Today is Monday, September 2, 2013.
This past July, Linda Robertson wrote a heart-wrenching story for Huffpost Gay Voices about her son, Ryan, who told her when he was only 12 years old that he was gay. In spite of the fact that Linda Robertson’s own brother had also come out ten years previously, she and her husband Rob were shocked at their son’s announcement. They initially told their son that it was OK and that they still loved him. But the Robertsons were and are Christian, and they had a lot of trouble accepting their son sexual orientation.
They begged him not to label himself as gay while he was young, reasoning that he didn’t really know his own sexuality yet. They bought books for him, written by men who had “faced this struggle” and who had found a way to renounce their sexuality.
The ex-gay movement began in 1973 with a ministry called Love in Action. The largest ex-gay organization was called Exodus International, founded in 1976. This group was an umbrella organization for over 120 local Christian ministries. Exodus International ceased its activities in June 2013, after president Alan Chambers issued a statement that group therapy could not change sexual orientation. He also issued an apology to LGBT people for the harm the organization has caused them. It is no accident that Linda Robertson and her husband presented, at the invitation of president Alan Chambers, an extended and unedited presentation of their story at the final Exodus International conference, held on June 20, 2013.
Believing that being gay was against the will of God, the Robertsons told their son, “We love you. Nothing will change that. But if you are going to follow Jesus, holiness is your only option. You are going to have to choose to follow Jesus, no matter what. And since you know what the Bible says, and since you want to follow God, embracing your sexuality is not an option.”
Their son Ryan memorized scripture, participated in church youth group activities, and underwent counseling geared to get him to change his sexual orientation. The whole family prayed that God would change Ryan, but their prayers were not answered.
Linda commented, “Basically, we told our son that he had to choose between Jesus and his sexuality. We forced him to make a choice between God and being a sexual person.”
By the time he was 18, Ryan was depressed and suicidal, believing that God would never love him. He decided to throw out his faith and find peace some other way. Unfortunately, the way he chose was using drugs. He started with marijuana and beer, and six months later he was hooked on cocaine, crack and heroin. Then he disappeared for a year and a half.
The Robertsons stopped praying that their son would become straight and started praying that he would one day realize that God loved him. When Ryan re-established contact with his parents, their perspective had changed, and they accepted him back into their lives, with a boyfriend in tow.
Over the following 10 months, the Robertsons learned a lot about unconditional love. They learned to love their son “just because he breathes.” Meanwhile, Ryan began to heal from his addictions.
Unfortunately, Ryan made what his mother terms “the classic mistake of the recovering addict”: he chose to spend an evening with his friends who were still using drugs. Ryan planned to spend the evening at the movies with his friends, but instead he shot himself up with drugs. He went into a 17-day coma, and died in the hospital in July 2009. Linda said, “What we had wished for, prayed for, hoped for — that we would not have a gay son — came true. But not at all in the way we had envisioned.”
Linda says she regrets that she and her husband were living by fear instead of by faith. “And we pray that God can somehow use our story to help other parents learn to truly love their children. Just because they breathe.”