When religion clashed with the love for his gay son, Mormon dad Jake Abhau sought support in the company of other dads of LGBTQ children.
Everyone needs someone, whether it’s just to share our feelings or have them understand and empathize with our circumstances. Religions have succeeded in creating some of the strongest communities of people in the world. However, it has failed to bring those people together in support of certain minority groups despite the differences in people’s life choices. In a recent story covered by TODAY, members of the Church Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, Mormons Jake Abhau and his wife Meg, shared the experience of their son Jon coming out as gay to the entire community.
Abhau shared that at first, they were shocked with no idea about how to react to the revelation of their 13-year-old son’s sexual orientation. Even though the parents wanted Jon to wait before coming out to their community, Jon’s instincts differed. He wanted nothing but to be who he was in front of the whole world. Abhau shared, “He wanted to come out to everyone. He said, ‘This is who I am. I don’t care I am gay. God knows it.' He knew there were other people who were going through this. He wanted to be a good beacon of light to others.”
When Jon faced backlash from his religious community members, it prompted Abhau to find support amongst those in the same boat as him. He went on to create a Facebook support group called "Dragon Dads" which boasts almost 4.2K followers including dads with LGBTQ children, facing a similar situation of unacceptance amongst their religious communities. Abhau shared, “You feel isolated because no one feels the same about us. In my church and community, they love my kid and they didn’t seem to love that (gay) part of him. As a father that kind of tears you apart.”
Abhau parted ways with his Mormon church and found a warm embrace and acceptance in "Dragon Dads". He could process and share his feelings with the rest of the group members. When he faced the reality of how his son would not be able to take a boy to prom or how they would never have a daughter-in-law, Abhau and his wife found support in "Dragon Dads". He said, “All of us were looking for a community. Mormonism is my culture. It is who I am and it shaped who I am today... (But) it takes a long time to un-learn what you learned.”
Another member of Dragon Dads, Donald Christensen, revealed that when his teenage daughter came out at 17, he felt nothing but love and a sense of protection towards her. He further explained, “Even though nothing has actually changed, you suddenly feel like your family is under attack and it seems like nobody gets you—friends from church don’t really support the new direction you are taking and friends outside your religious circle don’t really understand the conflict you face.”
Religion failed Abhau and Christensen when their lives took a beautifully extraordinary turn. However, “Dragon Dads” has given them a community to turn to where they feel seen, heard, accepted and most of all, appreciated for who they and their children are. In times when solitary existence has become a popular way of life, there are still times when we all need a human to turn to. It’s inspiring stories like that of “Dragon Dads” that restore faith in humankind and the great magic of being there for one another.