Texan Liz Dyer was a devout conservative Christian when her son came out as gay in 2006, sending her into a tailspin.
As an enthusiastic evangelical, Dyer had studied scripture for many years and felt she clearly understood its message: homosexuality is an abomination. Yet, here was her own child—someone she loved more than life itself—presenting as what her church would consider a vile, abhorrent sinner. How could Dyer continue her life-long walk with God while also loving her gay son as deeply as she did? The cognitive dissonance grew agonizing. Something had to change.
One Heart at a Time
“I knew I had to learn more, so I got to know some gay people,” Dyer recalls of the beginning of her journey. “I soon discovered a vibrant group of people who did not need our acceptance or approval from the church or society. I discovered that LGBTQ people who accepted themselves were the healthiest and happiest. These were people who knew in their hearts they were not hurting anybody, and that their love was as valuable as anyone’s. I learned it was the ones who were not out, who were not self-accepting, that were the most self-loathing, intolerant, and depressed.
“Then I read a gay man’s blog,” Dyer adds. “He asked, ‘Why would I even want to be around someone who doesn’t accept me?’ The question opened my eyes. I thought to myself, ‘I wouldn’t want to spend time with someone who disapproved of me either. Who would?’
“That’s when I realized I was lucky to still have a relationship with my own son,” Dyer says. “It was a moment that changed me. I recognized that I was fortunate to have any sort of warm bond, and that it fell to me to keep it that way.”
Make no mistake, this was not an overnight epiphany. It took many months, and Dyer found few resources and less support. That lack of resources disturbed her so much that she set out to remedy it.
In 2014, Dyer launched a Facebook page called “Serendipitydodah for Moms,” to support mothers of LGBTQ kids. A similar “secret” Facebook group, for members only, followed shortly after.
Dyer’s objective with her new platform was simple: make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBTQ people. She founded Serendipitydodah with a handful of like-minded women, but they hit a nerve and the group grew quickly. This year, there are nearly 4,000 members from every corner of the United States. The group’s official motto is “Better Together,” and members often refer to themselves as “Mama Bears.”
Dyer says Serendipitydodah is unlike other organizations including PFLAG because it is exclusively for moms, faces no geographic obstacles because it is web-based, and offers support 24/7.
Love in Action
Is there anyone on Earth busier than a mom? Still, these Mama Bears somehow find time for others, with numerous outreach and care projects under the group’s umbrella.
One example is Serendipitydodah Mama Bears to the Rescue, a subgroup that coordinates activities such as attending weddings as stand-in mothers, making hospital visits, helping people get settled in new geographic areas, and much more.
The Made with Love Project is designed to help LGBTQ people who have been neglected or rejected by their families. “We ask members to hand-make friendship bracelets for LGBTQ people to remind them they are loved just the way they are,” Dyer says.
In 2017, the group introduced The Mama Bears Story Project. “Stories have the power to change the world,” Dyer says. “Our story project provides a stage for moms to share relevant essays to connect with other moms like themselves.”
More recently, the group began offering a creative and powerfully kind effort that has made national headlines. Free Mom Hugs is an outreach project performed by members who love their LGBTQ kids unconditionally and also want to share their affection with other members of the community. Leading by example, they bring their loving hugs and acceptance to any place where people assemble (including Pride events), hugging anyone who asks.
“I don’t know what I would have done without the group and the Facebook page,” says Kimberly Shappley.
Shappley, who lived in Pearland at the time, was a tea-party Republican and Bible-thumping evangelist when her four-year-old, Kai, came out as transgender.
“The Mama Bears group was so supportive, informative, and critical to our journey,” says Shappley, who now lives in Austin. “They helped me unlearn, then learn all over again. Today I see that by trying to change my beautiful daughter, by denying Kai and many others the right to be themselves, I was a hateful reflection of a loving God. I am still a Christian, but now I know my religion was holding me back [even while] my spirituality guided me forward.”
Dyer says another exciting development has been the steadily growing number of LGBTQ-affirming churches across the nation.
“It is not uncommon these days to find pastors leaving churches if they remain un-affirming,” Dyer says. “There is indeed a shift happening. I think we are a part of the reason. We’re dedicated to educating families, as well as church and civil leaders, by not only affirming the value of the LGBTQ community, but by celebrating it.”
For more information, visit the “Serendipitydodah for Moms” public Facebook page, or contact Dyer at [email protected]
This article appears in the December 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine.