My family and I have had the opportunity to reflect on our lives. We marvel at how profoundly we’ve changed regarding our relationship with our LGBTQ “family” – a term I never would have used in relation to LGBTQ people a decade ago.
Nearly ten years ago, my wife Sara and I were called to reconsider our longstanding opinions of LGBTQ people when our oldest son, Trevor, came out as gay. Shortly after, our other son Tanner also came out as gay.
Neither discussion was easy, largely because we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which for years spoke almost exclusively negatively about people who are gay.
But seeing my sons come out – who I know are good young men, faithful to the Church and the values we had taught them – made me realize back then that what I believed about being gay was completely wrong.
We told Trevor and Tanner that we loved them dearly and that they would always be a part of our family no matter what.
Those conversations were important first steps on our own journey toward more fully understanding the LGBTQ community and especially the challenge of being LGBTQ and raised in our church.
Their experiences helped put a human face to something we had never known, which was a big part of why we decided to help start ALL Arizona, a group of members and former members of the Church who are committed to ensuring that all people, including LGBTQ people, are treated with love and respect within the Church and society as a whole.
This advocacy work and community building have made me a better person and a better follower of Christ. I couldn’t imagine my life without the many wonderful people I’ve met whom I now consider my “family.”
The team at ALL Arizona has often quoted Church leader, Elder Quentin Cook, who stated in 2012: “As a church, nobody should be more loving and compassionate. Let us be at the forefront in terms of expressing love, compassion and outreach. Let’s not have families exclude or be disrespectful of those who choose a different lifestyle as a result of their feelings about their own gender.”
We have tried to follow this counsel both in and out of the church, and we’ve made significant progress. Year by year we’re seeing our church community and Arizonans open their hearts and minds, just as my family and others have.
While I’m grateful for the positive change of heart, there is still far too much ignorance and misunderstanding; and LGBTQ Arizonans continue to be left vulnerable to discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces.
That’s why my family and I are eagerly awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, on a trio of LGBTQ employment discrimination cases. A victory would be long overdue, since a majority of states, including Arizona, still lack explicit nondiscrimination protections.
But no matter what the Supreme Court does, we’ll still have work to do. We must keep pushing for express and enduring nondiscrimination protections here in Arizona and at the federal level. And we must keep up the conversations around treating all people with respect.
By the end of the next decade, I want to be able to look back and see even clearer progress for my LGBTQ family, including enduring protections at the state and federal level.
I want to live in a place where everyone can be their authentic self at work and elsewhere. I want all of my children – including my two gay sons – to feel included and welcome here in Arizona and in every state nationwide.
Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL Arizona (allarizona.org) and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every spring in Mesa.