I came upon a child of God, He was walking along the road And I asked him where are you going, And this he told me…
“Well maybe it’s just the time of year, Or maybe it’s the time of man I don’t know who I am, But you know life is for learning”
– Woodstock, Joni Mitchell
It’s been 45 years, but you may remember Woodstock… (or heard of it in history class!). In August 1969, half a million people camped for three days and listened to 32 acts — like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix — in what became a pivotal point in music and culture and a symbol of the 60s.
It was meant to be a simple music fest — “3 Days of Peace & Music,” read the posters. No one anticipated the sheer scope of Woodstock. Most attendees poured in over a trampled fence instead of the ticket gate, making it a financial failure. There was not enough water, or toilets, and the pouring rain created a muddy mess. For three days, this crowd camped out in these conditions on Max Yasgur’s farm in Woodstock, NY (…only a few miles from my grandparents’ home).
The site was declared a disaster area.
Long before the advent of cell phones, parents could only watch the unfolding news story on TV, no way to learn whether their children were okay, or something horrible had happened to them. They just waited at home, fearing the worst.
As these kids (young adults) called their parents on pay phones, parents were surprised the kids were okay, and the kids were surprised to hear of reports of disaster. “No, I’m fine here, you don’t have to worry.” Parents began calling news stations to say, “You’ve got it wrong — this event is not a disaster. The kids are fine.” The calls of the parents changed the news reporting. Yes it was muddy and full of people, but there were no fights, no riots, none of the reported dire events.
Every day, I get emails from parents who are terrified because their child has come out as gay. The reports of pastors, televangelists, and other social conservatives warn of a disastrous lifestyle, with promiscuous sex, rampant AIDS, unrepentant sin — and a certainty of hell — all the worst a parent could fear for their children.
But when parents talk to God about this, they hear a different message, “Relax, your children are fine. They are living as I created them to live.” And when parents talk to their own kids, they find a different situation than the fear-based reports they have heard. “No, Mom, I didn’t choose this. It’s just who I am. No, I’m not promiscuous – I haven’t even had sex. I’m just telling you, I’m gay.”
Those parents need much more courage than the Woodstock parents, because simply to speak out could cost them dearly in their family, church and community.
But those who do speak out are making changes. The tide is turning. Love and the truth is winning.
Woodstock marked a cultural revolution that no amount of ‘spin’ could stop. Likewise, the LGBTQ and allies are ushering in a cultural change no amount of ‘spin’ will stop.
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 FreedHearts.org and here in IMPACT Magazine’s FreedHeartsand Jesus Blog columns.