Gary & Millie Watts
By Mildred Watts
October 1994 (plus addendum below from February 2012)
Gary and I are fifth generation LDS. We both claim British ancestors who, after joining the Church, sacrificed all and came to the USA. They crossed the plains and settled mainly in Southern Idaho and Northern Utah. They have always been my heroes and heroines. We were raised in conventional Mormon families with the Church always at the center of our lives. Our parents chose Logan, Utah as the place best suited for their careers and raising their families. My father, a family physician in Logan, removed Gary’s appendix when he was thirteen years old and casually told him that I would be starting junior high that fall and that he should ”look me up!” That he did, and thus began a friendship and romance that has continued to grow and become more meaningful through the years.
We celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary in September! Gary served a mission in New Zealand. We both graduated from Utah State University, and then Gary graduated from the University of Utah Medical School. He completed his internship and residency at UCLA’s Harbor General Hospital in California. He also served two years in the Air Force. We have been blessed with six wonderful children that we love dearly. Gary has been in practice as a radiologist and nuclear medicine physician in Provo for the last nineteen years.
Our second child, and our first son, Craig, is gay. I hesitate to describe him as gay, because he is much, much more. Craig was a very delightful child. He has blessed our lives from the day he was born. He did well in school both academically and socially and was dubbed early on, I think by his second grade teacher, as “Mr. Perfect,” and though he would disagree, we feel he has always lived up to this name. He was elected student body president of Provo High and graduated with high honors. He served an outstanding mission in Dallas, Texas, Thai speaking. He graduated from BYU in English with high honors and then received a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago. He is currently in Kyoto, Japan. He teaches at the University of Kyoto and is also studying Japanese. Craig is fluent in Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Laotian, and Cambodian languages, and is also a wonderful writer. He is athletic and enjoys many sports. He is a person of great integrity, and has many friends. When you are with Craig, life is interesting and fun.
Craig told us of his sexual orientation in 1988. We were very shocked and surprised. He certainly did not fit our ingrained perception of a gay person. This apparent incongruity motivated us to study all we could about homosexuality. Gary brought home many articles written in the medical literature dealing with same sex orientation. We had to rethink all the things we had been taught and learned about homosexuality through the years, since they were incompatible with our knowledge of our son’s inherent goodness. We met other gays and lesbians who were very much like Craig – thoughtful, kind, intelligent human beings. We learned about the broad spectrum of sexuality and individuality. We now regard sexuality much like a fingerprint – everyone’s is truly unique and deserving of respect. We learned that same-sex attraction is not something to fear. One by one, as our other five children learned of Craig’s orientation, we watched them go through a similar process, with the end result always being an outpouring of understanding and a feeling of love and compassion. Our family has shown a strength and closeness that I would never have dreamed possible. Having known many families where this is not the case, we feel particularly blessed. We are truly grateful to our children and their spouses for their love, support, and courage.
Our love for Craig led to a family commitment to do all we can to help people understand more about same-sex orientation. Not only do we share the scientific research that is coming forth, we also try to help people realize how much discrimination hurts, not only the homosexual person, but his family and friends as well. It has also opened our eyes to the world of “justified” discrimination that exists in many aspects of society. Elie Weisel, 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has stated: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” We share his view and have made a conscious decision with Craig’s approval, to be open and public about his sexual orientation.
In September of 1993, Gary and I attended a Family Fellowship retreat. We met other LDS parents like us who also have homosexual children. We learned that they felt as we do, that homosexual orientation is not a choice, and that our gay children are among the most kind, talented, and intellectual people in the world. These other parents also wanted to do something to make the world a safer, more understanding place for our children to live in. When we returned home, Gary and I talked with our children and decided to begin holding Family Fellowship meetings in Utah County. We have held three meetings to date, and each one has been very rewarding, bringing new families together. Our children are actively involved with Family Fellowship. They help us decide on formats for the meetings, patiently teach their computer illiterate parents, address envelopes, lick stamps, compose letters, and our eldest daughter even conducted our last meeting!
I was invited to participate in an interview for the Salt Lake Tribune. A reporter wanted to do a feature article on mothers of gay sons for the Mother’s Day issue. I hesitated to do this, not because I was embarrassed about Craig’s orientation but nervous that I might be quoted out of context, or perhaps make a comment that I would regret later. I also knew that this would be a ‘coming out’ to many friends and acquaintances that we had not had the opportunity to talk with personally. I was visiting with one of my daughters, telling her my concerns – when she just suddenly and enthusiastically cried, “Oh, Mom – go for it.” So I did. The article was not written exactly as I would have liked it to be, but it opened many doors for us.
Gary and I have met so many wonderful people through Family Fellowship. The parents we have met are active LDS people and are an inspiration to us. The gays and lesbians we have met are wonderful, spiritual, intellectual and talented. Beyond all this we always have a wonderful time talking, eating, singing, laughing, and crying together. Craig has given our family a wonderful gift. It has helped us become more aware, tolerant, sympathetic, and supportive of diversity. We have experienced the pains of discrimination. As a result, we are a close family, and as individuals we are striving to be more Christ-like people.
February 24, 2012
Much has happened since the above article was published. In 1996, our fifth child, Lori, came out to us as a lesbian. This time we were not surprised. We had enough information and knew enough lesbian women to recognize that she was gay before she told us. Our response this time was more like…Oh, she has found herself.
Lori, like all our children, is a wonderful, loving, responsible person. We are proud of her. She graduated from Reed College, participated in the “Teach for America” program for three years, received her masters degree in Social Work at Boise State and is currently working with cancer patients and their families at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Id. She has always been a good person and is outstanding in the service she provides her patients. Lori is a wonderful, contributing member of our society. The world is a better place because Lori is here.
Oh, how we wish the Internet had been available while we were trying to find answers to our questions and information on homosexuality. I am grateful for a strong, intelligent husband and that we were united in our feeling that we love first and then educate ourselves.
Our family has grown. We also have three sons-in-law who have joined our family and continue in acceptance, support and love for our gay children. Our grandchildren have grown up knowing and loving their aunt and uncle. They recognize their goodness.
As the mom, I still marvel at the wonderful gift our family has received to have two gay members and to also know and love so many gay people, their parents, and their families. I also marvel at how united our family is on this issue. We are definitely better people and are still striving together to be more Christ-like. How time flies – we will be celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary this September!