In Honor of our Lost LGBTQ Children

Ryan Robertson died five years ago this week. In his honor, friends and I have chosen an orange icon on Facebook – Ryan’s favorite color.

And we honor all the LGBTQ people who have died from rejection, bullying, ill-fated “therapy.” Marginalization… in all its forms.

Ryan is one of many LGBTQ men and women who were pushed out of churches that could not accept them as is. I share the Robertson’s story here, as they continue to share their story publicly — not to relive those horrible years, but because they hope to prevent others from living through it.

Many of my readers have also lost their LGBTQ children who have also been marginalized. By marginalized, I mean thrown to the margin, to the edge, under the bus. By marginalized, I mean we have reduced their value and not heard their voice.

These are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love. 

So I gather us together to grieve. I gather us to consider the consequences of our collective marginalization.

Marginalization might look like not believing that our children are really gay (or whatever letter of the acronym they are). It might be requiring them to change who they are, as if that’s possible. It might mean kicking them out until or unless they change. All of this drives intractable stakes into their hearts, even if we don’t know it.

The nonaffirming church is especially hostile to the LGBTQ community, whether they mean to be or not.

Unlike any other issue, nonaffirming evangelicals treat the LGBTQ community as a special class of rejectable, disposable people — as a “them.”

Because the pastor and church body is where its families turn in a crisis, they have exceptional input into those hurting families, they are in a powerful position to cause irreparable damage to those families by even insinuating that that person deserves to be rejected.

These are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love. 

We can go back to the foundation of our life in Christ: it’s not about us. That is, it’s not about our need to have our theology neatly boxed up, including going to a church not “tainted” by LGBTQ people. On the contrary, we are to give up our desires for how others live, give up trying to change them or minimize them when that is, literally, killing them.

“Greater love has no one that this, that they lay down their life for a friend.”

Instead, celebrate the different people God brought to life, including those we don’t understand. God’s prerogative it to create them; our challenge is to love them… all of them.

Gay people are real people with real lives, whom Jesus told us to really love. 

I leave you with this quote from Lament for a Son.

“Rather often I am asked whether the grief remains as intense as when I wrote [Lament for a Son]. The answer is, No. The wound is no longer raw. But it has not disappeared. That is as it should be. If he was worth loving, he is worth grieving over. Grief is existential testimony to the worth of the one loved. That worth abides.

So I own my grief. I do not try to put it behind me, to get over it, to forget it. I do not try to disown it. If someone asks, “Who are you, tell me about yourself,” I say — not immediately, but shortly — “I am one who lost a son,” That loss determines my identity; not all of my identity, but much of it. It belongs within my story. I struggle indeed to go beyond merely owning my grief toward owning it redemptively.

But I will not and cannot disown it. I shall remember [my son]. Lament is part of life.

— from the preface to Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff


To read more from Susan Cottrell, visit

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SUSAN COTTRELL is a national speaker, teacher, and counselor with years of Biblical study and discipleship experience. Her books include: Mom, I’m Gay – Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faithas well as How Not to Lose Your Teen and The Marriage Renovation. Through her nonprofit organization – – Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that “loving God and loving others” are the foundation of the rest of the scripture, just as Jesus said.

She is the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin, and her “Mom, I’m Gay” book has been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign and others. Sharon Groves, PhD, HRC’s Religion & Faith Program Director says, “I often get asked by parents for resources that can address the struggles of raising LGBT sons and daughters without having to leave faith behind. Susan Cottrell’s book, Mom, I’m Gay, does just that. This is the kind of book that parents will love.”

She and her husband have been married more than 25 years and have five children – one of whom is in the LGBTQ community. She lives in Austin, Texas, and blogs at and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHearts and Jesus Blog columns.