asked whether or not there's a place in the church for homosexuals." And he said, "Of course there is." And there is also a comment in the article about how we should treat people with HIV and those who have acquired AIDS. And he said, "We should reach out to these people and help them. Sustain them. Nurture them. We should make them feel comfortable in our congregations." That's the statement. That's the statement of intent. And we believe in that, the goodness of that intent. But, in practice, what is really happening is our gay children are being alienated. They do not feel that the church wants them to be part of it.
Q: Some people would ask, why do you stay in the church then? With such mixed messages as you were talking about? Why don't you just leave?
Kathryn: Well, we're asked a lot by our friends who are other denominations you know, why do...
Rob: Why do you stay? Why do you put up with this?
Kathryn: Why don't you, why don;t you just walk away? And they use the idea that healthy people do not stay in abusive relationships, and in a way this is an abusive relationship. Our children have been made to feel unwelcome and sometimes we as parents wonder if there's a place for us in the church. And this is difficult because we're fourth generation Mormon. It's almost in our DNA. You know, it really is. I only think Mormon understand that.
Rob: We believe it with all our hearts, that the reason you stay is because of your own personal belief. Your own personal convictions. And our conviction is such that we just can't give that up; it's just too powerful in our lives. But, at the same time, we feel that there is a real mission to be accomplished in reaching out and helping people who are not appreciate or looked upon in favor.
Kathryn: And I don't think that I need permission from my ecclesiastical leaders to be kind. I don't think that that should be a problem. I can't image somebody saying you're just being too kind. Now, sometimes people have said that by accepting gays and lesbians and being their friend and trying to champion their civil rights and expressing the idea that they should have the same dignity and and right in this free land as every other citizen. That somehow I am promoting evil. But, I don't feel that way. I don't see how being kind to people is any problem to me.
And I might say that Eric recognizes one the reasons that he is the person he is, is because of the influence of his religion, which teaches people to be generous and unselfish and to reach out and help people and be compassionate. And sometimes his friends will say to him, "You know, you just have too high expectations of people. People aren't going to be unselfish and kind like you think they should be." And he counters by saying, "You're wrong. I was raised in a whole culture of people like this. All my relatives are unselfish and kind. My whole faith and community teaches this. And there's a place where people are like this and he's proud of that. He defends the church even though doesn't feel there's a place in it for him anymore. But we're grateful for the influence of the church on us and our children.
Rob: Well, in addition to that, some people think that because we associate with homosexuals and that we try to help people that have homosexual children and something like this, that we are promoting homosexuality. Homosexuality is not promotable. It is a phenomenon. It's a natural phenomenon. It's not something we can deal with and create or change.
Kathryn: That would be like promoting blue eyes. You know, or right handedness. You don't have any affect over that. I just don't think people understand that even though they don't like homosexuality, it's here and it always will be. Because heterosexual people have homosexual children. It's just a fact of life. Whether people like it or not.
Rob: I'd like to read a couple of quotes. Part of our studies have led us to a book which was focusing on the biological foundations of homosexuality or same sex attraction. Some of the people who are quoted by writers and so on like William Bind and Dean Haymer of the National Institutes of Health. And Jon Money, who has studied sexuality for decades. In a statement from William Bind, a short statement that says, "The legitimate literature on attempts to redirect sexual orientation suggests that not only is sexual orientation not chosen it is by and large immutable." This seems to be a consensus among most of the researcher that deal with this particular, ah issue.
I guess the basic question in the minds of most people and the thing that upsets most people is, Is homosexuality chosen? Well, we're convinced that it's not chosen. It's not chosen at all. None of the people we know that have gay children indicate that. They're all agreed upon the fact that their child did not choose to be gay. And we see that this whole feeling that we have, knowing our child is supported by some very outstanding researchers.
There is a statement in here by Joh Mooney. He's a well know sex researcher at John's Hopskin University. Jon Money said this--he was talking about whether or not you could change or cure homosexuality--and he says, "Your sexual orientation is something you've got. You've got it for good and you better get used to it." He was then asked could someone change their sexual orientation. He says, "It's simple, remove their brain." So, to him there was just no question about the fact that homosexuality was something that was unchosen and immutable.
Maybe one more quote. When Dean Haymer did his study on the genetic aspects of homosexuality he discovered a gene called XQ28. And this study has been replicated and the other researchers agree that this is a true and valid study. But, some people kept asking him about this choice issue and he said, "Can you imagine any sane, reputable biologist spending years of their life and their resources looking through chromosomes for a gene for something that's chosen?" And he goes on to indicate, "You don't study genes on aspects or traits that are chosen." That's just invalid. It's absolutely contradictory.
Kathryn: It's like trying to find a gene for being a Methodist.
Rob: Yeah, he said that it was as if, go find a gene for being a Methodist. That makes as much sense if you're going to look for something that's chosen. So, they had to literally prove it. They did a preliminary study showing that homosexuality was not chosen. And only then did they begin to look through the chromosomes. And he said, "The phenotypic fact that homosexuality is not chosen, is one of the mandatory biological preconditions to concluding there was a gene for this trait." There are other quotes but this is a sample of some of the things scientists are saying. And this convinces us that what we know about our son is valid.
Q: As I talk with people, it always comes down to the fact that the LDS church is the predominant religion here in Utah. And many people do feel, that the LDS church is persecuting people for being different. The incidences at East High. I'd like your comment on that. The fact that the church is perceived as being the persecutor.
Kathryn: Well, I think we all have to accept the fact that most contemporary Christians who find homosexuality to be immoral and they base that on their reading of certain scriptures. What most of these people would never, ever intimidate gays and lesbians or resort to violence. However, the mere fact of what they say and what they do creates a situation in our culture wherewe have a cultural permission, if you will, to discriminate against this people. And we see that in the fact that we couldn't have a gay-straight alliance at East High. We can't have sexual orientation covered in the anti-discrimination suit in employment, you know, in our city council. And you have to wonder why are we taking away these people's civil rights? Just because we don't like them.
And so what happens is you have this cultural climate that gives permission to be prejudiced. Even though you deny that you are and you say, I love the sinner, but I hate the sin, which is really bromide to make to get you off the hook. So, I don't have any responsibility for this, because I love all these people. I don't want them to be safe, you know I don't want them to be happy, I'm more comfortable if they're miserable. But I don't hate them. But then is this a climate in which you have deranged people and people who are not very stable, and they act on these things. And that's where the acts of violence come about.
And then, of course, everyone says that we're not responsible for that. This is same situation as in the Holocaust in Germany. You know there was a basis for anti-Semitism in the Bible, and that never could have happened if people hadn't gone along with it. And even though they didn't pull the trigger so to speak, they're not blameless. And so, this is a concern to me. And ah, it is a very large concern to me, because I am LDS and I'm an active LDS and I want to be. It's important to me, and I hate to see my religion being used to take away the right of other people. I think that's wrong.
I think there should be a separation between church and state. And whenever you step over that, you're heading down the path to Northern Ireland, to Bosnia, to Israel. You name it, we have examples all around us, of where people think that they've created God in their own image. And you know you've done that when God all of the sudden hates all the people you hate. And then you feel very comfortable. And I think this is what the perception is and it's born out by an experience I had recently talking with an East High student who went to the protest meeting before the Salt Lake City School Board. I think it was called "Free Our Clubs;" they wanted to have their clubs back because ironically all of the clubs are gone except the Gay Straight Alliance, he one they wanted to get rid of.
Rob: Except the Key Club.
Kathryn: So they wanted to get their clubs back, and this individual spoke at the rally. And she was harassed by people afterwards; a friend actually called her up and said, Well, what religion do you belong to? And she said, I think I'm a Christian. But the idea was very explicit that she could not be an LDS person and support the rights of gays and lesbians to have a safe school situation. That justice for all didn't apply in this case.
And I was sorry to to hear this is disheartening, because I don't think LDS people are unkind. I don't think LDS people condone violence, and they don't want kids in high school to be harassed and dropping out of school. They're very uncomfortable with that. But they need to speak up.
Rob: Well, I think part of the problem comes from a misunderstanding. I think persecution is often borne out of ignorance. And part of the ignorance is based on the statement that homosexuality is evil. Well, homosexuality isn't any more evil than heterosexuality is evil. They're both different facets of our sexuality. And while behavior may be defined as expressed behavior may be defined as evil, or so on. Nevertheless, it's wrong to say homosexuality is evil, in and of itself. That is not true. And yet, it's a belief that's held by many people in our community. And they relate, as soon as they hear homosexuality, they immediately conjure up in their minds this terrible evil.
Kathryn: Well, they jump right to pedophilia and rape.
Rob: Which is.. no relationship.
Kathryn: One of the city council members on television said, "Well we can't fire a person who is a pedophile or a rapist because they're gay. We can=t have an ordinance like that." You know, these are criminal act. Pedophilia and rape are criminal acts. Nobody is defending criminal behavior. But, they jump right to that. And then of course, the great fear is that if you allow children to know that there's such a thing as homosexuality it will be irresistible.
I heard a senator on television say, "Well, if we tell the children in school that there is such a thing of homosexuality, it will be end of our race; we'll be wiped out." Everyone will become a homosexual just like that. And of course we'll have no more children and all these dire predictions of doom. And of course people love to feel that it's something caught. You know, if you know a homosexual you'll become one. If you have a homosexual teacher, you'll become homosexual. Our child had all heterosexual children. All of Eric's teachers were heterosexual, for all we know. He certainly thought they were. And they did not have any effect on his sexuality.
Q: So, what is your hope then for the future? For the church?
A: Well, my hope is that we can all understand that maybe God is going to punish gays and lesbians in the next world. I don't know. Maybe they're going to suffer terribly. But I don't think we should get a head start on all that and decide, oh yeah, why don't we start right now. And let's make them suffer now. Let's put them in hell right now, so to speak. I don't think that's right.
Rob: Well, my big hope for the church is that they will begin to accept the results of scientific research. And if they do, I'm sure that their policies will be modified and so, we hold out the hope that, in fact, even Brother Oaks in his article said that he realized that the scientific study of homosexuality was in its infancy. And so he opened himself and, as far as I am concerned, opened the church to accept research as it comes. So, we believe that there is a preponderance of research already out there that could easily form the basis for modify some of the policies that the church has. This is part of the hope that we have.
We're not ashamed to talk about this. We've talked to our local bishop about this, and we've talked to many of our friends who are church leaders and so on. In fact, amazingly, many of the friends that we have who have gay children are church leaders. We have friends who are bishops who have gay sons. And we have people who have served in mission presidencies, who have served in temple presidencies, and some of them are serving in the temples even now as temple workers. Some of them hold significant positions in their church in their areas. They have gay children. These are people we know and love.
And so, we feel that as people get to know us, hopefully they will like what they hear from us as we speak about it and realize that we mean very sincerely what we say when we say that our son did not choose to be gay. And we hope that all people can realize the impact of this.
Kathryn: One thing I might say, is I think the Church leaders have a tendency to formulate policies, and they base them on scriptures and what former presidents and prophets have said and so forth. And then they say this is the way it is. And then they turn away and then don't want to talk about it anymore. And they do not see the wreckage that going on. And we're told that we judge a tree by its fruits, and the fruits of this policy are very bitter.
I mean there's such pain--you can not believe the pain that people are suffering. Families are being torn apart, marriages are breaking up, parents are becoming ill from struggling with it, and there's a hemorrhaging of talent and ability. Particularly since the church has been entering into the political area. You know stepping over the line. Where they're using their power and influence and their money to fund attempts to provide equal rights, which I don't consider special rights. I don't think that my son would be treated any differently than his heterosexual brothers and sisters. Just the same rights that's all. And particularly when the church began donating money. That was very upsetting to a lot of parents.
I might say also that our work in Family Fellowship a lot of it is to try to talk people into staying in the church, try to keep them in the church, and help them to see that they can stay in the church.
Rob: And keep their families together. Keep their kids close to them.
Kathryn: And build bridges, that's what we're really about. We don't attempt to change the church.
Last autumn on the very day that Mathew Shephard died, I was preparing a dinner for some friends with whom we've associated every month for over forty years. And it was such shocking news to me that I didn't even know how I was going to get through the evening at all. And then, at a dining room table one of our close dear friends made a statement, just a little flippant remark. And it was so upsetting to me that I had to leave the table, and I finished my dinner in the kitchen. And didn't know whether I was going to get through the rest of the evening, but we did and nothing was said. I mean you can't get up and leave your home. So, we were sort of trapped.
The next day I was talking with Eric about it. And he said, "Oh, I can't believe you Mother, at your dining room table?" And he said, "You shouldn't have to put up with things like that." And I said well I am sure he didn't mean much by it. Well, we hung up and within five minutes the person who had said it called me, because Eric had called him in California and said, "You owe my mother an apology." And he had said to Eric, "I just didn't think." And Eric replied, "Well, you should start thinking." And ah, when this friend attempted to apologize, he said something more egregious. He said, "I know that Eric choose that lifestyle." And I said, "No, no, he didn't, and I can't talk to you." And then, of course, he felt even worse and in our conversations with him he said, "You know, I just don't know very much about this." And Rob said to him...
Rob: Well, I said for example, "We feel responsible for putting you in a position of not really knowing how we feel about this or what we have learned about this. We feel that it was kind of a trap for you not to realize that that would be such an egregious thing to us." So, I said, "I would like to prepare." In fact, we were preparing some information that we want to send to you and we'll send to all of our friends so they will become aquatinted with our story, with what we know. And so they won't find themselves in an embarrassing situation like this again. We really truly felt responsible for putting him in a bad situation.
And so, we did. We wrote a letter explaining everything we could think of about Eric and so on. And then we gathered together several pieces of information that we put in a packet, an envelope, including a hand-out by the American Psychological Association that talks about all of these questions. And so...
we sent them to one hundred and thirty people. Just really close friends
and relatives who knew us personally. And the response has been amazing.
The phone began ringing the afternoon that they were delivered, and people
have come up to me in Symphony Hall, thrown their arms around me and said,
"Thank you for that information." People have jumped over benches at church
to say, "Thank you so much. I didn't know very much about this and I appreciate."
And so, we were very touched by how warm and accepting most people have
been. And this is the way that the letter started, "We are writing this
letter to you because you are important people in our lives. Long term
friends, family members, church leaders, etc. We realize that there is
a significant part of our lives, which we have not shared with you. Because
our son Eric is gay, we are very involved with issues relating to homosexuality.
The subject of homosexuality has been..."
Rob: "The subject of homosexuality has been thrust upon the national consciousness of late. In our more immediate environment, President Hinckley talked about it in conference. A gay young man was murdered in Wyoming. Students in Salt Lake City recently protested before the school board asking for their clubs back. A teacher's job is at stake in Spanish Fork because she is lesbian. A candidate for the State Legislature is targeted as unfit because she is a lesbian. This is a subject which is difficult to ignore. Most of us have an opinion about it. We would like you to know ours."
Kathryn: "We believe that the cause of homosexuality is very complex, consisting of genetic, neural biological, and hormonal factors. We believe that it is involuntary and immutable. The term lifestyle connotes choice, but neither heterosexuals nor homosexuals choose their sexuality. Many researchers have concluded that sexuality is determined at the early age of two to four years."
Rob:"We have known our son Eric was different from his brothers since he was a small child. We felt concern, but we accepted our culture's messages that homosexuality is a chosen condition caused by faulty parenting or by association with others of that persuasion. And we were confident that it couldn't happen to us and our child. We communicated through subtle messages that we did not approve of it. All of this did not prevent Eric from being gay. But it didn't prevent us from being any support or help to him."
Kathryn:"We have decided that the time has come for us to share what we have learned over the last ten years with our friends and family members. There are volumes of pertinent information and research. We were instrumental in organizing an LDS support group known as Family Fellowship, which has as its objectives keeping families together, keeping families in the church, healing relationships, and loving and serving all."
you will find some of the documents that we have collected for information
purposes. We hope that you will take the time to read and think about
this information. Please, feel free to call us with your questions and
comments. We have truly treasured our association with you through the
years and extend to you our best wishes and love.
Kathryn: It might be interesting that several people we were really concerned about sending this letter to turned out to have gay family member. That was a surprise.
Rob: They thought they were alone too. When they got this from us, they said, well we need to tell you that one of our daughters in lesbian. And of course this changed just about everything about their outlooks. But it was helpful to them to know someone else who has the same experience. And this happened more than once, didn't it? With more than one person who received the information....
Kathryn: That we had never suspected. Ever would have, because we're all hidden. Whenever you're in a group of five people and you say something anti-gay, you can be sure you've offended somebody, because they either have a family member or a close friend. So, it's just not smart to do that anymore.