Tuesday was National Coming Out Day, so naturally I was looking for a tie-in for this week’s On Our Radar. My fantasy was that Marcus Bachmann would fall to his knees in the middle of his wife Michele’s campaign event, rent his garments and weep to the heavens “Lord, I cannot go on with this life of lies.” But since that didn’t happen, I found something better.
At age 42, after twenty years of working as a social worker, listening to people’s horror stories day in and day out; Jenny McKenzie decided she was going to tell the stories for a change. She went back to school – film school this time – to follow her longtime dream of making documentaries for social change. Her first film, Where’s Herbie was about the hidden dangers of retirement. “Lose it or use it” Herbie advises. How true, how true. Her next film, you may have seen on HBO. Kick Like a Girl tackled thorny gender issues as it followed her daughter’s third grade girls’ soccer team, playing for the first time in the boys’ league.
Then, a kindred spirit, working in his own way for social change, approached McKenzie with an idea. David Heubner, a psychologist from the University of Utah had devoted his last ten years to studying the effects of discrimination on physical and mental health. Heubner had an urgent message to get out; the way a parent reacts to his child being gay is the greatest predictor of whether or not that child is able to lead a happy, productive life. Jenny McKenzie stepped up.
Together McKenzie and Heubner came up with a remarkable documentary aimed at supporting parents of gay and lesbian children; Lead With Love. The film begins by giving answers to parents about misinformation they may have:
- 1 That being gay is a choice.
- 2 That parenting causes gay behavior.
- 3 That being gay is a sin.
- 4 That being gay is an illness.
- 5 That gay people can be changed.
Lead With Love also features the reflections of four real life families who learned their child was gay, and offers a roadmap through the minefield of reaction for parents faced with the same experience that the film calls LEAD –
- 1 L – Let your affection show.
- 2 E – Express your pain away from your child.
- 3 A – Avoid rejecting behaviors.
- 4 D – Do good to feel good – (Act like you’re accepting, and acceptance will come.)
As a parent, even though I do not have a gay child, I was impressed by this documentary immensely. I may have teared up at the end when the handsome son receives his doctorate degree in public health surrounded by the proud family who at first wanted to hide the fact their son was gay. They had faced their demons and come out stronger. I’m a sucker for those kind of happy endings.
I hope all of you, straight, gay, out or not, will take a half hour and watch Lead With Love, which you can see free here: http://www.leadwithlovefilm.com/film.html Share it with your family, with friends who are not yet out, with empathetic people of all stripes. Start a discussion. Start people thinking. Start a movement for acceptance in yourself, your family, or in the world. It’s an idea whose time has come.
And that’s why this week, Dr. Jenny McKenzie, Dr. David Heubner, and their insightful documentary Lead With Love are On Our Radar.