Lesbian and Gay Parenting Questions & Answers Column With Arlene Istar LevDear Ari

A column by Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Poisonous Ex and Religion

Posted By on August 25, 2010

Dear Ari:

I’m new to this lesbian field of 2 1/2 years.  My girlfriend and I moved to another town and my son’s father took him away from us.  My son has just moved back in with us and there are some issues rising. He has told us he was trying to break us up because his dad and new wife told him that his mother was not going to heaven. And I’m sure there was other stuff his dad told him.

My girlfriend is having problems with this new issue from him, and wants him to return to his dad.  I feel that if he could get some counseling and maybe us too that everything would be ok again. I am asking if you know of any counselors that would help us. I really don’t want to lose either one of them and I don’t want to have to choose between them. I live in Oklahoma and don’t know where to turn.
—Kayla

Dear Kayla:

Welcome to living as a lesbian. I’m sure it is, in part, my northeast bias, but living as an out lesbian in Oklahoma seems like no easy task. I honor you for living true to yourself.

You did not mention how old your son is and my response to the question does depend somewhat if we are talking about a young child, or an older teen. My best advice, no matter what age the child is, is to be honest and direct with him. Being a lesbian is nothing to be ashamed of or feel bad about. You are not telling him that you have a terminal illness, or that you have committed a crime. You are telling about an aspect of your identity, and you are telling him that you have met somebody whom you love and care for. This is something to feel proud and good about.

Let him ask questions, and answer those questions as honestly as you can. (You do not have to share anything with him about your actual sex life, except to say, “That is a private issue, as well as a grown-up question.”) Religion is a hard subject to broach, and I’m not sure what you religious background is, or what you have raised your son to believe. Do you attend a church that promotes an anti-homosexual stance?

If you can I would find a religious institution that fits with your spiritual beliefs that can support your family. Your son will then have an alternative view from his father’s. You can, of course, ask your ex to stop making negative comments about your lifestyle, though I am aware, depending on his nature, this may not be yield a positive response.

Whenever it comes to religious views about God, or Heaven, or the bible, I try to teach my children that there are many different views on these issues, and I tell them what my views are. I allow them the space to ask questions and think differently than I do about these issues. So if my child asked me if being gay means I wouldn’t go to Heaven, I would likely say something like, “You may have heard someone suggest that, and it is true that some people feel that way. I believe the God loves me exactly as I am, so if there is a special place like Heaven where people go when they die, I can’t imagine why God would not let me in for loving your other mother.”

In regards to your partner’s feelings about sending your son back to live with his dad, it makes me wonder if she really understands how important being a parent is to you. It sounds like she sees your child as an “extra add-on” to your family, and not really part of your family. I’m sure this could increase any negative feelings your son is having. Dating and partnering with people who have children means that you are getting involved in a “package deal,” – like the 6-packs of soda that say, “Cannot be sold individually” – your partner must accept that you and your son are a family together.

Even in Oklahoma there must be gay-affirmative therapists. Is there a local community center you can call? Can you contact a local mental health agency and specifically ask them if they have any resources for a therapist who has experience working with gay and lesbian people? Be sure to clarify that you are not looking for someone who is trying to cure you. If you have trouble finding someone locally, contact a gay community center in the largest city close to you. Sometimes finding support, and the right support, can take time and energy. But you deserve the best care in this situation, so make sure you do all you can to find it.