A letter to my son
By Deborah Munn
Note: This blog post is a letter from Deborah to her son Charlie, one of two men denied service at Masterpiece Cakeshop. Deborah, who works in human resources, lives in the San Francisco Bay area, and has been a volunteer advocate for more than 40 years for religious freedom, wildlife, civil rights, and equal rights. She is the mother of three sons and three wonderful grandchildren.
My Dear Charlie,
By now most everyone knows your story: You and David were turned away by a Colorado baker, Jack Phillips, who decided he didn’t believe in your union, and who refused to bake your wedding cake. And eventually, a Supreme Court ruling in the baker’s favor. And while the case did not set precedent and was in part determined by the Colorado Civil Rights Agency’s treatment of Phillips, the case, for me, is all about family. It’s about you, my son, and about accepting people as they are.
It’s about acceptance over rejection.
Rejection. It’s a sensation parents try to shield their children from, even in its most benign forms. But there are some levels of rejection we simply must allow our children to feel—rejection from a first-choice college, the rejection of young love, being passed over for a part in the school play, being cut from the team.
Then there are the more insidious, dangerous kinds of rejection. The kind of rejection that negates who we are. The kind that doesn’t build character, but instead fosters fear, confusion, self-loathing, deep in our core—the kind that I, and most parents, try desperately to protect our children from.
The kind I was unable to protect you from six years ago.
On Valentine’s Day, I find myself wondering how things might be different if we all loved and accepted each other just as we are.
Imagine our homeless youth, almost half of whom identify as LGBTQ—almost half—many kicked out of their homes or left because they felt unsafe. Where might they be sleeping tonight instead of in the streets?
Imagine the gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth, five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their straight peers. Imagine what their lives could be—could have been—if they were simply accepted. And imagine the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming adults, 40 percent of whom report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives—most of them before the age of 25.
Our inability to accept people—as they are—has a damaging, deadly effect, particularly on our LGBTQ youth.
But rejection is not unique to age, gender, sexual orientation. It does not discriminate. I believe my father felt rejected. He served in the Navy during the mid 1940s until he retired in 1960. He left home often after we moved from Hawaii to Iowa, and though I didn’t know it at the time, was undergoing electroshock therapy for what would probably be diagnosed today as PTSD.
Maybe it was survivor’s guilt—he was airlifted from his ship where he served as a communications officer shortly before the ship was hit and the crew he served with were killed—maybe he felt misunderstood, rejected by the society he served. Whatever it was, he took his life when I was a young girl. And I still wish I could tell him I was proud of his service and was sorry he was so troubled.
I, too, understand the acute pain of rejection—I experienced it within my own family growing up, rejected for falling out of good standing within the church I had grown up in. I lost 30 years of relationship with my mother, 10 years of time with my siblings. And it was only at the end of my mother’s life that she told me that, even during those years when we weren’t speaking, she still loved me. How those words moved me. How many years I’d wished to hear them.
And upon hearing them again, they ignited in me the drive to reinforce this message to you, my son, and to all those who face—or fear—rejection for being truthful about who they are: you are perfect, just as you are.
You are loved. On Valentine’s Day and every day.
As you are.
It is our job as parents to protect our children from fear-based rejection and misunderstanding, to create a society that promotes understanding and acceptance by loving wholly and relentlessly.
It is our job as parents to accept our children for the unique individuals they are.
Charlie, I could not be prouder of you. I accept you, and I love you—exactly as you are.
About the Biden Foundation:
The Biden Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation established to carry on Vice President and Dr. Biden’s lifelong commitment to public service. By leveraging existing networks and institutions to support, serve, and advocate for LGBTQ communities, the foundation is dedicated to working toward a future where all people are equal in dignity and opportunity.
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