May 9, 2024 

Welcome to Bursting Through’s Love Stories.

Love Stories come from Bursting Through members like you. Each Love Story reveals a personal journey that resulted in an expansion of love—how it is defined and how it is lived. Bursting Through Love Stories are not romantic love stories, they are stories about love.

This week’s Love Story originated during a conversations a with mom and author named Ninya. Ninya has written five books under the pen name Blair Bryan. Her book When Wren Came Out is a fictionalized account of her personal experience as a mother raising a queer child in a conservative household.   

Our discussion was around the time she published When Wren Came Out and initially appeared as an Extraordinary Actions story in Bursting Through Connections Magazine. It is revisited here because her message is more important and timely than ever.

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Ninya describes herself as a traditionally-minded, straight mother.  She classifies herself as open-minded but still has very traditional values from her Catholic upbringing and education. 

Ninya knew this book would be somewhat polarizing but was not fully prepared for what she encountered. When she ran a promotional advertisement people responded by quoting scripture and calling her out for how she was parenting her child. Ninya was totally shocked. 

“I got to see a little bit about the hate my daughter, J, and the community feel on a regular basis and it was very eye-opening for me. There is a real common misconception amongst straight people that we have evolved and everyone is accepting. That discrimination might have been in the past, but not happening now,” she said. 

She spoke to her daughter J about it and learned that J and friends had experienced things like having food thrown at them and hateful comments screamed out of cars as they walked home from school.

Getting to the heart of the matter she said, “It’s just really frustrating to see your child that you love so much have to struggle through the world’s perception of who they are at their center.” This viewpoint and that struggle are what compelled her to write When Wren Came Out. Ninya knew that the voice of a traditionally minded mother of a queer child was unrepresented and needed to be heard.

“There is a struggle for a very traditionally minded mother who has all of these ideas, hopes, and dreams for their child thrown out the window by a secret. This mother is trying to navigate that territory, that conflict between I have these values and I believe in God and all those things on one hand and I have this child that I love on the other. Trying to navigate the journey to accept and understand is huge.”

Ninya feels there needs to be more awareness and conversation about the struggle, the confusion and the fear of having and parenting a Queer child. And that there needs to be more dialogue around the persecution of children who have no choice but to be who they are.

“There is an identity crisis you go through as a mother when you have a child that is queer. You accept and love them, but then you go out into the scary, hateful world and you want to pull that child in tight because you are afraid of what will happen when they go out and experience that.” 

As a mother, Ninya is ashamed and embarrassed to admit that she never wanted her child to be anything but heterosexual. She knew how much hate there was in the world and she didn’t want her child to be the subject of that hate. Those feelings did not change the reality of the situation.  She had a queer child and she now had to learn how to parent and love that child the way her daughter needed and deserved.

Ninya asked herself, “How does the mom learn and become the best version of herself when confronted with parenting a queer child?” There didn’t seem to be a roadmap or a place to turn for education or advice. Ninya learned over time that the best source of information and education was right in front of her. It was J, her daughter.

She discovered, “Love is in letting go and not white-knuckling it.”  Ninya had to let her child tell her who she was and how she needed to be loved. As a self-described helicopter mom, this was and continues to be a challenge. Ninya learned that as a parent of a queer child, she had to ask questions she did not know the answers to and that horrified her.

Questions were the key to building a new relationship with a new version of her child that was much different than the version she had imagined. She accepted it was ok to be scared and worried and that it was not going to be easy. “It was about the willingness to learn, the willingness to be open and to give your child the space to truly become who they are.”  

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Through experience and difficult times, she realized, “It’s not my responsibility to put my expectations on J’s shoulders. It’s J’s responsibility to become who they are meant to be and my job is to love them and that’s it.” It was a really humbling mom experience for Ninya to reluctantly get out of the driver’s seat and let J drive.

“As mothers we are taught we are supposed to white knuckle these kids to adhere to these values that we hold dear and it’s actually a lot more about letting go and that is what we are afraid to do.”

She knows that some people think that a child coming out is the worst thing that can even happen but Ninya’s philosophy is the worst thing that could happen was her child not feeling they can totally be who they truly are. 

Ninya acknowledges that no parent would want their child to be queer because it just makes life harder, but knows that apprehension and fear come from a place of love. “You want your child to have an easy, carefree, loving, wonderful life, and being queer makes it harder. It’s just the reality of the situation. They have more challenges to face.”

It was a journey for Ninya to release the shame she had associated with not wanting J to be queer. On her road to authenticity, she realized those feelings were not bad, it was what she chose to do with them that was important and that it was a process. She would love to be able to say she’s done, but she’s not.

Ninya knew she had to be willing to ask the questions and to learn. “That is sometimes hard as a straight parent who wants to know more than just that their child is queer. Not asking the questions does not get you to a place where you can truly love them. When you love someone you learn about them, to know what their experiences are like and what their heart really calls them to do.”

She wants other parents of queer children to know that it’s okay to be scared, frustrated, and worried and it’s okay to be consumed by all these feelings associated with your child coming out. “It kinda rocks your foundation but what you can do is build back a much more beautiful house. When you get down to the foundation you can have those harder conversations with an open heart and a healthy dose of curiosity. Curiosity serves well in this situation.” 

Ninya knows there is so much she does not understand about sexuality and gender.  Learning and understanding that sexual orientation is a spectrum and that gender can be, and often is, fluid is a lot to process for a straight person who has only experienced a binary and heterosexual world.

She likened it to one of the first things we learn as babies—to sort objects. “From that time on we are constantly sorting things in our world and we continue that as parents. We sort our children into male and female based on what the doctor tells us. We have to get away from all that labeling that we are compelled to do from early on. It’s a whole different perspective and it’s kind of starting over from scratch and getting to know this person that you love in a whole different way.” 

She knew that asking the questions to understand J was incredibly important and finding the right questions to ask would be difficult and scary. She wondered as a parent what might happen if she couldn’t handle the answers or got too much information, but she knew that fear could not keep her from asking the really hard questions.  

The questions and answers were part of love and would lead their relationship to the right place, even though it would likely be uncomfortable. 

She learned how smart her child was and how much J knew about being themself. She also learned that it’s not one-and-done, it’s an open dialogue you have to have with your child.  That desire to understand is a HUGE ACT OF LOVE!

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Fighting her way through uncomfortable conversations is where the growth happens and has made Ninya an accidental activist. When asked what gave her the drive to accept her new role, she answered, “It’s partially fueled by fresh outrage and knowledge. The more you know about the queer community and what they are facing the more you empathize and understand their struggle. It can’t do anything but light that fire in your heart.”

Ninya’s superpower is outrage + action. She believes the ability to love out loud can lead to sustainable change. She left us with these three pieces of wisdom for parents of queer kids who love and accept their child but are not actively engaged in that child’s life:

Ask the tough questions. Get to know the things you don’t know.  

Go into any action with an open heart and see what comes from it naturally. 

Their journey is not our journey and our job is to love them— that’s it! 

Thank you Ninya for sharing your story. Happy Mother’s Day to you and all moms doing their best to live life with open hearts and minds.

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