We Are Family
Posted on 29 Jan 2020

How one woman’s acceptance of her son’s sexuality led to her playing a much bigger part in the community...

One of the most disturbing stories to emerge at the end of last year was the news of a study which revealed that more than a quarter of UK adults would be ashamed to have an LGBT child, and that less than half would feel proud to have an LGBT son or daughter. The online poll of 2,109 people also revealed that one in 10 would not want their child to bring home a same-sex partner.

Those of us who have come out share very different stories of parental acceptance - or in too many cases non-acceptance. At one end of the spectrum, one of my friend's very understanding mother sat him down and asked if he thought he might be gay. My own experience was much higher drama, with my mother throwing up in the sink having read a letter from my first boyfriend. 

Meanwhile, back in 2011 in Oklahoma,  another mother, Sara Cunningham, was also struggling to come to terms with the news that her youngest child was gay. It took years for her to accept it, but eventually she began to stand up to her conservative Baptist church’s stance that being gay is sinful.

In her book, How We Sleep At Night, Cunningham talks about spending years trying to ‘pray the gay away’ and feeling like she had to choose between her son and her faith.

In a development that went viral on social media, she not only chose her son but embraced the LGBT community big time. Such was her sadness upon learning of a same-sex couple whose parents refused to attend their wedding, she wrote a post on Facebook offering to ‘stand in’ as a mother at LGBT weddings. 
“If you need a mom to attend your same-sex wedding because your biological mom won’t,” she wrote, “call me. I’m there. I’ll be your biggest fan. I’ll even bring the bubbles.”

People took her up on her offer. Cunningham stood in at her first wedding in 2018 and attended three other gay  weddings in 2019. She's also officiated at the weddings of nearly a dozen same-sex couples in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Texas, and become an ordained minister at her local courthouse so that she can perform weddings.

Cunningham’s Facebook post and book caught the eye of film star Jamie Lee Curtis, who bought the movie rights to  the memoir. The film is reportedly in development. 

Fortunately I didn’t need to fly Cunningham over from Oklahoma to our wedding, as my own mum attended. Thirty-odd years after meltdown, she was a glowing and proud parent. But I'm one of the lucky ones. Sadly we don’t all receive the unconditional love that we need and deserve.


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