OUR STORY—BETTY AND BOB DORR, First United Methodist Church, Omaha
In the late 1950s, Betty’s brother was seen in a gay bar while serving in the Army. He received a dishonorable discharge. That was when we learned he is gay. Betty’s parents, especially her mother, never wavered in their love for their son. Betty’s brother remained an important part of our family. In the mid-1960s, Bob’s brother told us he is gay. It didn’t matter. He is loved and accepted in our family.
As we raised our family of three sons, we didn’t bring up the subject of homosexuality with friends because we didn’t want to risk jeopardizing her brother’s public school teaching job. In 1992, our youngest son Michael came out to us at age 27 while in Omaha to attend his best friend’s wedding. He knew we would still love him because his two uncles were loved and accepted within the family.
Why did he wait so long to tell us he was gay? He said, “Mom and Dad, I know that you love me, but when I walk out the front door who else will? My church has told me that they feel it is wrong and so does society.” Michael excelled in academics both in high school and college. He rose to senior management at the Chicago-based Leo Burnett advertising agency. However, his personal life took a bad turn. He struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. He was diagnosed with bipolar mental illness. In 2006 he died at age 41 in his Chicago apartment of cardiac arrhythmia, a heartbeat disruption.
After Michael came out to us, we joined the Omaha chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and for about a dozen years one or the other of us led our local chapter. We also became active in efforts to win equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in theUnited Methodist Church. Betty testified in the defense of Jimmy Creech at his church trial for conducting a Holy Union commitment service for two lesbians at our church, First United Methodist in Omaha. Creech was acquitted at that trial. Later he conducted a commitment service for two gay men. He was tried again and lost his ministerial credentials. Betty served on the national board of Reconciling Ministries Network, which is committed to winning equality for GLBTs in theUnited Methodist Church, and also on the steering committee of the Parents Reconciling Network, a group affiliated with RMN. She has retired from the board and the steering committee.
Along the way, we have helped many parents understand that their gay son or lesbian daughter still is the same person they always have loved. When we served as grand marshals of the Pride Parade in Omaha, Bob spoke these words for the two of us: “On behalf of all accepting parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children we say this, If your parents for whatever reason don’t love and accept you just as you are, think of us as your parents. We are honored to be your parents.”
Young GLBT people need to know that there are pastors and lay members who care for them and that they can come home to their church.