Guest Post: Response of a Home Teacher to my Coming Out as Transgender – A lesson on Charity
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility and we are sharing a guest post from Linda Gifford which documents her home teacher’s (HT) response to her coming out, and her reply. She shares an article with him and a Facebook post, the latter of which is shared here in full, with permission.
by Linda Gifford
16 Sep 2017
HT: “I have prayed for many days, racked my soul, went to the Temple of my God to find these words to share: I love you as a brother. I have been your home teacher for 10 years. I have testified from the pulpit and testified at your kitchen table many times. That I know the family is ordained of God, how marriage is defined between one man and one woman and how gender is essential to our pre- mortal, mortal and eternal lives. I know these things are true independent of any other source other than the Holy Spirit of God that has etched those teaching within my heart and upon my soul! I love you as a brother, I love you as a friend, and I love you as a disciple of Christ; however, you are choosing at this time to live in direct opposition to God’ laws. I will not support you in an apostate state. I will not subject my family to those that live in an apostate state. I support that you have agency to make this decision, however you have turned that agency over to the dark one at this time. At this point in eternity you are not under the direction of the Holy Spirit because you are choosing to live in direct opposition to the covenants that you have made in holy temples and the laws of God that exist in this the Lord’s true church. They not only exist now but have and will for all eternity. I will support you fully in any repentant state, that is genuine once you enter it, in the future; however, at this time all I can say is we love you, we will pray for you, we have placed your name in the Holy Temple of my God and your God, and we will stand with God and these doctrines. I know these things to be true not only now, nut all the days of my life for the last 24 years, and will know for all eternity; they are woven within the very fiber of my being. I love you brother, come back, come back to the light, come back to the Lord Jesus Christ, come back to the truth, come back to your God who is your father and you are his son! In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
Me: I understand this is hard for you to understand. It’s hard for me too. However, are you truly being Christlike in your attitude? Perhaps this article would be good for you to ponder: Deseret News Article: 13 Sep, 2017 – Gay Brother of Mormon Apostle (Tom Christopherson) shares his spiritual journey.
HT: “What I’ve said is true; you know it, I know it and God knows it. Whether you choose to accept it or not it is still true. I love you as a brother. You need to wake up from the slumber the adversary has you under. I support your agency, but I do not support what you’re choosing to do with that agency. I pray that you will return to the light. I am done. I will not converse about this again.”
Me: May the Lord bless you and your family. I have admired you for years and loved having you as my home teacher, but I won’t accept you being judgmental. You don’t know what I’m going through. I don’t want to discuss it more with you either, but I do hope this will make you really search your soul and see if you have charity as God says we should have.
2 Feb 2018
Me: HT, you are someone I have always loved and admired. That hasn’t changed. However, your text messages to me after I came out (as a transgender woman) after so many years of struggle really, really hurt. I forgive you. I want to share a wonderful story with you. I hope you will read and consider where you stand in God’s eyes when it comes to charity. Are you willing to help the down-trodden and bear others burdens or would you be the one who walked by on the other side in the story of the Good Samaritan? The teen suicide rate in Utah has tripled since 2007. I’m convinced a big part of the reason is people like you with your attitude and how you treat those of us in the LGBT community. I’m not trying to condemn you; I know you mean well and you’re a good man. But please read this together with your wife and evaluate if you are following the Savior and His teachings in this regard. And as you told me before, I’ll tell you: “you know I’m right”.
Susie N Paul Augenstein is with Alyson Paul and George Deussen. (shared with permission)
February 2 ·
This is George Deussen and Alyson Paul. They are the proud parents of Stockton who they lost to suicide 18 months ago. They spoke at our church meeting about how we as LDS members can create a more welcoming place for our teenagers who come out as LGBTQ. This is so important and can and will save lives if we can listen to their counsel and learn from their personal experience. Alyson and George are available for any questions and are always willing to share their story to help us do better and to honor their son Stockton. #standingforstockton
Story – Will you still love me if………? By Catherine LeBlanc would you still love me if I was gay? Our son at the age of 13 years old came out to us and was afraid that we might not still love him. To say that we were ill equipped to help our son was an understatement and we were soon on the fast track to learning. One thing that I was sure from the very start was that Stockton would be loved unconditionally and accepted fully. I knew if I was going to help our son thrive I needed to have open and honest communication. I needed to learn everything I could about the lgbt community and find him safe places he could land. I needed him to feel like he could talk to me without feeling shame and guilt. Loving without condition and choosing to love was the first of many beautiful things I gained from my son. I chose love and for that I will be forever grateful.
When Jesus was criticized for reaching out to so-called outsiders, he responded by saying, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after [the one].”  As members, our time, vision, and outreach should really be focused on the one, which for today’s meeting, represents our gay brothers and sisters.
I for one know that I can show more compassion. Compassion for those cast on the side of the road whom the Levite and priest passed by. Elder Ronald Rasband recently stated: “Reaching out to rescue one another, under any condition, is an eternal measure of love… As members of the Church, we each have the sacred responsibility “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light,”8 “to mourn with those that mourn,” and to “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
It is my goal to express more love for and to my LGBT brothers and sisters. I learned that from my son. My son Stockton was a long awaited gift that I was blessed with for 17 very short years. As Paul shared we lost our son 19 months ago to suicide. (As a side note – suicide is another subject that is very difficult to discuss, but in an effort to save lives we need to be able to talk openly with our loved ones about how they are feeling. The church just released an updated website on suicide with helpful information, be willing to ask the tough questions to those around you when you notice things seem off and I would ask that if you know someone who has lost someone to suicide that you don’t be afraid to reach out and offer a hand of love and compassion.
How thankful I am that my son left this earth knowing how loved he was exactly the way he was. Unfortunately, during those teenage years our youths focus become less and less on family/parents and more and more on peers and their sense of community. He felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. It wasn’t the mean word said or occasional bullying that hurt as much as it was being ignored, being left out or not being acknowledged. My son felt a great deal of pain losing his community and wanting to feel a part of something he had known all of his life – his ward, neighborhood and peers at school. We cannot pretend they are not in our wards, stakes and families. They are there and need our love. We also need their love. Ask them about their experiences and feelings. These are real people with real lives and feelings. Remember there are real LGBT members in our wards. At church, in the closet or out. They and their loved ones are there and need us to change how we talk about and to them. We need to simply learn to love more generously. Our youth need leaders and mentors who will reach out to them with love and kindness and welcome them into our classrooms with love and compassion. Above all they need to learn and know they have a loving heavenly father and savior.
A quote I love from President Uchtdorf – We must realize that all of Gods children wear the same jersey. Our team is the brotherhood and sisterhood of mankind. This mortal life is our playing field. Our goal is to learn to love God and to extend that same love toward our fellow man.”
Recently I was an LDS lgbt cottage meeting where Senator Adams shared this – after working on and passing a few bills in regards to the lgbt community. He said I had to stop protecting my religion and start living it. This is the beautiful gift my son has given me. Having spent 5 years on this journey I have had regrets, heartache, sleepless nights, worry, joy, love, anger, happiness and meaning because I have a gay son. I have a greater understanding of unconditional love – a beautiful gift that was given to me by my son. Something that I now know has been a refining moment in my life, something that has sustained me during the days following his death and continues to be a guiding force for good. I’m sure you are familiar with the song “For good” from the Broadway musical wicked. These words resonate with me
I’ve heard it said
that people come into our lives for a reason.
Bringing something we must learn
and we are led
to those who help us most to grow
if we let them
and we help them in return
well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good.
Our lgbt brothers and sister young and old need us to link arms and become one as our Savior would want us to do. They need to be included, surrounded, sat by, invited, seen, smiled at, picked up – just as the Savior did. This can go for all people of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders ethnicities etc.
As ward and church members we can create an environment and culture for all members to feel welcome and loved.”  Be aware to make kind, loving comments in classes and talks. Our LGBT brothers and sisters listen intently to comments made at church to discern who in his ward would be accepting of his or her orientation and who may be unkind. Insensitive comments may unintentionally close the doors to friendship which may be desperately needed.
“As ward members become aware of [the sexual orientation of other ward members], help them to show love, support and encouragement.” “Seek to remove shame and combat stereotypes and myths”  Avoid only preaching the “ideal”. Our wards consist of many unique situations and all should feel included, not isolated. Our messages of the “ideal” Mormon or the “ideal” life can potentially push souls away from the gospel they so desperately want to keep in their life.
I found this quote amongst some notes I keep on lgbt Mormons – “What if gays are part of the plan to see if Christians really would love one another.” Our wards should be the place for developing that love.
From the words of my friend John Bonner -speaking of his friends and LDS community.
I know their first instinct is to reach out, to assure us that as long as they have a home, we will have a place in it. That when their table is spread, we will always have a seat around it. And that whenever we decide to celebrate our love with the person we’ve chosen to make a life with, they will be there in the front row applauding louder and weeping more tears of joy than anyone.
Let’s commit now as brothers and sisters regardless as to where we sit at the table to make a place. One where everyone knows of each other’s love, support and most importantly a love of our Savior whom knows each one of us personally. Who understands our pain and has died that we may live again.
This life experience is about finding our way back to love. All the rest is just part of the tough journey we call life. Thank you, Stockton, for being my teacher. My promise is to learn to love with all of my heart, forgive in ways I thought were not possible, release anger that no longer serves me, reaching out and loving your tribe whom I have been so lovingly welcomed in and return to meet you again saying I did it! I lived for you! I honor your memory by loving and finding joy again. I hope you too will find greater joy by reaching out and learning to love and understand our lgbt brothers and sisters.
Alyson Paul Deussen
I am honored to be a part of this vital conversation today. It is my desire that the Spirit be with us all as we direct our hearts to following our Father in heaven and His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, by subscribing to the tenets, principles and power of LOVE.
As I embark on this talk, these comments, I choose to honor my son, by loving, seeing him, receiving him and loving him, just as Father created him, and by so doing, honor my Father in heaven and one of his beautiful creations.
I am blessed to have a gay son and to have had and the continued gift of associating with the LGBTQIA community.
And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
I don’t believe that The Lord put the focus on LOVE in the first two great commandments by some freak chance. I believe that He was teaching us that Love is the way for us to engage all things in our lives
From the moment I set my eyes on my son, I fell in love with him. His infectious smile, laugh and mischievousness were an instant hit with me. His precious hugs and endearing stare would melt any frustration and would heal any sadness. His light was powerful. His light continues to be powerful.
My son and I shared a great love for music. I have found myself listening more to the music he loved. On many occasions I would listen to him practice the guitar in our living room. He had a song that he would sing that is a favorite of mine, “Falling Slowly” from the musical, “Once”. As he practiced I would ask him to play it. He would oblige me, each and every time. As I would listen to him, I couldn’t help but get caught up in how it felt so personal. For a moment, he would let his guard down. He and I would get lost in that moment together, he expressing himself and me, admiring his openness and vulnerability. He would always ask me, “Do you like it?” And once I collected myself, I would respond with, ” WOW!” He would smile big and always say, “Really, you really think so?” I am grateful for those sacred moments.
We all want to be appreciated and valued, seen for what is great about us. We all want to be cheered on! We all want to be loved for who we are.
My son didn’t always feel accepted and appreciated by others. Ward members, peers and leaders in my ward and stake treated him in way that left him asking questions about what might be wrong with him that these people would treat him in such a way, especially, members of the church. As I watched and felt the pain of these experiences I realized how vital it is to create safe spaces in our homes and in our communities. Safe places are places where our family, friends and others feel that they don’t need to hide themselves from the potential harm of others.
“I love these words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.”
On June 27, 2016, my world changed in a most significant way. It was the day that my son took his life.
Discussing the loss of my son is a challenging subject matter. Men don’t normally talk about the things that hurt them.
As a father, I felt a great need to not only deeply love my child and all my children, but to also protect them. The grief I feel includes the struggle of wondering why I needed to protect my son from people that should have treated him differently. I also feel the loss of a community that I thought was and would be so much different in this moment, the one that was going to bare my burdens with me.
If you love someone, you are always joined with them–in joy, in absence, in solitude, in strife.
LEARNING TO LOVE WITHOUT BOUNDARIES
Many years ago, my wife approached me and wanted to purchase flower baskets to be placed around our home to add color and beauty. I was at first a bit resistant when she told me the cost, but as is usual in our home, I relented and quickly appreciated them for many reasons. It became my responsibility to care for these flowers and ensure that they received the water they needed. One day my wife asked that I remember to water the edges of the baskets. She said, “George, please remember to water the edges of the baskets. If you don’t, the flowers will die” Little did I know how profound her comments would affect me after Stockton’s passing.
Just after his funeral, I was out in our yard watering those same flowers and her words came to me with such force that I began to cry. Those precious flowers on the edge of the flower basket were my son, as well as the LGBTQ community. Put on the edges, marginalized, and even abandoned.
They weren’t put there by our Father in heaven, or by His Son, Jesus Christ. They were put there by fellow travelers.
As I composed myself and took a deep breath. I thought more about the significance of the flower basket. It was beautiful; all of it. It was filled with many colors, all adding to the beauty of the whole. I began to think how often we believe, myself included, that others must change to be more like us. I thought how drab the flower basket would be if all the flowers were green, or the same color, having no variation and difference. Just like my flower baskets, we all need water, nourishment, love, kindness and appreciation for our divine design. And just as my flower baskets, there is great beauty and benefit in differences. We are created with differences for a grand and divine purpose. He created us with identities, after His Holy Image. I am also a firm believer that Father doesn’t make mistakes.
As much as this is incredibly difficult, I have gained an understanding of what my son felt, and I learned through this how vital the community can and needs to be. This experience has moved, motivated and inspired me to reach out to the community and to look at each one as I would look at my own child.
The loss of my son has ultimately provided fuel to raise my words and deeds, seeking to create a safe place, encouraging a community of deep love.
As I was preparing this talk, I felt a pull to discuss the parable of the lost sheep, leaving the ninety and nine and going after the one. It is one of my favorite parables, if not my favorite. I love the message and the power of what it is telling me and everyone in this room. That message is this, our Savior, Jesus Christ sees each one of us as precious and important. We are important enough that he would come after us. It also says to me that we are truly never alone. That He is and will be with us always. This parable is truly the Atonement. All that we are, all that we might struggle with, anything that weighs us down, sickness and infirmity, rejection and abandonment. He knows these things becomes he bore them, because He loves us deeper than we might fully comprehend. I also strongly believe that He is sending us all a message. Be even as I am! Go after the one. See all around you as precious and beautiful as I see them. Don’t reject anyone because they are different. Go find them, love them, lift them, minister to them. I am so grateful for this parable, this gift, this powerful example of what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I pray with all my heart that each of you, all of us, will awaken to this beautiful message that our Savior has given us in this powerful parable.
Yesterday, was the 19th month anniversary of my son’s passing. An anniversary that brings a great deal of pain and grief. An anniversary that reminds me, that each one of God’s children is precious and loved by Him. It is also a powerful reminder that when God commanded us to love, He did not segregate that love. I challenge you to get comfortable with loving those that you think you can’t love. I challenge you to step up to the commandment of Love, to embrace it. I too have struggled with this and because I took the challenge, my life has been blessed. Getting to know and love the LGBTQIA community has been one of the greatest and most cherished gifts in my life.