Anti-Gay Mormon Activists Confront Their Prejudice After Learning Their Own Son is Gay

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.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Rev. Achron Timeless

    Well good for them, but accepting their son doesn’t undo the harm their hate unleashed.

    • C Peterson

      Is it ever possible to undo harm you’ve done? I don’t think so. All we can reasonably do is judge people by what they believe now, how they act now, and how they are likely to act in the future.

      • Rev. Achron Timeless

        Sure, a start would be to take their required donations to the LDS and give it instead to equal rights organizations. After that, find a list of all the gay teens that killed themselves during their campaigning against them, and personally apologize to their families.

        That’s, of course, just a start. It’s the bare minimum it’d take to gain anything but disdain at their selfishness from me.

        • C Peterson

          None of those things can erase harm.

          Changing your beliefs in fundamental ways is a process for most people, and these parents seem to have taken a major step in the right direction. I see little value in focusing on their past errors if they are sincere in their new beliefs. We’re not going to turn everybody into secular humanists overnight, but we’re never going to change anybody if we insist on looking backward, instead of forward.

          • Rev. Achron Timeless

            Erase? No. Mitigate? Absolutely.

            So you think they don’t have to do anything except say they’re sorry? Absolutely nothing?

            Sorry, but that get-out-of-responsibility-free style of forgiveness is only for theists among themselves. They did measurable harm to the rest of society.

            • C Peterson

              “Forgiveness”? That’s not what I’m talking about at all. That’s something they are not asking of me, and it isn’t mine to give. I’m simply recognizing that they made a difficult move to what I’d consider a more ethical position, and giving them credit for that. And yes, simply saying you are sorry to those you have hurt (and genuinely meaning it) is enough. That’s a very un-Christian thing, apologizing to someone you’ve harmed as opposed to asking a magic being to absolve you of guilt.

              If these people can find active ways to help those they’ve hurt, more power to them. To require it of them before recognizing the value in what they’ve already done is just being dickish, IMO.

              • Rev. Achron Timeless

                I hate when I have to go this route…

                Ok, here’s 3 quotes, see if you can find the one that doesn’t fit:

                - All we can reasonably do is judge people by what they believe now.

                - I see little value in focusing on their past errors if they are sincere in their new beliefs.

                - “Forgiveness”? That’s not what I’m talking about at all.

                So you advocate for completely forgetting what they’ve done because they’re doing different now, but get stuck when it’s called what it is. Is that where you’re having an issue?

                I mean, forgive… the first definition is to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve. Not granting them that pardon you label as dickish, but you refuse to admit it’s forgiveness that you’ve been advocating.

                I’m not sure where you’re trying to take this, other than circles.

                • Sam Kay

                  That’s a straw man argument. Peterson never said anything about forgetting, he talked about judging people on who they are today and not what they did in the past. In fact, he’s never even said anything about forgiveness, you’re the one that keeps bringing it up. You’re totally misrepresenting what Peterson is saying and then arguing against that misrepresentation–straw man argument.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  Oh, you’ve learned a fallacy and you want to throw it around. Want to examine the straw man you just pulled?

                  Only once did I ever mention the word forgiveness, in the theistic context because that’s how they refer to it. Yet, you act as if that has been my entire point. So, the rest of that was going after something that never happened and was thusly irrelevant. (edit because I’m sure you’ll need more clarity: I mentioned it once in the theistic context, he latched onto it so then it became a topic, but I’m not the one who made it one. It was an aside at best)

                  As for what he did or did not say, that’s between us, as you’ve proven you weren’t paying attention.

                • Sam Kay

                  The best part is that you just did it again. Twice. Making me sound like I learned about one fallacy and decided to throw it around doesn’t actually address my argument. You clearly used a textbook straw man argument.

                  Almost all of your posts are about forgiveness. You mention the word at least twice in different forms, and you also use words like “apologize” and talk about “saying sorry,” so yeah, it has kind of been a major part of your points. And interesting to note, that you just tried to accuse me of a straw man argument.

                  Finally, you’re arguing in a public forum, so don’t get snippy if someone else gets involved. Want to argue with him in private? Do it privately.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  I had written a response tearing that load of bullshit apart piece by piece, but upon proofreading it I realized I was just sinking to your level.

                  You still get everything wrong but manage to feel smug about it, so I suppose I’m supposed to just ignore your failures and pat you on the back for feeling special.

                  *pat*

                  *pat*

                • Sam Kay

                  Argumentum ad hominem.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  *pat* *pat* (little late when you started the attacks bucko)

                • Sam Kay

                  OK, please show me where I have attacked you personally. If I actually did, I’ll gladly own up to it.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  The part where you’ve been attempting to shove words in my mouth and then vilify me for them, throwing out your adorable little “fallacy” claims that aren’t true (or accurate) either.

                  Oh sure, at this point I’m treating you as if you’re a drooling moron, but you have built that impression on your own. No actual good will come out of talking with you, you don’t want to have a conversation anyway. You’re just running in and playing Logical Fallacy Man! (do you have a cape?) So, you choose to start off disrespecting me, and I’ve returned the sentiment. That’s the point when you started getting really annoyed, and it will continue until you stop being a brat.

                  *pat* *pat*

                • Sam Kay

                  If I’m wrong about the logical fallacies that you’ve committed, then say how, don’t just make the claim and proclaim yourself the victor with nothing to back it up.

                  DUDE! I totally should get a cape! That would be awesome!

                  Didn’t you say you were going to be ignoring me? Yet you keep coming back for more. I have to leave for work in about 40 minutes, but please entertain me until then. :D

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  Oh FFS, when did I ever say I was going to ignore you? Do you get off on trying to see what lies you can slip in unnoticed?

                  Frankly, this is entertaining as hell. I haven’t laughed like this in ages.

                • Guest

                  This is what I imagine happens every time you read my replies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw0TNfIsgMI

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  I wonder what mental illness you suffer from that you don’t understand for it to be a fallacy, it has to have actually happened. Claiming I said something and that it would have been a fallacy is amusing, but I have to have actually said it.

                  As I don’t feel you deserve a term paper style writeup for that, I’ll just call you what you are: a liar.

                  Here, let’s just pile up the lies. I’m bored.
                  You tried a shotgun approach of several accusations of “fallacies” of which you do nothing but accuse.
                  Chiefly, you pull out a straw man, then say it’s mine. Then when I defend against this false accusation, you claim I’ve somehow committed another straw man.

                  At that point it becomes clear you don’t care about the topic, you want to turn this into a board game where you get to throw down fallacy chips and claim yourself the winner.

                  So, every single fallacy claim was a lie, or at best an unfounded accusation. Since you went on to say “If I’m wrong about the logical fallacies that you’ve committed, then say how” it was clear you were pretending that your accusation was as good as proof, so lie it is.

                  Outright saying I’d ignore you and then clearly wasn’t ignoring you was a lie. Misconstruing the content of my responses was a lie. etc. etc.

                  I mean, sure there’s fancier terms for this, but it is what it is in the end – lies.

                  Frankly, I’m just bored with this now. You’re too full of shit to bother with.

                • Sam Kay

                  Cool story bro.

                • Sam Kay

                  Not even sure what kind of fallacy that is. “I tore your argument apart, but I’m not actually going to do so in front of you, therefore you can’t defend your argument and I will proclaim myself the winner without actually having argued anything. Then I am going to behave condescendingly toward you and pretend to treat you like a child.”

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  Wow, that one must’ve really burned you up if you’ve tried to respond to it twice now…

                • Guest

                  Reverend: You, sir, are a dick.

                • C Peterson

                  Sorry, I don’t see where I’ve advocated forgetting anything. I’m not forgiving, I’m not pardoning, I’m not absolving, I’m not excusing.

                  I’m celebrating that these people have made an ethical step forward. As you yourself said “good for them”. I’m just not such a jerk as to qualify that with a “but”.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  And I’m saying an arsonist who refuses to burn down their family’s own home wouldn’t be called a hero, so why would people pushing to crush gay rights stopping at their own family suddenly be wonderful? Not sure how that makes me a jerk, unless pointing out the bloody obvious is being a jerk these days.

                • Sam Kay

                  I’m just going to start citing your fallacies from now on.

                  False analogy.

                • Rev. Achron Timeless

                  *pat* *pat*

  • MG

    Sorry, I can’t get past the fact that they READ HIS JOURNAL.

    • David Kopp

      Ehh… there is that. But if my kid is obviously distraught and I can’t find any way to figure out what’s causing it other than invading his privacy a bit, I will. I’d take that over suicide any day. I’d hope someone would do the same for me. But that would be extenuating circumstances, not just a regular reading of the journal. I don’t know which situation this is, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      • WallofSleep

        Yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that they could see that their son was hurting in some way that he could not express to them. It is an invasion of privacy, but if I were a parent in that situation, I would do the same thing. Minus hating on the gays, of course.

      • Sam Kay

        As far as we know, they didn’t bother to ask first.

        • David Kopp

          Welcome to parenting. Sometimes you don’t ask for permission to do what you think is best for your kids. Just like sometimes the police don’t ask you to come down to the station, they just take you there. It’s a situational decision, and can be full of grey areas.

    • Terry Firma

      That bothered me too, but I’ll be honest: I would be tempted to do the same thing if either of my two young daughters (now 8 and 11) eventually began to sink into depression. If questions over dinner lead nowhere, and conversation became a one-way street, I’d do what I could to find out the cause of their despair, and to (get) help. Including sneaking a peek at their journal.

      Jordan had been contemplating suicide. Arguably, the fact that the Montgomerys read his journal saved his life. Would it have been more ethical to respect his privacy at the expense of letting him kill himself?

      • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

        Why not just talk to them? Your kids will never trust you if you invade their privacy. And you can’t have a good relationship without trust.

        • PoodleSheep

          Did you skip this part “If questions over dinner lead nowhere, and conversation became a one-way street”? Which started with “That bothered me too, but I’ll be honest: I would be tempted to do the same thing if either of my two young daughters (now 8 and 11) eventually began to sink into depression.”. You make it sound like life and parenting is a simple thing.

          • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

            I never said it was easy, i just said don’t invade your kids privacy because it will damage their trust in you.

            • Terry Firma

              So I reiterate, Cyrus:

              “Would it have been more ethical to respect Jordan’s privacy at the expense of letting him kill himself?”

            • anniewhoo

              I think kids are very smart, and they know how to hide a journal they don’t want anyone to see. Many times, children will leave “private” things out, in plain view, hoping that a parent will pick it up. I value my child’s privacy as much as I do my own, but when she leaves something out where she knows I will see it, I take that as a sign that she wants to start a dialogue about the topic at hand, but isn’t quite sure how. I’m not a snooper, but I try to be a keen observer.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          Why would your kid talk to you about something you’ve condemned in others? They set themselves up for that by being judgemental assholes to everyone else. He obviously couldn’t come and talk to them about any problem, much less about being gay.

        • Tainda

          Easier said than done. Teenagers are a whole different animal than children. My daughter and I are best friends now but when she was a teenager it was impossible to get 2 words out of her sometimes. If they don’t want to talk about it, you’re not going to get anything out of them. It’s just the way it is.

    • Machintelligence

      Keeping a journal is its own reward — and punishment. Thinking you can keep a journal private by hiding it is as useful as believing you can keep a gun hidden from children, and we all know how well that works out. Also, if you are ever accused of a crime, you cannot be forced to testify against yourself, but a diary entry is fair game for any interpretation the prosecution cares to invent for it.

    • Sam Kay

      Ha, good point. Yeah, that’s not OK.

  • benjdm

    If only religion taught empathy instead of obedience, they could have figured this out a lot earlier!

  • C Peterson

    Yes, in a way it is selfish when parents come to realize the harm of their actions this way. But keep in mind, many of the churches that are the most anti-gay border on operating like cults. Mormonism is certainly a cult. People in these kinds of churches are very isolated from the rest of society. A large part of their social and professional interactions are with like-minded people. It can be very hard for people in those circumstances to change direction. Sometimes it takes something as strong as their own child being gay to derail them into the real world. Sadly, sometimes, even that isn’t enough.

  • Mario Strada

    I also find it very hard to “forgive” these parents. They brought untold pain to an entire class of people but once their son is “them” then they make the effort to understand the issue.

    I guess it’s still a lot better than those parents that disown their kids. It takes a particular kind of evil to be able to do that, so while I condemn their previous actions as fruit of a particularly callous type of ignorance and dogma, I have to praise their newfound outlook on the issue. Now it’s their turn not only to accept their son, but to accept everyone’s sons and daughters.

    They are well positioned to make a difference in their community, educating both kids and parents with their experience to make sure that no one else suffers for their past actions. At the very least they can try to make a difference in their own Mormon community.

  • Dekker Van Wyk

    At least the parents of this poor boy pulled their heads out of their asses and left their hateful beliefs about LGBT people behind before their son killed himself, unlike so many other people who have had to lose a child to learn the lesson.

    Hopefully they will now start working for the LGBT cause instead of against it.

  • sara

    Sometimes it turns out that mean, bigoted people love their children more than their mean, bigoted god. I know a few people who wish their own parents were among them. Coming around for the wrong reason is better than stubbornly continuing to be wrong.

  • pauleky

    OK – I’m about to be “that guy.” Isn’t Florida the “Sunshine State?”

    • Terry Firma

      OMFSM, you’re right, and I’m an idiot. I’ll ask Hemant to change it.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        You’re not an idiot, just corrected.

    • WallofSleep

      Right. CA is the “Golden State”.

  • Sue Blue

    So, the years of “turmoil”, “struggle” and suffering of other people’s gay children didn’t move them in the least, but now they’re suddenly paragons of progressive compassion? Sorry, I find it hard to simply smile and say, “Oh, it’s okay now – they’ve said they’re sorry and they’re trying to understand their son.” Who is helping all the others they’ve hurt? And how does their son really feel about all the problems they caused him before their “understanding”?

    • WallofSleep

      “…but now they’re suddenly paragons of progressive compassion?”

      Yeah, I’m not seeing where Terry or anyone else wrote that.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      It is uncommon to find any empathy or compassion among fundamentalist practitioners of any religion.

  • Matt Potter

    As a former Mormon, I must say that I found the fathers opinion that the church wasn’t like this before to be laughable. The church hasn’t changed their stance on homosexuality at all, the only thing they have done is try to whitewash their disdain by appearing to be more acceptable to society. So, both parents have changed their minds yet everywhere in the footage they appeared to still be active in the church. There were numerous LDS pictures and other references throughout their house and it appeared at the end they were going to church as they were in ‘Sunday dress’ and had the scriptures in hand. The parents actually know their church’s stance towards homosexuality could have resulted in the suicide of their son and they still seem to be attending, that is beyond disturbing to me.

    • kelemi

      I’m Presbyterian. The national church may split due to this issue. I believe that people should be allowed to do what they want, as long as it’s voluntary and nobody else gets hurt.

      • Ibis3

        But people are getting hurt.

        • kelemi

          Who gets hurt if same sex marriages are allowed?

          • CottonBlimp

            I think she’s suggesting that people are being hurt by bigotry.

            • kelemi

              They may be offended, but not hurt. At any rate, I tell the homophobes to keep their religion out of yours and my freedoms.

              • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                She’s suggesting that not allowing people to get married based solely on their respective gender is hurting those same people, and people close to them. We’re all on the side of marriage equality in this particular thread. I think it’s perhaps a bit deeper or more personal for some of us. I’m straight, but I’ve seen good friends hurt.

              • Levi

                When bigotry happens, it hurts people, mostly ending in attempts at suicide.

  • ant-eye-christ

    I lived & voted in California during the time of Prop 8. I’m very curious to find out whether this family will take political action to reverse the current law banning gay marriage. I mean, if the church can influence you to petition, surely your own son’s admission will do the same, right?

  • closetatheist

    “But the selfish way in which these transformations come about does verge on grating.”
    You can say that again…I can’t believe that some people never think to put themselves in another person’s shoes while they are passing judgment on them – if they did the world would be a much kinder place.

  • anniewhoo

    These types of stories really infuriate me, and I think Terry Firma captured my own frustrations with these parents quite well. What is it about some people that they cannot understand how others might feel until something happens to one of their own? This demonstrates quite well why I value the atheist community so much. A community that is able to empathize with others. A community that does not require first hand experience to understand the pain and suffering others endure. A community that cares, dammit. Free of doctrine and dogma, we are also free to look at all humans as… well, fellow humans. It is easy to call Mormonism the cult that it is, but it is important to call all religions out as being cults. They limit people from demonstrating the love and acceptance that is present in every person. They limit people from being free to think on their own and form their own opinions. They limit people from being brave and strong, and ready to fight for the rights of their neighbors. As happy as I am that this young man now has accepting parents, it saddens me that he had to endure their hate and bigotry for so long.

    • ShoeUnited

      The irony of your question is the question itself. Since you can’t understand why some people can’t understand the feelings of other people.

      • KeithCollyer

        so right. being able to understand other people is the first level of theory of mind. Being able to understand other people’s understanding of other people is another level

      • baal

        You’re missing the point. It’s great that these parents turned around but do we really need every parent to have a gay kid before everyone “gets it”? Some of the rest of us are capable of empathy or rational consideration of an issue and come to the conclusion that being anti-gay is a bad, no good, harmful thing.

        c.f. republican law makers and funding medical research for diseases.

    • Octoberfurst

      I totally agree with you. It makes me sick to see people like Jordan’s parents be militantly anti-gay—-until they find out their son is gay. Then they are all cool with it. They are the type of people who can’t put themselves into other people’s shoes and see the pain others feel. One day they are all: “Gays are sick and evil people who deserve Hell!” And then suddenly” What’s that? My son is gay??? Well people need to be tolerant and accepting. Damn you bigots!” Hypocritical idiots!

    • CottonBlimp

      I agree with this comment, but we shouldn’t gloss over the fact that the greater atheist community is racked with problems regarding the inability of a predominantly male group to empathize with women.

      Ultimately, the evils of religion are born of the universal evils of all humanity.

  • Sam Kay

    I think you’re being harsh in writing “I hope Jordan will find it easier to forgive her than I do.” These people had a dogma pounded into their heads since they were children. That dogma was their reality. I actually admire them for accepting their son and going against the dogma they have been raised in. Like the trailer says, many religious families simply disown their children for being gay, atheists, converting to other religions, or whatever else goes against their dogma. Best case scenario is that they eventually accept their children again, this family did the right thing in my eyes. Good for them for putting their family first. Sure, it would be great if religions didn’t preach hate, and it would be great if people stopped following silly fantastical religions, but that’s just not the case. In the context, these people did the right thing.

    • Phil

      “Good for them for putting their family first.”

      Yeah, after they figuratively assaulted and raped mine. Assholes.

      • Sam Kay

        They had no reason to think about it until it became personal. As I said, they were raised in a dogma that said homosexuality was evil and that gay people were destroying traditional marriage, the family, fabric of America, bla bla bla. Don’t forget that a great many atheists were once religious and believed the same nonsense. I wouldn’t blame this family, I would blame the Mormon Church as a whole. Really though, we really need to reach a point as a species where our education ensures that we know the difference between fact and opinion and frankly just stop believing nonsense.

        • Monika Jankun-Kelly

          They should have had a reason. It is called empathy.

          • Sam Kay

            I think you could benefit from some empathy too. I’m a little surprised that I’m turning out to be one of the more empathetic people toward this family, I usually have little patience for bullshit.

            I guess I hate the organizations that promote evil things in the name of an invisible bearded sky wizard, but I try not to hate the people that are fettered by such organizations. They’re victims too.

            Have a little empathy for this family, they spent their whole lives being taught to hate gay people and until now, they’ve had no reason to give it a second thought. In fact, they have been taught that God (who may as well be real as far as they’re concerned) hates gay people. For the sake of argument, imagine that God actually DOES exist and he tells you that gay people are bad. I don’t know about you, but if an omnipotent and omniscient being told me something, I wouldn’t second guess it. I mean, God’s all-knowing, after all, he knows what he’s talking about! To these people, that’s pretty much the case.

            They changed when they saw things from another perspective, and they didn’t spend 10 years realizing that they needed to change. That’s something.

            • Monika Jankun-Kelly

              I understand believers are fettered. I get they are indoctrinated since early childhood, and have little to no *personal* experience with other tribes. I know they’re taught their tribe is chosen, special, better. I understand they value church “authority” over empirical evidence. I get it’s difficult and scary for them to question. However, it is still incredibly sickening to me when a person hears the same heartrending story from someone else’s child as from their own child, and only feels human emotion, sympathy, when it’s their own kid. That may be largely learned prejudice against “not us”, but that’s not all it is. It has to take some deliberate suppression of natural human impulses, some deliberate effort to ignore evidence, to be that way. They may be taught that sympathy for the gay neighbor, for the heathen other, is “my way” and thus sinful, as opposed to “God’s way”, but they choose “God’s way”, they choose, and not solely due to coercion and pressure.

              • Sam Kay

                You raise a good point. I don’t know if they have experienced other people they know having a child come out of the closet. I know they mentioned that they’ve heard about families disowning their kids, but I don’t know if that’s happened in their own community.

      • Vanadise

        Instead of using hyperbole, what did they actually do to your family?

        • Phil

          You know, you’re right Vanadise. They took away our right to legally marry, right to make end of life decisions, right to inherit property, etc. The last I heard, it was something like 1100 rights.

          But I suppose in your view, it’s only a minor inconvenience that LGBT families and individuals are being subjected to and we should just suck it up and quit being crybabies about this.

          • Vanadise

            Well, I was asking for no hyperbole, but thanks for putting lots of words in my mouth anyway.

            The point I was getting at is that although the specific people involved here were part of a movement that has done a lot of harm to a lot of people, there is no point in focusing your anger on them now that they regret their actions. You are wasting your time and only making yourself look vindictive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    They saw first-hand, with their son, that what they were taught was BS, and they changed their minds. Good; as should happen, evidence trumped a theoretical model.

  • ShoeUnited

    I can understand you being annoyed that it had to happen to their own for them to care. But for some people, it’s the only way. As egalitarian as humanism is, there truly are some people who can’t see beyond the little circle they’ve drawn until what’s “out there” is suddenly “in here”.

    It’s sad more than anything. I can’t quite get to the same level of anger as some people might on this. We’re talking about people who hold a belief. I bet you they are still Mormon on some level just not as active now. This need to believe and the recursive reinforcement is well documented. Football teams, political parties, religions, etc.

    I’m just glad that these parents broke the cycle. I’m glad this young man is still alive. And possibly, within their community of Mormons, it’s possible that the steps these two made for their son may have a positive aspect for those who knew these people. Maybe some who thought “hate the gay, love the guy” delete the former in their mental categorization. It may have even given another repressed homosexual the inspiration not to kill themselves until they got out. This story, when read, may even go to others who were having troubles and help them.

    Yes, not caring until it happens to their own can be annoying. If they were acting like they cared all along. I’ve got family like that. “I’m not racist! Some of my best friends are ******s!” But a lot of people don’t want to accept a contradictory view (or even the evidence thereof) until it happens to someone they know and care about. And I find that more sad than aggravating because it honestly never occurred to them.

  • Hat Stealer

    Typical- these people lack empathy, and don’t feel the weight of their actions until they, themselves personally are affected by them.

  • KeithCollyer

    I am glad that other posters have noted the lack of empathy in both the article and comments, ironically for an article essentially about lack of empathy. People like the Montgomerys had no reason to disbelieve the propaganda they had bouhg tinto and spouted until they got the evidence of their own son. Then they had cognitive dissonance – could my church be wrong or did I do something that made my son gay? They chose to accept that their church was wrong (OK, it could be that they were more arrogant about themselves than convinced by the church). They changed their minds faced with evidence that was pretty irrefutable, and that is a great step forward for many brought up with dogmatic beliefs. So, yes, what they did in the past was wrong, and I hope that they accept that and work to undo it, but they have changed and they should be given credit for that.

    • Ton_Chrysoprase

      Sorry, I find this to be an incredible patronizing concept. The parents are legal adults with all the rights and responsibilities that comes with that. Religion is not a mental illness that would exempt them from accountability.
      Adjusting your point of view just to suit the needs of one of your tribe hardly even counts as empathy in my book.

      • KeithCollyer

        They believed X to be true, and all the evidence that they had either supported
        that belief in X being true, or (in their view) supported the belief that evidence that showed that X was false was itself false. Now they are presented with apparently irrefutable evidence that X actually is false. Maybe empathy is the wrong word (I’m an engineer, what do I know about feelings), but certainly the pain that their son was in supported their move away from X

        • Monika Jankun-Kelly

          They had plenty of evidence in the form of other people and medical literature. They chose to be willfully blind to it. Ignoring evidence is not the same as not having it. Yes, yes, religion squashes critical thinking, encourages willful blindness, promotes conformity and unquestioning obedience. That is a mitigating factor, not an excuse.

          • KeithCollyer

            Did they choose to be wilfully blind to it? Do you have proof of that? Or was it that in the culture they were in they believed (chose to believe, if you like) the stuff they were presented with. At the risk of sounding like a cultural relativist, if all you know is X, then X is all you know and it takes a real effort to understand that X is not true, despite evidence presented to you. I’m not making excuses for them (they were, after all, horribly misguided), but the holier-than-thou stuff being spouted here makes me wonder who is ignoring evidence. Can you honestly say you have never believed something despite all the evidence to the contrary? If you think you never do this, then you are fooling yourself.

            • Monika Jankun-Kelly

              What did their son say that hadn’t already been published ad nauseam in the media? His story is hardly unique. Mormons are not so isolated that they don’t get media. If X is all you know, and you are then presented with not-X evidence, then you can’t claim anymore that X is all you know. At most, you can say X is all you have personal experience with. Those with empathy give weight to other people’s experiences, not just their own. Yes, I can quite honestly say that if presented with *evidence* of something, I don’t just keep going on as before while blithely ignoring the evidence. I may be very uncomfortable, even quite upset, if my views get turned on their head, it may take me a while to process and come to grips, but I don’t just choose to ignore evidence. I was raised secular and taught to value empiricism and empathy. Had I been raised religious and taught to value “the church elders said so” over all else, I probably couldn’t say that, but that’s still choosing to ignore evidence, not being ignorant of evidence.

              • KeithCollyer

                you do realize that you are doing exactly what you call out the parents for, don’t you? I tried to point that out subtly, in the hope that you would see it yourself, but I clearly failed. You are ignoring evidence, but you are excusing that behaviour by refusing to accept that it is evidence. You say yourself that you were brought up secular, as was I, for the most part. But your own lack of empathy prevents you from understanding how strongly these people’s false beliefs are part of their very being.

                For the avoidance of doubt, I am a functional atheist, what they did prior to their “conversion” was wrong. But it was entirely understandable, as is their changing their minds under the circumstances. They are human, and humans are irrational. To think otherwise is to exhibit the sort of blind bigotry that we rightly accuse xtians of.

      • Matt Davis

        Religion may technically not be a mental illness, but when people are indoctrinated from an early age, it becomes very difficult to deprogram them. Just imagine if the anti-gay nonsense was indoctrinated into the child from 2 years old. How hard would it be to get it out when it’s been with them as long as they can remember – before critical reasoning skills have developed?

  • kelemi

    Happily, my church does not preach that homo-sexual behavior is morally wrong.
    On the other hand, Cuba, China and North Korea are run by atheists and they condemn homo-sexual behavior. They don’t let gays join the service.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      North Korea is most certainly not run by atheists. It is best described by the late Christopher Hitchens as a Necrocory. (The official “dear leader” is dead).

      Homosexuality is no longer illegal in China, although there are also no laws to protect LGBT rights.

      Seems Cuba is similar.

      Now, are we going to list the theistic countries where homosexuality is specifically illegal? And when I start listing the Islamic states are you going to protest that they don’t count?

      Look, I appreciate that your church doesn’t “preach that homo-sexual behavior is morally wrong”. It’s better than most US churches in that regard, although I’m a little bothered by your language. Do LGBT members of your church enjoy the same rights as anyone else? Will your church perform same sex wedding ceremonies?

      And more importantly, I think there is a pretty strong correlation between a region’s secularism and LGBT rights. Yes you can point to counter examples in either direction. But I think it’s safe to say that LGBT rights generally don’t do well under Religion.

      • kelemi

        Thank you for getting back to me. I avoided the theocratic countries because the subject was atheism and gays. John Stossel wrote an article about countries that didn’t allow gays to serve in their military. The list included Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. And no, I don’t like any of those countries’ governments.

        LGBT members are welcome in my church. It is Presbyterian. They may serve as deacons, elders or on committees. We would marry if requested.

        I’m glad the mood of allowing LGBT people to marry is gaining momentum. Many who favor this feel that same sex is wrong, but as long as they’re not harming anyone else, it’s fine with them. I put this on the same level as my Jewish and Muslim friends not minding me eating pork.

        • Tainda

          “I put this on the same level as my Jewish and Muslim friends not minding me eating pork.”

          Really?

          • kelemi

            Yes really!
            People of those religions regard their eating pork as being as wrong as same sex behavior.

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              I put this on the same level as my Jewish and Muslim friends not minding me eating pork.

              I think you’d agree that the kind of persecution that LGBT people have, and continue to face, is nothing like the type of persecution people face for eating pork. Although I suppose Jews probably have at times for not eating pork, although not for not eating pork specifically.

              Sure, some people may think eating pork is a mortal sin, but I’m not aware of any case of a non-Jew or Muslim being bashed for eating pork. Ever.

              I reiterate, I’m glad you are supportive of human rights. I wish more theists were.

              • kelemi

                If you can come up with a better example, let me know. My point was to respect one’s religion, or lack of one.

                • cary_w

                  Actually I think it’s a great example because it illustrates the hypocrisy of gay marriage opponents. Most theists are very accepting of non-members not following all of their churches teachings, they don’t care if others eat pork, or drink alcohol, or get divorced or whatever, but when it comes to gay marriage (which is perfectly acceptable in some churches, by the way) they suddenly claim allowing it will somehow destroy their religious freedom or something. Why do they care, as long as they can forbid it in their own church? Why do they try to force this one issue on everyone while looking the other way on so many other issues? Gay marriage SHOULD be just like not eating pork. Your church may preach against it all they want, but they should have no say in any other church’s (or non-secular institution’s) right to accept it.

                • kelemi

                  You said what I was trying to say. I am a civil libertarian Presbyterian. My church is divided on the issue of gay rights. The outcome will probably leave it up to the congregation. Some may leave.

                  I support the right of a religion to say that same sex relations are or are not immoral. I also support the right of 2 people to marry, regardless of sex.

                  Being of a minimum age to marry is something else.

                  And yes, Gay marriage SHOULD be just like not eating pork.

              • cary_w

                “Sure, some people may think eating pork is a mortal sin, but I’m not aware of any case of a non-Jew or Muslim being bashed for eating pork. Ever.”

                So why do theists pick-and-choose what bits of their morality they want to impose on the rest of us? You are absolutely correct that they never try to impose things like no-pork-eating on everyone. I’ve never heard of Muslims or Jews who work in or run grocery stores refusing to sell pork, so why do Catholics feel it is an invasion of their religious freedom to sell contraceptives? If your church opposes gay marriage, then fine, any church is free to refuse to preform any marriage ceremony for whatever reason they want, but why impose this on the rest of us? Why choose to force this one issue on the rest of us while ignoring so many others? Why aren’t Catholics trying to ban divorce? Why aren’t Jews trying to ban pork? Why aren’t the Mormons trying to ban coffee and alcohol? The hipocracy of it all just makes my head spin!

  • kelemi

    ACCORDING TO BIBLICAL MORALITY,

    Eating Pork
    (Leviticus 11:7)
    7And the swine, though it divides the hoof, and is cloven footed, yet it chews not the cud; it is unclean to you.

    Eating Shellfish
    (Leviticus 11:9-12)
    9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
    10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
    11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
    12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

    Homosexuality
    (Leviticus 18:22)
    22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

    Wearing Clothes of Mixed Fabrics
    (Leviticus 19:19)
    19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

    Shaving
    (Leviticus 19:27)
    27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.

    Tattoos
    (Leviticus 19:28)
    27 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

    ARE ALL WRONG, EVIL AND UNNATURAL. HOWEVER

    Slavery
    (Exodus 21:7)
    7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.

    Rape
    (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
    28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
    29 Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

    Child Abuse
    (Proverbs 22:15)
    15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

    Prejudice
    (2 John 1:10)
    10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

    Misogyny
    (1 Timothy 2:12)
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    ARE ALL PERFECTLY FINE AND NATURAL.

  • Guest

    I could handle one of my children being gay. I don’t know if I could handle it if they came out as Mormon or religious though.

  • aoscott

    While it does look selfish, I’d argue that almost everyone, at least at one point, have only changed their minds after something personally effects them. It may not be the most optimistic answer, but sometimes that is the only thing that will make it click for some people.

    We all do this to a lesser degree when we do things like reversing roles (put yourself in someone else’s shoes, etc).

  • LizBert

    I think it’s sick that supposedly loving religions prevent people from using empathy. Sure, things are often easier to understand when they apply to you’re own life but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to understand how others feel or try to ease their suffering. For example, I will never know what it is like to be born into a body with the wrong biological sex. I don’t understand what it is like to be trans and I never will, but I can read the stories of people who are, understand how painful it must be both to struggle with your gender and society’s perceptions about you, and I can treat people who are trans with respect and insist that they are legally protected. Religion does nothing but shut minds down, whether it is to science or other ways of life.

  • JKPS

    My (Christian) mom and I had a conversation over the weekend about the differences with a prostitute being raped vs. a random person being raped. My mom thinks that if a prostitute is raped, it’s not exactly her fault, but that she put herself in a dangerous situation and thus shouldn’t get as much pity as someone else.

    My mom, by the way, is not normally a horrible person.

    Anyway, I flipped that scenario around and brought up a time that I was roofied and very easily could have been raped. I pointed out that by going to a club, accepting drinks from a stranger, not being accompanied by a male, and wearing revealing clothing, I put myself in a a stupid situation and therefore if I had been raped I wouldn’t have deserved sympathy.

    And she said, with a straight face, that it was different. Because I’m her kid.

    I told her what the problem was with that kind of thinking – everyone is someone’s kid. We’re all humans and we all deserve to be treated as such. I think that applies perfectly here. If you hate gays but love your kids, then just think about how you would feel if they were gay. Would you hurt and harass them? If your answer is no, then you need to remember that every gay person is somebody’s kid and develop some goddamn empathy.

    If your answer is yes, then you’re fucked up and I can’t help you.

    • David Kopp

      Empathy. How can it make the world better today?

  • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

    Sometimes it takes a very personal confrontation with reality for someone to realize how very wrong he or she is about something. All her life, she got told a hazy, incorrect version of reality and she had no reason to doubt it till an undeniable contradiction came along. Not all of us can realize we were wrong because of carefully-researched, virtuous self-education. Sometimes it takes something like this. The more people who come face-to-face with reality like this and speak about it afterward, the less likely others are going to trust the version of reality their churches preach. Nobody is obligated to accept her apology, of course. She’s done a lot of damage. But speaking as an ex-Christian who also did damage to various groups’ rights before coming face-to-face with the truth, I’m not really in a position to throw stones here. I’m just glad she got to the right place eventually and that she’s not being silent about her experience.

  • Joe

    Good on them for coming to this resolution. I’m not a gay person, but I forgive them. If you want to throw hate-filled accusatory fingers, point them at the people with more true hatred than simple ignorance. They were lost, now have direction, and didn’t do as the selfish, evil parents who disown their own children and drive them away from home and life in the attempt to save their own supposed souls.


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