Lifelong Mormon And Antigay Activist Learns To Accept Her Gay Son

Wendy Montgomery, 37, is a lifelong Mormon and former antigay activist who participated in the church’s campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California in 2008. She lives with her family in socially conservative Bakersfield, California.

“I remember hearing things growing up like AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality and that being gay was a choice, it was wrong, it was a deviant lifestyle,” Montgomery said this week on NPR’s Tell Me More.

For many years she believed this lie as an unquestionable truth, until the day she found out her 13-year-old son, Jordan, was gay. Montgomery said she learned about Jordan’s sexuality after reading his journal.

“He was in eighth grade and he started becoming really depressed,” she explained. “He didn’t want to talk to us about it. And he had recently started keeping a journal. So I really felt strongly to go read his journal.”

“He only had a couple entries in it,” Montgomery continued. “And in one of the entries he had made a comment that said that he had noticed a boy in his class and he noticed what beautiful eyes this boy had.”

After realizing her son was gay, Montgomery felt a rush of conflicting emotions, which she said she had to work through.

“One of the first thoughts I had when I learned that Jordan was gay was everything that I thought a gay person was, he was none of those things,” she explained. “So I had to immediately let go of all of these — what I thought a gay person was — and unlearn all of these old stereotypes and relearn what it meant to be gay.”

But “unlearning” gay stereotypes wasn’t the only challenge Montgomery faced. There was also the issue of her church.

“If I had to make a choice between my son and my church, it would be my son,” she said. “There was no question. The part I struggled with was I didn’t want to have to choose. I didn’t want to have to give my church up. I wanted to make it work in the context of my faith, and that was where it became hard.”

Montgomery says she is still trying to find that balance. She and her family still continue going to church, though they’ve had to change wards.

“We had been in that ward for about 10 years. We changed a few months ago because it was getting really hard. There had been a lot of really, really hateful things that were happening so we’re trying to go to a different ward. And it’s making things really difficult for Jordan.”

She also said people will often come up to her and apologize for the fact that Jordan is gay.

“Some people come up and they apologize to me like: ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, that must be awful.’ And I think: Are you kidding? You know, what you look at as a burden has become one of my biggest blessings. I am a better person for having a gay son. Blinders that I didn’t even know I was wearing have been taken off. I love people more. I judge people less. My religion didn’t teach me how to love, my son did.”

Despite everything, Montgomery says she still has “hope” that things will get better between her family and their church. A new website,, aims to start an open and accepting dialog about the LGBT community within the Mormon church.

“For the first time ever, the Mormon church has come out and said we recognize this is not a choice,” Montgomery explained. “I know this is common knowledge to many, but this is a big deal at least in our church. And that is still something that we run into, that people look at my son and say he’s choosing this. And when they realize that this is not a choice, then they stop treating him like this dirty sinner, and they will start treating him with compassion and empathy.”

“If we just love God and love everyone else and we save the judging of each other for God, that’s it,” she added. “We just love. And it becomes a lot easier and a lot clearer to see things.”

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  • MikeE

    Yes, because choosing to be ostracised by your entire immediate community is just sooooo logical.

    I keep wondering which brain cells had to die in these religious fundamentalists to allow them to believe that one’s sexuality could possibly be “a choice”.

    I’m glad this kid’s mother was different from the other mothers in their community. I hope, for his sake, that he eventually leaves that ridiculous cult that is the “church” of mormons.

  • stevearies40

    Well Bless her for not turning her back on her son and reevaluating the balance between her faith and her family and choosing to rethink everything she was taught growing up…..

    if only more religous parents were like this.

  • PerryBrass

    The most wonderful thing is that Wendy Montgomery didn’t have to wait until Jordan committed suicide to change. Unlike the mother in “Prayers for Bobby,” she learned this important lesson fast: that you can make a difference, a real difference, in the life of a child. Perry Brass, author of King of Angels, A Gay Southern Jewish coming-of-age novel set in Savannah,GA, in 1963, the year of J.F.K.’s assassination.

  • Charles175

    “One of the first thoughts I had when I learned that Jordan was gay was everything that I thought a gay person was, he was none of those things,” she explained. “So I had to immediately let go of all of these — what I thought a gay person was — and unlearn all of these old stereotypes and relearn what it meant to be gay.”

    My religion didn’t teach me how to love, my son did.”

    I’ve know this truth for quite some time now. It is wonderful to see that someone has actually made the comparison of what religion dictates versus the reality of who and what we truly are as human beings, as members of the same human race as they are.

    The second part is even more profound and hits like a giant sledgehammer slamming down on an anvil with sparks flying. That her religion did not teach her how to love but her son did. For the spirit of true love is the greatest power of all.

    This is THE key of how to defeat this problem. By tearing down their artificially created walls of “us” versus “them”. This wall is the only way they have been able to keep their prejudice and bigotry alive from the pulpits across this land. By peacefully sitting down face-to-face in a similar way that British actor Stephen Fry did recently with the anti-gay Russian lawmaker. But instead, we should first carefully and strategically ask our adversaries questions first in order to elicit their answers. By analyzing our questions to them versus their answers in regard to the reality of who and what we are, we can gradually tear down those walls. Realistically, we can never win all arguments or even persuade them to sit down and talk because there will always be some minds that are totally locked shut. But for the ones willing to at least try to discuss this topic with us, by doing this in a public setting in the media or public forum would psychologically help to not only keep the conversation civil but would tap into the human instinct of preserving face in the public eye. In other words, not look stupid.

    I say this because whenever our opponents have been brought into court and made to prove their point, these have always failed miserably as there are no foundations for their exaggerations and lies. Now this needs to happen in a public setting.

  • RSun

    @Charles175: Well put.

  • Polaro

    @Charles175: Well put, indeed.

  • yaoming

    @Charles175: Charles tells it like it is.

  • Eiswirth

    I’m very happy Wendy M. has seen the light, but troubled she’s still attending and, I assume, supporting financially, the church that so hates homosexuals. (And I shouldn’t call it a church…it’s a cult, but then one could argue many Christian churches are cults on steroids.) The Mormons are similar to Catholics (my religion, but not by choice, and I no longer practice) in that there is a faction of their church willing to at least discuss the roots of homosexuality and accept it as another variation on a theme, and blessed because it too is a beautiful manifestation of God’s love. But I seriously doubt we’ll see real change in the “official” teachings of the Mormon or Catholic Church for many generations; the hatred has to literally die out.

    What’s important is that Wendy can accept and love Jordan for who he is because she now knows he did not choose his sexuality. If every gay person came out to their friends and families you’d see a lot of people who never had the courage in the past speaking up against the lies and fear mongering being done in the name of Christ. There will always be institutionalized bigotry, but perhaps less of it.

  • gaym50ish

    I admire this woman for standing by her son, but I have a much GREATER admiration for families that have left the church over this issue. You can google the David and Carlie Hardy of Salt Lake City to find the story about them and their gay son. At first they followed the church guidance and put the boy through “reparative therapy,” but it was their other son who eventually said he wasn’t going to a church that would not accept his brother, and that was their turning point. The Hardy family disavowed the Mormon doctrine and became vocal advocates for gay rights. They have been ostracized from their Mormon community. They have opened their home to outcast gay teens and have been outspoken on gay issues to the media.

    After the Proposition 8 campaign, the LDS Church tried to appear more warm and fuzzy toward “same-sex-attracted” people (they don’t like the word gay) and demonstrate that their Prop 8 campaign was not motivated by hatred. They held public discussions and press conferences ostensibly for that purpose, but mainly it was to repeat their favorite personal stories that always end tragically for homosexuals. It was their paternalistic way of telling gays that God will love them if they become straight.

    That oft-repeated lie that AIDS is God’s punishment for gays always gets to me. To believe that, one must also believe that the spread of AIDS in Africa is God’s punishment for being black, or that breast cancer is God’s punishment for being a woman.

  • dp1634352

    @MikeE: the mormon “church” is harsh. i grew up in a very mormon neighborhood. and its been hard to come out and tell others im gay because they are all mormon. they tell me great! but they still will be my friends and will support me just not who I’m dating… kind of weird but at least they arent giving up on me!!??

  • Cam

    Interesting Queerty. This story has been all over the place, and in EVERY SINGLE OTHER ARTICLE, they gave the details of the anti-gay bigoted harassment by other church members that drove the family to leave it’s original church ward.

    You left out multiple sections of the story like the following one…

    “They remain faithful Mormons, but have switched congregations after enduring ridicule from friends and fellow church members.

    One woman told Montgomery her children should be taken away from her and given to somebody who follows the teachings of the prophet. Montgomery and her husband had to step down from their church positions — he was the assistant bishop and she was a Sunday school teacher to teens — after parents flooded the bishop’s office with complaints that they were teaching homosexual propaganda that would turn other kids gay.”

    So once again even in this story Queerty takes any opportunity to soft-peddle the Mormon Church’s anti-gay hatred.

  • Stefano

    Thank you for the informations, Cam. I think i need other place to look for informations on gay issues than Queerty. Can you tell us where you found your informations, please?

  • Stefano

    Thank you Cam.

  • Horus 009

    She looks like a great woman

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  • rextrek

    Hmmm, decisions, decisions….beleive in made up man-made voodoo with NO PROOF what-so-ever – or Love my SON…? Hmmmmmmmm

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