'Love is loud'
When Faith and Justin Smith’s daughter told them she was transgender, they immediately offered her their support. Their community, however, did not give them the same encouragement.
As they worked to fill the loss of their former friends who could not accept their decisions, Faith discovered Mama Dragons, a nonprofit organization that provides educational resources and programs for mothers of LGBTQ children.
Last September, Faith and Justin sat down at StoryCorps’ mobile tour stop in Salt Lake City to talk about becoming allies for LGBTQ youth and rediscovering a sense of community.
Faith Smith: Our daughter, who is now 16, came to us in January of 2021 and said, "Don't be mad, but I am transgender." We just looked at each other, and then at her and said, "Okay." And (then asked), "What do you need?"
The reason I really wanted to do this whole thing was because we've had this incredible transition of communities. We had communities that felt very safe, and those were ripped away from us so painfully just because we chose to love our kid.
Justin Smith: That's really what it was. Because we were both out as allies, (people) knew who we were. But it was like, "Oh, yeah, you can hold that belief over there, (but) please say it quietly."
When there was that visual representation (of our support) with our daughter, (our beliefs weren’t distant) anymore.
FS: I totally love my kid, and I totally accept them, but there are (also) some tangible things that need to happen and resources that I need to obtain. And I (didn’t) even know where to start. So I went to Facebook, because I'm in my 40s, and that's what women in their 40s do, right? But there was this one group called Mama Dragons. It's a wonderful place for mothers of LGBTQ kids to come, just interact. It's very supportive, there are a lot of safeguards to keep it supportive. One of their giveback programs is that they have volunteers who will write letters to kids who are in crisis. And then ...
JS: Then you recommended that I join Dragon Dads.
FS: You got involved with them. And you've had similar experiences.
JS: I got to work security for queer prom this year. Some of the (women) were there (with) a free mom hugs sign … that one of the moms had brought. We didn't have a free dad hugs sign out there, but this one kid (asks me), "I see the free mom hugs. Do you do dad hugs?" I'm, like, "Absolutely." And he said, "I have a special request. Can you say 'I'm proud of you, son?'"
He broke me. I held it together at the time, because I was there for the kid, not for me. (Afterwards), they said, "Wow, that was really great. You're a really great hugger. Thank you." And I'm, like, "No, thank you."
I think one of the big parts that I've noticed working at the tables is that I need to be healed just as much as these kids need that. I don't think I did anything more for that kid than they did for me. If you're doing the right thing, it should feel good. It doesn't have to be selfless.
FS: Love is loud.
JS: Yeah, for sure.