Wendy Williams Montgomery was hardly ever fazed by slurs and invective against gay people. When God calls upon you to be an anti-gay crusader, you think there’s nothing wrong with opinions like “Gay people are disgusting and immoral” and “AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality.”
So Wendy did her part for a world that she thought had arrogantly shut God out: She and her husband Tom, both Mormons, went from door to door in 2008, convincing California voters to vote yes on Proposition 8, the state referendum that overturned the ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry in the Golden State.
All the while, their son Jordan (pictured below), now 14, slowly descended into confusion and then depression. He was starting to realize that he’s attracted to boys.
In too many other cases, the next sentence of an article like this would mention a suicide, a funeral service, and a circle of devastated friends and family. Gay teenagers are four times as likely to make a “medically serious” suicide attempt as their straight counterparts for reasons that certainly include widespread Christian condemnation.
Thankfully, Jordan and his parents are luckier than that. When Wendy and Tom Montgomery saw signs of Jordan’s inner turmoil and read about his same-sex attraction in his journal, they sat him down and gently asked him, “Are you struggling?”
“I could feel him start to tremble and he nodded,” says [Wendy] Montgomery. “We sat that way for two hours, and I hugged him and said, ‘Jordan, this changes nothing… You are perfect in our eyes… We will figure this out.’”
The Montgomerys now regret their anti-gay activism. They and Jordan are the subject of a 20-minute film called Families Are Forever, which premiered at Frameline 37: the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival yesterday afternoon.
Here’s a two-minute trailer:
The Montgomerys remind me a little of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), who, as a co-sponsor of DOMA, has a long history of opposing gay rights. His son Will came out in 2011, and the elder Portman gradually reached the conclusion that maybe it was better to stop treating gays as sub-human. Three months ago, Portman announced that he supports marriage equality.
I’m of two minds when it comes to people like Portman and the Montgomerys. Their change of heart is, of course, a wonderful thing — it protects family bonds, lets others know that there’s no shame in being gay, and possibly saves the lives of suicidal LGBT kids. But the selfish way in which these transformations come about does verge on grating. It’s only after their own brood turns out to be gay that the parents begin to see the wisdom of acceptance. Prior to that, they happily contributed to oceans of silent misery, to turning other people’s kids into bundles of doubt, depression, and self-loathing.
Take Wendy Montgomery. According to ABC News,
She first bought books from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was told that her son’s homosexuality was a “choice,” a “popular thing to do,” and a “phase” he would outgrow. “None of that applied to my son,” she said. Finding nothing that would help her, she turned to the medical community and learned that homosexuality was not a choice but an identity.
She judged millions of Americans, and campaigned against them, without first having done the slightest bit of impartial, fact-based research. All that apparently mattered to her, until she found her son’s journal, was what her church told her.
I hope Jordan will find it easier to forgive her than I do.