Jen: Everybody, hi. It’s Jen Hatmaker. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast.
So, we have a really special bonus episode for you today. And I’m really, really glad you’re here. It’s Pride Month. And if you’ve been around me for half a second, you know that this is cause for a great celebration, and incredibly meaningful to me and to my family.
Today my guest is my daughter, Sydney. She’s in college. My community loves Sydney, and always has. And this is just a special conversation. So, Sydney is gay. And this is like a known fact in our family, and has been. This is not news, this is not new news, this is not an announcement. This is not—this has just been a part of our family, and her life, and her story. But of course, as you might imagine, I am careful, definitely careful about putting a couple of million eyeballs on any one of my kids, no matter what.
You know, Sydney and I have always talked for years on this, just, “This is your story, and you are deserving of privacy. And so until that’s something that we decide together, I’m not going to take away your right to privacy in your own life. It’s not your fault that your mom’s got a bunch of people that listen to her.” But that time has come. And so I’ve told Sydney for quite a while, I’m like, “I want to make sure that you know that I am not ashamed of you. You are not a secret to me. And whenever you’re ready, whenever you want to talk to my community about your life and your story, the microphone is yours. Like, this is not a secret. You are not a secret. I am proud of you. I’m proud of who you are, proud of exactly where you are going, and what makes you you.” So, this was the year that Sydney said, “Yeah, I think that it’s time. I think it’s time to say it.” And she’s just such a stunning human being.
And so, today is really special. She and I worked on this interview, and we put this together. So, this is Sydney’s story in her words. And I hope that it serves you well, and I hope that you listen. And I hope that you learn, and I hope that you can forgive us our tears. We did a fair amount of crying. We are who we are, people. She is my daughter. And I was really proud of her. And she’s really courageous today, and so smart, and so special, and so purposed in this world. I told her this at the end, but I just wouldn’t change one ounce of who she is. Not a molecule. Not a moment.
The only thing I would change in our story is I wish I could go back and shake myself to life sooner. Well, well, well before. I wish I could have said, “Hey, I wonder if this is a theology that you can examine just for the sake of the entire community? What are your eyes and your ears telling you about the suffering an affirming theology causes?” And we talk a lot about that. So, that’s all in here. I’m not going to steal its thunder.
But be kind to my girl today, internet. Be gentle with her. Cherish her story, cherish who she is. Keep her safe, and protected, and loved. You know, that’s our world right there, walking around. So, she’s done a big, brave thing, coming to you in this way. And I know that you will honor her. So, without any further ado, here is my beloved daughter, Sydney.
Jen: Well, I am happy to have you back on the podcast. Hi.
Sydney: Yes. Hello.
Jen: Okay, let’s just jump in. I’ve already told everybody what we’re doing here, and kind of what you and I’ve been talking about for some time, and just sort of thought This was the time, this was the moment.
So I wonder if you would be willing to walk back quite a ways, kind of toward the beginning of this part of your story? Could you talk a little bit about when you first started wondering about your own sexuality, about your own orientation? When that sort of hit your radar in some way, even in a really young way, how old were you? And do you remember kind of what you were thinking and feeling at the time?
Sydney: Yeah. That was like a really intense time in my life. I mean, I started getting consciously aware of my sexuality at some point around six or seventh grade. I remember I was nervous to write it down in case somebody would see it. So, I don’t have any evidence for when exactly I started knowing, but it was sometime around there. But I usually tell people that I really kind of always knew. And I think a lot of gay and trans people have that story, where it’s like you know, it’s your own body, and it’s natural.
Jen: Right, right.
Sydney: And I think a lot of kids are just kind of cut off from their own knowing by just being raised in complete heteronormativity.
Sydney: And just not even having the option, and their families assuming they’re straight, and their kids’ movies assuming they’re straight.
Sydney: I remember having these really intense friendships that were definitely crushes, but before I even really knew that that was an option on the table. You know?
Jen: Right, right.
Sydney: So, I always knew. And that’s why I feel like the whole coming out thing is kind of antiquated, and will hopefully be over eventually.
Sydney: Just as kids are raised and able to just have as much freedom to kind of like, I don’t know, grow up and develop their sexuality as every other kid.
Sydney: And I mean, I’ve even got to see this a little bit with Remy. You know?
Sydney: I’ve been out since she was like, I don’t know, nine or ten.
Jen: Yeah, yeah.
Sydney: And even though she’s really goofy about it, she’s always been like, “I don’t know if I’m gay or not yet.”
Sydney: Like, “I don’t have crushes yet, I don’t know.”
Jen: Right, right.
Sydney: Like, “We’ll see.”
Sydney: And it’s just so cool to see that, and be like, God, the amount of heartache that would have been able to be prevented if I could have just done that. You know?
Jen: Yeah. Sure.
Sydney: I remember trying to make myself have crushes on boys, and talking about it with my friends when I was like twelve.
Jen: Yeah. But your crushes were always really fake. They were like, “I have a crush on Ed Sheeran.” I’m like, “Do you?”
Sydney: Oh my God.
Jen: Like, uttered to people.
Sydney: I remember the one…
Sydney: …the one fabricated crush I had in sixth grade was this kid named Dawson. And he asked me out and I lied, and said that I wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. And then I would use that for drama and attention for a little bit. But we both ended up gay, so.
Jen: Oh, weird! You found each other in the wild!
Sydney: I guess it was a little bit pretend for him, too. So, you know, I guess that was dodged for both of us.
Jen: Well, one thing that I like about what you’re saying, which when we can switch it over to a hetero space it makes it so easy to understand, is I never had to be told that I liked boys.
Jen: That wasn’t some big moment, where it was some sort of reckoning, and, Oh, I like boys.
Jen: And now this has to be a deal. And it did start early, of course it did. I mean, I had a crush on a boy in third grade. And we were in the nurse’s office at the same time, and I tried to stay sick so I could stay in there.
Sydney: Are you serious?
Jen: Like, yes.
Sydney: That’s so cute.
Jen: Right, it was so real. So, staying back there real quickly before we move forward, sixth, seventh grade, eighth even…
Jen: …and this is probably a laundry list of stuff, but did anything feel particularly scary to you back then? What were you worried about? What was keeping you up at night?
Sydney: Well, I mean, first it was the really painful and confusing cognitive dissonance of even realizing that you might be gay. You know?
Sydney: And that knowing was always inside, but it finally coming out, and not being able to deny it anymore. And for some people, that happens when they’re forty years old.
Sydney: But for me, I was twelve. Because that was when I started, I think, seeing representation of gay people just in movies and stuff.
Sydney: And I just became even more aware of what it was. So, first of all, that was really confusing.
Sydney: And then, you know, I was such a Jesus freak. Like my whole…
Jen: You were, you were a good little Christian soldier.
Sydney: Yeah. Well, and I was always very spiritual also.
Jen: Yeah, you were.
Sydney: I remember doing my little devotionals when I was as young as like seven.
Jen: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sydney: And I grew up in youth group every week.
Sydney: You know, me and my best girlfriends in I think eighth grade literally made a Bible study, just us.
Jen: Sure, yeah. Sure.
Sydney: And so that was like my whole world. You know, I was the kid at camp who took that crap way too seriously.
Sydney: I would have gone up to the pulpit with the kids getting saved if I could have, if I wasn’t baptized in second grade.
Jen: You know I did, too.
Sydney: You did.
Jen: I got resaved every summer.
Sydney: Yeah, yeah. No, I loved all of the Jesus emotions when I was little.
Sydney: So, my first thought was like, Oh, shoot. Am I going to go to hell? And I was like twelve, you know?
Sydney: And then my second thought was, What’s going to happen with my family? When I look back at the journals for that time, seeing that I was writing like, “Well, I’m going to have to think one day, am I going to come out, am I ever going to tell my family? I might still want to be married one day. If I get married, I’m going to have to tell my family. But what’s going to happen if I tell my family?” And that was really scary.
Sydney: But the biggest thing was it’s hard to think back on this time, and to look back on those journals. Because I was like twelve and thirteen, fighting really hard for my own faith.
Sydney: Because I was really scared. And at that time, I didn’t have a single voice in my life telling me that it was okay. I didn’t even know that there were people who were affirming of gay people in the church, and of same-sex marriage. And I obviously didn’t have the tools to figure that out myself, and I tried.
Sydney: I remember trying to do like a comprehensive Bible study on my own, trying to figure out if this was okay or not. You know?
Sydney: This is kind of hard. But I just remember trying to Google it, and one of the first resources that I found was just this person talking about various Christian perspectives on same-sex marriage. And they were kind of providing some different leaders who had said different things on it. And they provided the non-affirming perspective, whatever.
Sydney: And then they got to like loving, but unaffirming kind of theology.
Sydney: And the leader that they linked was you.
Jen: Right, right.
Sydney: And it took me to something that you wrote.
Jen: Yeah, I remember that writing.
Sydney: It took me to something that you wrote.
Sydney: And that was like, nail in the coffin.
Sydney: That’s when I was like, Oof, okay.
Jen: Yeah, yeah.
Sydney: And then I didn’t touch the Bible for years at that point.
Sydney: So, that was through seventh, eighth, and ninth grade. Yeah, just trying to process all that on my own, and having no idea how there were like full-grown Christian ministers who have no idea how to answer that question, or even begin the research process. You know?
Jen: Right. It’s so heavy, honey.
Jen: So, so, so heavy. But it’ll always be, for the rest of my life, one of my greatest sadnesses, my greatest regrets and sorrows. And when I think about you struggling through that by yourself, I could just sob.
Sydney: Yeah, me too. And I don’t know, I get really emotional talking about it, because I just have so much compassion for myself. And I just feel like I’m thirteen again, you know what I mean?
Jen: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sydney: Just like this kid who loved Jesus, and I realized I was gay. And I was just scared, and alone. And I wanted to have it all. I wanted to have my family, and God, and my future. And I didn’t think I’d be able to have it all.
Sydney: And even though I know that I can now, I still definitely have a lot of work ahead of me if I still want to restore and kind of repair my own faith that I had as a child. You know?
Sydney: And that’s like really hard, because as soon as I try to kind of get into that stuff, it takes me back to that tender space. You know?
Jen: Sure. Totally. Of course, you know this at this point, but our church at the time was deep in the process of evaluation on that. And [I have] so much regret that I had not just grabbed all of you, and pulled you so deeply into those conversations. I’m so sad about that.
I wonder, what do you wish—and I’m thinking back to that Sydney, that Sydney who was still scared. What do you wish that pastors and churches knew?
Sydney: I mean, they need to know that the faith of gay kids, and their families, and their churches is in their hands. You know?
Sydney: Like, it’s up to them. And what they say matters.
Sydney: We were even talking about this the other day, I was like, “Everybody wants to take their time and make sure that they have it right.” But you can’t wait. We can’t wait. You know?
Jen: Yeah. Right.
Sydney: I couldn’t wait.
Sydney: I needed that. You know? And I looked for those answers on my own. That’s the thing, these kids are going to look for those answers on their own if you don’t decide what answer you want to give them.
Jen: Yeah, yeah.
Sydney: You’ll remember, I picked up this book.
Jen: Yeah, yeah.
Jen: A terrible day.
Sydney: I picked up this book that Dad had. I can’t say what it’s called, I don’t want to slander this person.
Jen: Because we had a stack. I mean, obviously, you were watching our process. We had—I don’t even know—thirty books. And they were all over the map, so that’s why.
Sydney: No. So, yeah. I know that now.
Sydney: But it ended up just being this pastor who didn’t know where he landed, but knew that he loved the gay people in his life, systematically going through the Bible and verse by verse coming to the conclusion that gayness is sin.
Sydney: And that same-sex relationships are sinful.
Sydney: And that just, like, destroyed me. Because there was this person who came from this, this pastor who came from this place of love and of authority of like, “I’m using the Bible. I’m here with Scripture. This is what matters here and now.” And I read the whole thing in one day. Just fully feeling in that moment that God didn’t love me. I ended up calling Dad.
Jen: Dad, yeah.
Sydney: Because, you know?
Sydney: Because I was just having this full meltdown, panic attack. And he came in and found me on the floor with Lady Bird.
Sydney: And you came.
Sydney: I just want pastors to know that that’s what happens.
Jen: That’s right. That is what happens.
Sydney: We hear you, we’re reading what you’re writing.
Jen: That’s right.
Sydney: We’re in your pews, we might be your kids, and that’s what happens. You know?
Jen: Yep. It’s so real. And I think some pastors and churches also make the mistake of thinking that on any given Sunday, they’re just speaking to people who are all straight and in alignment on that. When the truth is, every single church is just filled with gay kids, and gay moms and dads. You know?
Jen: It’s just so irresponsible to break their hearts.
Sydney: Yeah. I mean, there’s sociologists theorizing that up to like ten percent of the population could be gay or trans. You know what I mean? They’re in your church, they’re in your family. It doesn’t matter how loving you are, or what emphasis on Scripture you come with. That’s not enough if you’re not fully accepting them as children of God.
Jen: That’s not.
Sydney: You know?
Jen: I appreciate you saying that. Because before we had done meaningful work around this theology, that would have been me—as you mentioned earlier—loving, but not there. So, now what I understand so deeply into my bones, is that’s maybe even more cruel.
Jen: That’s maybe the worst cruelty.
Sydney: It is.
Jen: As opposed to just outright homophobia.
Jen: It’s not enough, Christians, to say, “Well, we love you anyway.”
Sydney: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Jen: I don’t want to be loved “anyway.”
Sydney: No, no. Absolutely not.
Jen: Okay. Let’s move forward a little bit. You came out in high school.
Jen: Can you talk at all about that early season for you of being out, of living openly just with your family, and with your friends? I mean, at your high school, you were just at a public high school. Can you talk a little bit—of course, you just have your experience. But according to your perspective, what is it like for gay teens in high school right now?
Sydney: Yeah. I mean, I was actually just talking about this with Gavin and Remy the other day.
Sydney: Because Remy was just saying that in her middle school, there are kids coming out.
Jen: Right, sure.
Sydney: And Gavin said when he graduated high school, nobody had come out in his grade. And he’s just two years older than me.
Sydney: So, I think it’s been changing so much in the past few years.
Jen: It’s true.
Sydney: I think my experience landed somewhere in the middle there. You know, I was still in Buda, Texas.
Sydney: Home of the Rebels.
Sydney: So, there were definitely hateful people.
Sydney: But I had, honestly, a fairly normal experience. I had a lot of the normalcy that I think a lot of teenagers want.
Sydney: I had a girlfriend, and we went to prom together. And I had friends who loved me. And then getting able to be fully out with just our immediate family was just really special.
Sydney: And being able to get to a point of just, like, total normalcy, you know?
Sydney: I can’t even tell you how good just normalcy feels, and how in my relationships with friends or family where I still don’t feel fully, fully accepted and held, the only thing missing is normalcy. You know? Just like treating me normal, and being normal, and just engaging with my life.
Jen: Mm-hmm, right.
Sydney: You know what I mean?
Jen: Of course.
Sydney: So, I kind of got to have that a little bit, which was good.
Sydney: And I think it’s even better for kids now.
Sydney: Especially now that there’s even like gay characters in shows and stuff.
Jen: Yeah, totally.
Sydney: Yeah, yeah. It wasn’t horrible. College is a whole other ballgame, though. You know?
Jen: Well, let’s talk about college. And by the way, just before we move to college, you’re so right. Representation really, really matters.
Jen: I was just reading a statistic just yesterday about how markedly the percentage goes up for, as you were saying, normalization for people who are taking in and ingesting more just normalized LGBTQ people in commercials, and in shows, and in music, and just wherever.
Sydney: Yeah, yeah.
Jen: It has a real effect on the normalization. It matters.
Sydney: It does.
Jen: So, representation is not a small deal.
Sydney: No, it’s not.
Jen: That is a big part of big, sweeping, cultural changes, which is really, really important.
Jen: Okay, but back to your point. Moving north in your story, can you talk a little more about how your experience in college was different, if it was? And if so, how?
Sydney: I feel like the bigger difference was more just that in college, I just fully inhabit my own self so much more.
Jen: Yeah, that’s true.
Sydney: In high school, I just lugged around just like so much shame, still. And that just really affected how I filtered myself, how I filtered the way I dressed, or the things I talked about, or who I talked about my relationship with, or whatever.
Sydney: And in college, I just feel a lot more free.
Sydney: And I think that was a combination of getting to live out of Texas for a while.
Sydney: Getting into therapy.
Sydney: And then just growing up and being around just mature adults. And also just being around gay people, and grown gays.
Sydney: You know?
Jen: The grown gays.
Sydney: And just having it become my life, instead of being one of the only kids to be out in my grade. You know?
Sydney: Just reaching more and more towards normalcy. I feel like normalcy really goes hand in hand with healing in that way, which you might not think of. Like when I was younger, my whole life, and my anxieties, and my conversations, and so much was just centered around my sexuality, and what that meant, and what that looked like. And now, it’s just more and more my life, and my friends, and my relationships. You know?
Jen: Right, right. Totally. That’s great. I think that’s why so many of the older gays are like, “It gets better.” Like, just some of the trappings of being a young little baby gay-by is just so atrocious to endure alone.
And let me ask you this. In your opinion, you’re very engaged.
Jen: You’re paying attention. You are an activist, in like the true sense of the word. So, in your opinion, what do you think right now—as you said, this is changing on the hour.
Jen: But right now, what do you think are the most urgent issues, or injustices, or both, facing the LGBTQ community right now?
Sydney: So, obviously, the Trump administration’s systemic stripping away of the LGBT rights that were kind of built up under the Obama administration—and that’s not just happening under Trump, that’s also happening state-by-state through the South.
Jen: That’s right.
Sydney: That’s where a lot of those religious rights bills are getting passed that are really scary.
Sydney: And we did have a win at the Supreme Court the other day.
Jen: We did, we did.
Sydney: But that’s just one small thing.
Sydney: Where my thoughts go is, I need to see gay people and straight people alike coming around the trans community.
Jen: Super vulnerable.
Sydney: I think they are not accepted because they are less understood. And I think for a lot of straight people, trans people are less palatable to them.
Jen: Yeah, yeah.
Sydney: So, the same support and the same urgency isn’t there. But black trans women have a life expectancy of thirty-five because of the rate at which they are murdered and committing suicide.
Sydney: And the suicide rates for trans kids is insane.
Jen: It’s so high, yeah.
Sydney: And I see, especially in affirming Christian spaces, this readiness to talk about gay people because we understand them more, and see them more represented in our lives, and can digest them easier—and not want to talk about trans issues.
Jen: That’s a good point.
Sydney: But I think their lives are the most in danger, and under threat right now.
Jen: Vulnerable, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Totally. I’m glad that you brought that up, and I think you’re right. It’s the least understood letter on the spectrum.
Jen: And the easiest to marginalize. For anybody listening, there’s so many resources out there, but Sydney and I last year read This Is How It Always Is, which is a fiction book. I sent that to you when you were at camp.
Sydney: So good. I loved it.
Jen: I’m like, “You’re going to love this book.”
Sydney: I read it when I was at the lifeguard station, dude.
Sydney: So good. Didn’t your book club read it, too?
Jen: Yeah, and then I put it in my book club. And it was one of our favorite books we’ve read in the calendar year. It’s really powerful, it’s fiction.
Jen: But it just shows you what this looks like in just kind of an ordinary family, which is where trans people live.
Sydney: Right, mm-hmm.
Jen: You know, they’re not out of some strange version of American life.
Jen: It’s just ordinary kids, ordinary families, ordinary parents. Anyway, fantastic book. It’s by, oh, gosh. Frankel.
Sydney: Laurie Frankel.
Jen: Yeah, Laurie Frankel.
Sydney: Yeah. She is such an incredible writer.
Sydney: Her prose is also just like…
Jen: Oh, yeah. She’s a master.
Sydney: That book destroyed me.
Sydney: You’ve got to read it.
Jen: I know, I know.
Sydney: So good.
Jen: I read the last page and then ordered it to you immediately.
Sydney: Oh yeah.
Jen: So, kind of along the same line of thinking, what does meaningful allyship look like to you?
Sydney: Yeah. So, I think everyone’s been thinking about allyship lately, just with everything going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, and everybody just really speaking up, and trying to see how you support somebody with a marginalized identity when you can’t understand them. That can be hard sometimes.
I think when it comes to the LGBT community—and this really does extend to what I was just talking about—it is always supporting, and surrounding, and protecting LGBT people even when you don’t understand them, or they’re less palatable to you, or they might seem weird to you, or confusing, or whatever. Just making it not about you, and instead about them.
Sydney: So, your allyship can’t be about you, and it can’t be performative, and it has to be for everybody. And it has to be about love.
Jen: That’s good, that’s good. And I think there’s a certain brand of allies who are really needed inside the church.
Jen: That is a very specific spot to fill.
Jen: Because organized religion is still such an unsafe place for so many LGBTQ people.
Sydney: Yeah. Can I add to that?
Sydney: I feel like the biggest act of allyship you can make is using your voice in places where marginalized people feel less safe, so that would be the church.
Jen: Yes, totally.
Sydney: It’s speaking up, it’s not sitting down. I don’t want to have to have that conversation in my church.
Sydney: I don’t want to. It is so personal for me, that’s my life, it’s our family’s. You know?
Sydney: That shouldn’t have to always be our work.
Jen: That’s right.
Sydney: Being an ally is being willing to take on work.
Sydney: And I think I really haven’t seen that in the church.
Sydney: I mean, I really see this being pioneered by gay people, and people just wanting to be allies quietly. But there’s no such thing as a quiet ally.
Sydney: That’s not allyship. That might be acceptance, but I don’t really need your acceptance. Your acceptance doesn’t do anything for me. I need your support, and your voice.
Jen: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great point kind of to parallel that with what’s going on with Black Lives Matter right now.
Jen: You know, one leading school of thought here is like, “Stop putting the burden on black people to educate everybody and change systems.” It’s too great a burden to bear.
Jen: And it’s not their work, it’s the work of whoever is in power. It’s the work of that majority voice, of that privileged person inside the system. That’s that person’s work.
Jen: So, as it comes to gay kids and adults, your job when it comes to church is just go to a safe one. That’s your only job.
Sydney: Yeah, yeah.
Jen: Go where you are cherished, go where you are beloved, go where all your gifts are invited.
Sydney: And can I say, that is so much work. That is a job. That is our work. That’s our work. And we need all the space and support we can have in that.
Sydney: You know what I mean?
Jen: Yes, exactly.
Sydney: That has been like the journey of my life, is getting back into church and feeling safe in that space. You know? I can’t be doing spiritual heavy lifting for you.
Jen: That’s right.
Sydney: At all.
Jen: Yes. Right. It’s enough heavy lifting to be loved by God and people in the church.
Jen: That’s enough.
Jen: Just, there’s your work.
Sydney: And to love yourself.
Jen: And to love yourself, exactly.
Jen: So, that’s the only responsibility of the gay folk, is be safe and be loved.
Jen: So, it’s the rest of us who are always centered in the narrative, it’s our job to tear down unjust structures.
Sydney: Yeah. You know a thing about that, ain’t it easy?
Jen: It’s just a piece of cake, and everybody loves it.
Sydney: No one will hate you.
Jen: Everybody loves it.
Jen: It’s very rewarded.
Sydney: I would love to tell allies, “Do not be afraid.” But I’m not sure I can. It’s scary, it’s hard.
Jen: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Sydney: Especially in the Christian space.
Jen: Yeah, it is. Yes, but for me, I mean, I can say with absolute integrity that the gain and the reward is so much higher than the cost.
Jen: It almost just doesn’t even count. It almost doesn’t count into the debit column.
Jen: Because what is on the other side of that allyship and that work—and for some people this begins with their own personal theology. Which is where it began for, of course, us, too. It started, “What do we believe here, what were we ever taught about this? What is this theology?” We’d not deeply ever really examined it. As grown, thinking people, we’d not applied any critical thought to it. And so that was the beginning of the work. But ultimately, on the other the side of all that, it’s still the freedom, and the joy, and the flourishing of all human people in that space is just powerful.
Jen: Like, it’s so powerful to be in…
Sydney: Well, you don’t…
Sydney: You don’t walk away from that first space into something alone. You walk straight into a much better and way more fashionable Christian community.
Jen: Very more fashionable.
Jen: And you were right. That Christian community where everybody is beloved and cherished equally, it is absolutely thriving.
Jen: The spiritual fruit there is in-freaking-credible, just the way in which everybody’s gifts are invited to come to bear, from top to bottom, in every level of authority and passion.
Jen: And then just to see a spiritual vibrancy inside each and every beating heart is, well, there’s just no replacement for it.
Jen: It’s either that for me, or none. That’s my equation.
Jen: I would never, ever, ever stand for a lesser version of it where it only works for me.
Jen: Let me ask you this, because you are deeply embedded. So, what are your favorite things about your specific little community? What special light does the LGBTQ community bring to this earth? I’ve got my ideas, I’d like to hear what you think.
Sydney: Yeah. I think that’s a great question. I wish when I was thirteen I knew that being gay was cause for a celebration, not devastation.
Sydney: First of all, it truly is a community in the full sense of that word. You have friends in every space that you enter.
Sydney: For the rest of your life. People that see you, and understand you, and will be there with you. And that’s really special.
And another thing, even for me, it’s just like what a privilege it is to get to be a part of that community, and then to even get to love other women, to get to one day to build a family like that—that’s so beautiful. But I also just think gay people are brave, and strong, and they’re fun, and free. And we’ve had to overcome so much. And I think there’s so much good that has come of that.
Sydney: And I wouldn’t be straight if I had the option, for sure.
Jen: Right, right, right, I know. One day you’ll have a beautiful family. I’m going to have almost nothing but daughters-in-law.
Jen: That’s it. That’s my future, just daughters-in-law everywhere, they’re going to be raining from the ceiling. So, I have two more questions and then I have something I want to say.
Jen: Any last word, if you will, for the parents, and the friends, and the families of LGBTQ folks?
Sydney: Well, your kids are gay—or they very well might be. So, you have to act like it.
Sydney: Same goes for your friends, for your community. All of that. So, you better prepare yourself and act like it, and create a home and create an environment for them to feel safe, and loved, and held now.
Jen: Yeah. That’s a cool take.
Sydney: Right now.
Jen: Great, great suggestion.
Jen: How about any last word for LGBTQ people?
Sydney: I love you guys so much. Yeah, I was thinking about this, because just the other day I was talking to one of my gay friends, who her parents are Nigerian and her dad is Jehovah’s Witness.
Sydney: So, she just knows that there is going to be a lot of hardship in the story of their family moving forward. And she doesn’t know what will be left if or when she comes out. And she’s just been so devastated by that. And I was just telling her, “I love you. Hold on. Hold on. You’re about to make the family that you’ve always dreamed of. And it’s going to be so beautiful. It’s going to be so good. It’s coming for you. It might not be the one that you’re in right now, but the best, most beautiful family is coming for your life. And it’s going to be so great.” And all of us cried.
Jen: That’s so sweet. That’s so sweet.
So, it will just always be my greatest sadness that Dad and I did not do our own work early enough so that you felt safe and beloved in your own family—or that we didn’t do our work in front of you even, that that was not something that we were talking about. He and I were, but we weren’t talking deeply about what we were learning and processing in front of you, and thus left you alone, and vulnerable, and scared. And I am so sorry. And I’m so sad. And if I could go back, I would change it. I would shake myself to life before you were even born, shake some sense into me. Like, “Look at this, look at what this is causing. Just look around, use your eyes, use your ears, use your brain, and use your heart.” And I wish I could have gone back and changed that. And I’m so sorry, and I’m so sad that you suffered. And I’ll always be sad. I’ll always be sad about that. And I’m always going to be sorry.
Also, we are so proud of who you are. I would not change one molecule of you, not one. I’m so glad you’re gay, I’m so proud that you are free. I love that this is how you were made. I’m thrilled about your future. I’ve already told you the kind of wife I need you to marry, and I hope you follow my rules. She must be funny. And she needs to be able to handle this family is all I’m saying.
But we’re just so proud of you, honey. And I have found your story to be so courageous, and you did so much of it on your own. And that’s the strength of your own character, that you had something in you so both tender and strong, that you were able to make it. And you did. And you’re incredible. And we just love you so much. And every single bit of you is cause for pride.
So, the end. I don’t know how to end it. That’s the end. That’s the end of my talk.
Sydney: I love you.
Jen: I love you, too. And I love your friends, and I love who you are, and who you’re going to be. So, thank you for being willing to just talk about this with the world, and my community specifically. And I hope that it makes you feel strong in your own life, in your own story, in your own body, in your own future. Anyway, I love you.
Sydney: I love you.
Jen: That’s my girl. What a girl. Thank you for being tender and loving with her. I know that you will be. I know that I can trust you. And also, don’t overwhelm her. It’s all right. You are very dear. And I’m very, very proud of her.
Before I let you go, I wanted just to talk a teeny bit more, for those of you who are listening and learning, for those of you who are in your own process of investigation, maybe toward the beginning of it, even for those of you who are asking new questions or are opening your heart toward different interpretations or understanding—I wanted just to tell you a handful of things that we’ve learned from the Human Rights Campaign and the University of Connecticut, who surveyed over 12,000 LGBTQ respondents between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. I wanted to share a few stats with you.
They discovered that seventy-seven percent of LGBTQ teenagers surveyed reported feeling very depressed or down in that current week. Seventy-seven percent. Ninety-five percent of them reported trouble sleeping at night. As Sydney mentioned, LGBTQ youth of color and the transgender teens experience unique challenges and elevated stress in every category. Only eleven percent of youth of color surveyed believed their racial or ethnic group was regarded positively in the U.S. and over fifty percent of transgender youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity. Fifty percent. More than seventy percent reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week. Seventy percent. Only twenty-six percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms. And just five percent said all of their teachers and school staff were supportive of LGBTQ kids. Sixty-seven percent said they have heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people. Almost identical, sixty-eight percent say they have received negative messages from elected leaders. Four out of ten say the community in which they live doesn’t accept them. LGBTQ youth are twice as likely to have been physically assaulted.
And so this is just self-reporting, and I want us to have a reckoning together that when we refuse to cherish and affirm the LGBTQ community, including our kids, we are literally breaking their hearts. We are breaking their bodies. We are breaking their minds. This is not neutral. This is not just a difference of opinion. This is causing harm and trauma and suffering.
And so if you are willing to do your own examination here, if this is not a position that you already hold—which I hope that you do—one of the key things I heard Sydney say today was the best thing you can do is go ahead and create a beautiful, welcoming, supportive home right this minute way before there’s somebody that lives inside the home that you know of that needs it. That this is the work to do now. And it affects everybody and it matters. This work matters so very much.
And so thank you for listening today. Thank you for doing your own work—for doing your own heavy lifting. Thank you to every single ally of the LGBTQ community. Your friendship and your support means everything. And so on behalf of my kid and our family, we’re grateful. We are grateful for you. So thanks for listening today. We are so thankful for this listening community and this community of women that we could come to safely because you have been so good to us.
Okay, see you next time.