Mothers panelists from left, Elizabeth Shaw, Lori Edmo and Sonya Wadsworth.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — A panel hearing “A mother’s view” closed the LGBTQ Two-Spirit Awareness Event on Thursday, June 20.
Emcee Shayna Martin said the panelists were there to share their stories to maybe help others to better understand from a mother’s perspective. The panel of mother’s included Elizabeth Shaw, Lori Edmo and Sonya Wadsworth.
Elizabeth Shaw is the mother of two daughters and has four grandchildren. She’s always wanted to be a mother who was a safe place. She was a teen mom and grew up together with her oldest daughter, J’Shon.
Shaw said she could see signs of J’Shon’s identity by the time she was four years old. At the time she dressed her like a girl, but once she got into grade school she wanted to dress her own way.
Her mom just figured she was a tomboy. It wasn’t until later, in her high school years she knew, even though her daughter never came out.
Throughout her young adult years her mom saw her struggle and she eventually went through a 12-step program, in that process she told her mom she was a lesbian. Shaw said she just listened to her and when she asked her what she thought she told her, “You’re my girl. You always will be my girl. I love you. I would rather have you here in my life than lost in some big inner city where no one knows you and you don’t know anybody,” she stressed she wanted to be there for her and she’s proud of her.
Edmo is the mother of Hoss Suppah, who served on the previous panel, which talked about LGBTQ and their experiences. She said she still had a lot of learning to do and thanked the Victims Assistance Program for their putting on the program because it’s long overdue. She said it helps to hear the different perspectives and know where people are coming from when they have to live in today’s society because of judgmental people. She’s learned you have to be accepting and pray.
She realized her son’s difference when he was a little boy. Her mother also seemed to recognize that he way gay. It wasn’t until the last few years she started to ask questions. She’s trying to learn something new.
She said, “It’s just loving your children no matter what and trying to encourage them.”
Wadsworth said when her son, Spirit, was her first child and they went through a lot of experiences with him. She noticed he was different than other little boys. She thought maybe he would grow out of it. Her and her husband prayed about it.
When he did come out, they prayed again and while it took them a little while to understand they accepted him. His brother also seemed to struggle a little bit at first but he soon came to accept him and want to protect him.
The panelists were asked if society can change to protect their child what would they want to change. Shaw said talking about society is too large and we must first start with ourselves. She acknowledged the conference as a historical moment in Fort Hall and a step to understanding.
She sees society in general struggling with all types of issues and with the LGBTQ she sees people afraid of the things they don’t understand. She would like to see more awareness events done.
“When we can talk about things more openly and people are accepting then society can eventually change,” she said.
Edmo suggested awareness needs to be brought to schools. Wadsworth said people should speak up for one another and have respect.
The mother’s were asked what were some of their biggest fears when their child came out. Shaw was worried about the attitudes of others, those who didn’t understand and that would be ignorant. Her fear was of the violence that had already occurred across America to LGBTQ people. Her daughter’s adventurous spirit keeps her active and traveling, so her mother always prays for her safety. She’s grateful for her supportive family and to J’Shon’s supportive friends she’s known for years.
Edmo said faith and prayer are what got her through and is what helps to ease her fear.
Wadsworth said the fear needs to be gotten over fast because you have to be there for your child. However a parent will always worry when a child ventures out on their own. She said you will always tell them to be safe and know where they’re at.
The final questions mothers were asked was what kind of healing have you done to help other family members understand.
Shaw said her family has always relied on the Native American Church prayers to get them through. Her family remains close and they get together often to celebrate. Her daughter is not the only Two-Spirited person in their family, and because she’s the oldest grand child she’s kind of inspired others to feel free to be themselves.
Shaw said as a parent they have visions of how their child is going to be. She said but that can change, and a child will become their own person as they mature. She knows her child will never bear her own children, but she has a partner who she has helped in raising her children and she loves them as her own.
Edmo said in her son’s generation they also have LGBTQ relatives and their family has accepted them the way they are. She said in healing it’s just trying to learn more by asking questions.
“It’s important that if we do have some issues in our families, just to let them know to be accepting and have forgiveness,” she said.
Wadsworth said the healing they had was through their family, who is their heart. They use pray to heal whenever they need it.