In The Den with Mama Dragons

Building Communities of Support

January 23, 2023 Episode 4
Building Communities of Support
In The Den with Mama Dragons
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In The Den with Mama Dragons
Building Communities of Support
Jan 23, 2023 Episode 4

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EPISODE 4: Bryce Cook–Building Communities of Support

In this episode of In the Den, Jen talks with Bryce Cook about the need that we all have for community. Helping your LGBTQ child find or create community can be key to their emotional and social happiness. Bryce describes seeing a need for a space of community for his sons, and how he went about creating that space for his sons and for others who need it. Jen and Bryce discuss the importance of creating community, and the benefits that come when community is found.


Special Guest: Bryce Cook


Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL (Arizona LDS LGBT) Friends & Family and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Bryce graduated from BYU with a degree in finance and from ASU with an MBA. He is an economic consultant at a firm he recently founded.


Links from the show: 

ALL Arizona LGBTQ support group: https://www.allarizona.org/


Rainbow Mutual Utah, LGBTQ youth support activities: https://www.facebook.com/RainbowMutual/


In the Den is made possible by generous donors like you.

Help us continue to deliver quality content by becoming a donor today at mamadragons.org. 

If you have a short story, feedback, or any comments we would love to hear from you at 562-344-5010.



Connect with Mama Dragons:
Website
Instagram
Facebook

Donate to this podcast



Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

EPISODE 4: Bryce Cook–Building Communities of Support

In this episode of In the Den, Jen talks with Bryce Cook about the need that we all have for community. Helping your LGBTQ child find or create community can be key to their emotional and social happiness. Bryce describes seeing a need for a space of community for his sons, and how he went about creating that space for his sons and for others who need it. Jen and Bryce discuss the importance of creating community, and the benefits that come when community is found.


Special Guest: Bryce Cook


Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL (Arizona LDS LGBT) Friends & Family and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Bryce graduated from BYU with a degree in finance and from ASU with an MBA. He is an economic consultant at a firm he recently founded.


Links from the show: 

ALL Arizona LGBTQ support group: https://www.allarizona.org/


Rainbow Mutual Utah, LGBTQ youth support activities: https://www.facebook.com/RainbowMutual/


In the Den is made possible by generous donors like you.

Help us continue to deliver quality content by becoming a donor today at mamadragons.org. 

If you have a short story, feedback, or any comments we would love to hear from you at 562-344-5010.



Connect with Mama Dragons:
Website
Instagram
Facebook

Donate to this podcast



JEN: Hello and welcome. You are listening to In the Den with Mama Dragons. I’m your host, Jen. This podcast was created out of our desire to walk and talk with you through this journey of raising happy, healthy, and productive LGBTQ humans. We are so happy that you’re here with us.

 

To start off each episode, we’re planning to share a little message from someone inside our community to help us all feel a little bit less alone or isolated in this parenting journey. This week, I feel tickled to be able to pass the mic to Chrisann Toelupe.

 

CHRISANN: Hi, my name is Chrisann Toelupe and I am the mother of four children. Two of my children happen to be queer. I have a transgender daughter and I also have a gay son. And I remember when my kids came out to me I felt so alone. I felt like I was probably the only mom in my religion that had queer kids. And so I remember one night just googling “Mormon mom with queer kids’ And a podcast popped up. and it was a podcast with Kimberly Anderson. She had done a project called the Mama Dragons Story Project where she had taken photographs of these Mormon moms who had queer kids. And the woman just got up and they read their stories. And I remember sitting on my couch just crying and just wanting to be like these women. They were saying out loud the things that I had been feeling, that there was nothing wrong with my kids. My kids were exactly who they were supposed to be. And they just spoke with such love and fondness of their queer children. And they were just so brave. I wanted to be a part of this group and I wanted to, not just see these woman in my screen, I wanted to talk with these women. And so, the next day, I reached out to Mama Dragons. Two Mama Dragons took me to lunch. And I remember sitting there with my salad, crying over my salad because it was the first time I’d ever said out loud that I had a gay son. And these women just sat with me and they listened to my family story. And there was no judgment there. They just wanted to listen. And so I joined Mama Dragons that day. And then, the Mama Dragons also connected me to many resources in my home state here in Utah. And I was in awe of how many resources there were out there, for the day before feeling so alone, like I was the only mom in Utah that had queer kids, to knowing that there was such a huge support system here in my community. It was just such a huge relief to me. And it was hard at first. I remember the first time I asked my son to go to a LGBTQ youth activity, he didn’t want to go. And I said, We’re going! And if you don’t like it, then we had a code word. And if he said the code word, I told him we would leave. And, of course, he never said the code word. He ended up having so much fun that night. And so I would just, if you have a family and you have queer members in your family, reach out to those people in your community. You are not alone. There are families in your community, and the more you reach out the more people will reach out to you. Even within my neighborhood, as I’ve shared my story, people have come up to me and asked me questions because they have queer kids and they weren’t quite sure what to say, what to do. The more you reach out in your community, the more you will make room for other LGBTQ families in your community. And so that’s the biggest thing, is just to be open. Be open. Make a space in your community for your family. Look for those resources within your community. And love your LGBTQ kids. Let them know that you love them. Share your story so that you can make room for other LGBTQ families in your community.

 

JEN: Today, we are going to talk about community, and particularly communities of support. Humans are social animals. We need community to thrive and be happy. The sad reality is, we know that when our children, of any age, share their identity with the world, and when we choose to boldly support them, we sometimes lose access to different communities. For some of us, that might mean the support of extended family is suddenly gone. Others might lose their own friend group. Some might suddenly realize that their church or neighborhood or school community is not going to be a healthy place for their family. And many of our children lose access to their own friends during this process. It can be hard. Much more emotionally painful than it sounds just using words, especially if we spent a lot of time nourishing these communities and we suddenly find ourselves on the outside of them. But, have no fear, we have asked Bryce Cook to join us today because we noticed from the outside, that when he saw a need for community, he gathered with others and created something impressively beautiful and admirable. Bryce is the founding member of ALL Arizona and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook, and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Bryce graduated from BYU with a degree in finance and from ASU with an MBA. He is an economic consultant at a firm he recently founded.

Welcome, Bryce, to In The Den. 

BRYCE: Thank you. I’m glad to be here, Jen. Thanks.   

JEN: We’re so excited. So I’m hoping you’ll start off and just talk to us about your experience in general with discovering a need for community or even the loss of community and how that all led to the creation of ALL Arizona. 

BRYCE: Right. So, it’s kind of interesting. Our oldest son, who came out to us when he was a freshman in college, stayed closeted for quite a few years after that. He only told us. And so this was a time for us to learn what it meant to be a parent of a gay child and to change a lot of the thinking and opinions that we previously had. And then, five years later, when he finally came out to the rest of the family and then to the world, we had kind of reconciled ourselves to “We can deal with this publically and we’re not going to be ashamed or embarrassed in any way.” Our family, we were very supportive and loving. And everyone was for our son. And then, our second son came out a few months later. And so that kind of upped the ante. But I just felt inside very much at peace, very reconciled as a family that we could handle all this just fine. But then an interesting thing happened. And that was, I began getting these feelings inside that I couldn't just sit back and let things go without doing something. That I had learned something from this experience, and I needed to be a voice. And this is where the  community part comes in because my oldest son expressed the need that he’d never even talked to a gay person. And he’d been out for, like, five years. Well, other than online or in chat rooms and so forth, back then. This was like 2011, 2012. And particularly with the church that we had come from because it was something that was never talked about, yet he knew that there were other gay members that had come out from their blogs and talking with people online. But he wanted something more than just an online community. And so he talked about, “Do you think we could state some kind of support group?” And so that’s where I began getting all these thoughts and ideas, and realized that I needed to do something more and sit back and be a good dad. I could help, not only be a good dad, but maybe be a good dad and my wife join in and be a good mom to people who didn’t feel like they had a family or community. And so that was kind of the beginning of what is now called ALL Arizona. And I have to give most of the credit to my son because he really came up with the ideas. And then his friend, who was in medical school at the time, because my son got hired by the state department and moved out of state. And so a guy named Brian Hendrickson who was also a good friend of our oldest son Trevor, really took the bull by the horns and he told us what his vision was and we worked together. And, anyway, it started with just a little meeting in our house around the kitchen table, kind of a get-together where we ordered pizza and I think there were eight or nine people that came. And everyone who came through the door got a big hug. And when they left, they got a big hug both from my wife and me. And since then, it’s grown and we’re over 1,000 members. And we have a conference every year. WE have monthly socials. And it’s just a great group. 

JEN: And everyone still gets a hug on their way in and their way out? 

BRYCE: Yeah. Lots of hugs. Absolutely. 

JEN: How did you, I don’t know the right way to ask this, the insecurity of, if we build it, will they come? How did you approach that fear? Like, we’re going to go to all this work. We’re going to order ten pizzas. What if nobody shows up. 

BRYCE: Well, we didn’t, as far as that vision, there was no way that we foresaw what it’s become today. Conference and just the size of it. We just thought, hey this could be just a little monthly, we could have game nights, we can have serious discussions. Maybe we can meet some of these people’s parents and help them. It was very, very simple at first, just very simple. We just thought, we wanted a home where people could come and feel comfortable, particularly people of our faith, that’s kind of what the target was originally because it was something that was so needed at the time. And so that’s kind of all we set out to do, just very simple, nothing grandiose and we’d get an idea of who was coming and we’d order the pizzas and that's all there was to it. And the next time, we had a game night. And then the next time we would have a discussion topic or we’d invite someone to come and talk who could be a role model that’d been through the difficulty of coming out and particularly someone in our faith and had made a great success of their life and could be a role model. 

JEN: I love the idea that things that are needed and beautiful kind of grow organically if we boldly take those first couple steps. How did you tell people about ALL Arizona? How did people even know it was a choice, an option? 

BRYCE: Right. That’s an interesting part too. And that’s where I really have to give most of the credit ot Brian Hendrickson who really got the word out and kind of marketed. But, I guess, it was probably originally mostly word-of-mouth. There used to be an online forum that was geared towards members of our faith who are gay, that they could meet or talk or whatever. And so he, through that forum, was able to put out the, “Hey look. We’ve got this support/social group.” And he would post the events every month when we’d have them. And that’s kind of how word initially got out. And then, I think, just word-of-mouth was really the main thing. And once we started a Facebook group and we had a public page as well as just the private group itself, then other people would find out about it. They’d run into it. We had a website. And so all of that kind of helped get the word out. 

JEN: Primarily, would you say you guys, I don’t know, but would you say you primarily focus on those monthly activities and the conferences? Or do you have a strong social media support presence? 

BRYCE: We have the Facebook group that’s pretty strong. But I would say we were much better as an in-real-life group. And that’s what people come to ALL Arizona for. So it’s really the monthly socials and then our annual conference that I think is the real draw and that is the real value to our group. Because there are so many online groups and, as we all know, when people have differences online when you don’t really know someone, it’s easy to become upset or disaffected or whatever. And we have a very diverse group, as you can imagine. We have people that are still fully in their former faith. We have people who are fully out. And everything in between. And so it could become contentious. But, because we all know each other, everyone is just very loving and accepting. And so that, being able to be together every month and come to know each other, that is just a fantastic thing. 

JEN: I know as a mom, for me, I started online to try to learn and meet people .But it did something to my heart when I got to be in the presence of healthy, happy, productive members of the LGBTQ community. To see them as the whole, complete, unique, varied, people that they were. Something about that in-person humanity is different than conversational snippets online. So I love that you guys do that in person. So your organization kind of targets, like people don’t have to come together, but it kind of targets families. You’re saying, “You come and bring your parents and your siblings.” And kind of made it like a family affair, correct? 

BRYCE: Well, yes, and no. Primarily, it is for the LGBTQ people themselves. That’s who we’ve targeted and tried to support. But it has branched out from there. For instance, the monthly socials, anyone can come. It is, primarily, for LGBTQ. But oftentimes, parents or family members come. And we welcome them. But, one thing that we’ve done, is we’ve started a parents group. So we have an ALL Arizona parents group that meets once a quarter. And we have a great family, a husband and wife, that have taken over that. And they prepare a nice dinner and sort of potluck that they do most of the dinner and then they usually have a speaker. But everyone, all the parents really look forward to that. And that's a great group. 

JEN: That’s awesome. I didn’t even know about that. That’s fantastic. So you and I talked a little bit before about how sometimes the need for community is a little bit different. Sometimes, particularly when the kids come out when they’re older and they’re in their 20’s or 30’s or 50’s, they have established their own supportive, affirming peer group. And they’re good. But, suddenly mom and dad, or the parents in general, have some questions and some conversations that they need to have, maybe some anxiety that they need to work through. And the groups that they’ve always turned to for that support, are no longer able to support them or no longer able to offer wisdom or advice that’s applicable in these new situations. So, if it’s particularly the parents, most of us listening are not going to be lucky enough to be close enough to ALL Arizona. Most of us are outside of that area. What kind of suggestions do you have for parents who need an understanding peer group of their own, separate from what their kids might need. 

BRYCE: Right. Well, obviously, there’s the online communities. Which, as much as I just a moment ago talked about how great an in-real-life community is, I’m not in any way detracting from the importance of online communities because they are important too. And they are extremely valuable, because, as you say, not everyone is in a location where there might be an actual in-real-life group. So I would totally recommend that, like Mama Dragons. Mama Dragons is a great example there. And I'm sure there are others. Also, there are other groups like PFLAG that maybe you’ve mentioned before, Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays. And I think they tend to have local chapters just about everywhere. In Arizona, there’s a group called One in Ten that gives a lot of support to youth and young adults. So there are oftentimes organizations that are already in existence and if you just do a little digging wherever you are, you could probably find some of those groups. 

JEN: It seems also, that when you connect with one, even if you just look up your local pride center, then this entire community world network starts to open up to you. 

BRYCE: Yeah. 

JEN: Even if it’s just, I know someone who has a lesbian daughter. Can I give them your phone number? 

BRYCE: Right. 

JEN: And then that person, it kind of starts a ripple effect to open some of those worlds to you. So, on the opposite side. Maybe mom and dad are fine. They have their friends. Their family came on board. Everybody’s supportive. But you have, if your child’s 50, probably you’re not in charge of their social activities anymore. Biut, if they’re five or seven or 13, what kind of suggestions do you have? Like, in our case, even the siblings lost access to most of their friends when their older brother came out. Like, what kind of ideas and suggestions do you have for parents to build community for their kids and come up with some of those role models and mentors that they need? 

BRYCE: That’s, for the really young kids that are coming, and they’re coming out at younger ages now. It’s more difficult, I think. But there, for instance, in Arizona, there’s another kind of branch of ALL Arizona that targets the younger, the youth groups, like 12 to 18. And it’s called Rainbow Mutual. I think they took that name from another group up in Utah or somewhere. And so once a month, they get together with parents and those kids, and they can bring siblings and friends so that it’s not just LGBT, but them and their friends and supporters. So that’s been a great thing for the youth group. 

JEN: Yeah. And similar, you can find things like that by tapping into that same, that same network. You find the people who know when your child first comes out. It sounds like you had a great experience at the start with family support. For a lot of us, we’re kind of suddenly alone. And don't really know where to start. And if you can find one person that’s been there, you really are okay. There really are people who have walked this path before and they are happy to help save you some of thee learning curve that they took and tap you into some of those things. But you have to be a little bit vulnerable to reach out first. 

BRYCE: Yeah. True. I actually called a number of people that I just heard about. Like, up in Utah, some people that had started a group, I called a number of different people, a son in California. Just to kind of get an idea of what they had done and what they learned. And, really, it just takes someone who has the gumption to do something. Like, with our youth group, I didn’t want to take on that myself. And for about 5 years, we kept trying to say, “Someone needs to do this. You parents with young kids, someone stop and just say, even though we only have two or three people, every month, we’re going to have a little get together at our house.” And finally someone stepped up and did it and now it’s going well. But I understand that it can be scary or not everyone might feel like they can do something. But it’s really simple. And I’ll tell you this too, what we have given pales in comparison to the love and the blessings and the goodness that’s come back to us. Our family has expanded tremendously from what it was. And just to think about how we used to be and what our community and your friends were and everything, was so small compared to where we are now. And I think anyone who’s been on this journey and gotten to know people, they get that. They understand that. The community that’s there, the people they meet, become like family. It just opens up your heart and broadens that family once you get that community and are able to meet those people and make them part of your lives. 

JEN: Absolutely. So, before you get there, there’s a bit of a learning curve.  Maybe not everybody would feel like this, but I remember walking into my first couple of events and feeling quite insecure. Like, what if I was the one who didn’t fit in or was so awkward or said the wrong thing. I was so nervous about saying something offensive and hurting someone’s feelings because I didn’t know the language and how to talk about things I wanted to ask about without asking overly personal questions. We recognize that there’s a learning curve. And that’s actually part of the reason we need community, right? 

BRYCE: Yeah. 

JEN: You’ve got a lot to learn. You’ve got to find some people who can model and mentor and stuff. So, if you don’t really have any idea about what it means to be queer or how to even talk about it, you’re going to show up at a place that has a lot of LGBTQ people. Talk to me for a minute about how you encourage people, because you probably have new people coming to ALL Arizona. How can they do it most effectively, what are the advantages of maybe saying some things and just not saying other things that vulnerability level. What do you recommend to people? 

BRYCE: Yeah. So, the first thing is to muster up the courage to go. And it’s funny. Every time you see a new person, whether it’s an LGBTQ person or an ally or parent that shows up for the first time, you can see it in their face. They’re nervous. They’re scared. But everyone is just so loving and kind. Everyone just, because we’ve all been there, and so we want to make it as easy for them as possible. And LGBTQ folks and their allies are some of the most forgiving and tolerant and loving people you’ll ever meet. So have that courage. But don’t worry about the missteps or saying the wrong thing because they'll help you. They’re on a journey to help you. Now, that being said, I would recommend just kind of listening a lot, too. You can ask questions, no one will ever fault you for asking questions because that means you’re ready to learn. But, ask questions and then just listen. And I think that tends to be more a natural thing when you go to something in person. In online forums, it’s easier for people to be a little bit bolder or more opinionated. And sometimes that’s where I think people need to kind of sit back and listen and watch the conversation and learn a little bit more. But, in real life, I would say just have the courage to go and then just bask and listen and learn and it’ll be a great experience for you. 

JEN: One thing that was challenging for me, and a skill that I greatly appreciated from these communities is an opportunity to learn how to sit in spaces that are a little bit uncomfortable, because it was. I was used to going to spaces where I knew all of the rules and I knew where I fit in and I knew what my job was and when I was supposed to say and do different things. I knew all the rules. And going into these new spaces was not comfortable. It’s not the same as going into a party of people you don’t know. You’re going into a whole new community. And some of the things that were said initially were a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to the terminology at all. But the actual skill of learning how to sit in that discomfort has helped me in a thousand different ways since then. But, what sort of things do you recommend, like what sort of ideas come up in these meetings that make people challenge their – do people come into your meetings and expect to do some educating and teaching of their own? 

BRYCE: No. Honestly, we haven’t seen that. Usually, again, when people come in, they’re pretty timid, new. They don’t know what to expect. And there may be some discomfort for some of them because they may have opinions and strong opinions that maybe differ somewhat. But I typically have not seen anyone try to force their opinions or say that you’re doing things wrong. Not everyone, probably, feels fully comfortable if they come in already with their mind made up or have very strong opinions that  are not tolerant or accepting or loving. So maybe it would be more difficult for people like that. But, generally, I don’t see that very often. Usually, the people that come, come because they want to learn. They want to find community. They want to understand and they get that. That does come. 

JEN: So, they’re more successful maybe because they show up curious? 

BRYCE:  Yeah. 

JEN: They show up interested. 

BRYCE: That’s a good way to say it. They’re curious. They’re humble, recognizing they have a lot to learn. And everyone, again, is so good at just being loving and kind and helping them along the way. So that part, I think, they’re always pleasantly surprised. 

JEN: I’ve been impressed with how gracious people are with my elementary-level questions. As somebody who’s older, it’s sometimes embarrassing to realize that you’re on a first-grade level and you’re asking some pretty first-grade. But I’ve never had anyone be anything but kind to me as I’ve sincerely asked questions. And sometimes, when I’m not comfortable asking questions, I just make a little mental note and then I go home and Google. 

BRYCE: That’s a good idea. 

JEN: Because I have a certain number of questions that you feel comfortable asking and then Google has all of the answers now. Beautiful talks and blog posts and articles. And so, even if you just go to an activity or a space and leave with questions, you’ve left with quality questions that you didn’t think of before that you didn’t even know how to Google or talk about before. So, talk to me for a minute about how this new community grew and probably felt overwhelming at times because you can’t fit a thousand people in your kitchen for pizza anymore. How did that change your family, and your family dynamics? And what did that do for your boys? 

BRYCE: Well, it was a great thing for, not only our two gay sons, but their siblings would attend on occasion. And it was good for them to see other gay people because all they’d been exposed to were their siblings. Although, it’s interesting, and again, this is going back ten years or so. So kids coming out in high school is much more common now in the last five years or so. And so our kids do know some kids that were gay at the time in high school. But they weren't quite as open and out as what you see now. But it was good for them to see their gay siblings sort of in their element and to understand more about what their life was like and to see other people. So it was good for the whole family in that respect. 

JEN: Did your boys end up making a lot of friends there? You said they had moved around a little bit after that. and they were a little bit older. What year was this, that you guys started ALL Arizona? 

BRYCE: 2012. And so our oldest son left kind of at the beginning of it, moved out to DC and then to China working for the state department. He’s back now since then. And, in fact, is one of the co-directors of ALL Arizona. But they’ve made great friends. And that’s one of the wonderful things about ALL Arizona. In a way, it kind of serves as a stepping stone for people who are just coming out and are kind of scared and don’t know and don’t have community. Particularly, again, like I say, was focused on people within our church, conservative religion, LDS church. And so I think, once people, after maybe several years are totally comfortable in their skin, where their life is taking them, so some people just kind of move on. They don’t feel like they need us, they’ve established a friends group and so they don’t come to the monthly socials near as often. But the thing that I’ve loved saying is that they made lifelong friends. And when I see, for instance, some of our original people that used to come still with family members or with people that they met going to each other’s weddings or kids’ events or whatever. 

JEN: That’s awesome. 

BRYCE: Yeah. It’s just fantastic. If we’ve done anything. ALL Arizona, if it’s done anything, it’s the friendships, the lifelong friendships that have come out of that group that are most meaningful, I think. 

JEN: So, pretend you have a parent that’s talking to you and they tell you, “My kid has no friends now. We had a great group. They were going to church activities every Wednesday. They’re not included any more. They have no friends. But I’m afraid if I start inviting the other LGBTQ kids into my home that I’ll be encouraging bad behavior or I’ll be encouraging them to isolate themselves from the straight, cisgender population. I’ll be isolating and separating them.” What kind of things would you tell a parent who had fears or felt nervous about something like that? 

BRYCE: I don’t know. I guess you could analogize and say, “Well, if you started a support group or a social group for anything else where your child, maybe it was an athletic group or a music group or kids that had a particular interest in something, would you be concerned that they’ll only ever associate with people that have that interest or that hobby or whatever?” Not necessarily, but it gives them a chance to meet other like-minded people and they’re not going to feel like the only ones in the world. And it actually gives them a great deal of comfort and encouragement to see that they’re not alone. That’s one of the other coolest things about the in-real-life groups is when we see these new people come in. And, again, a lot of times they’re like a deer caught in the headlights. And I’m talking about LGBTQ young people now. To see them maybe for the first time be able to be completely out and open and not worried about, “What are people going to think about me if I tell them I’m gay or trans?” Here they can just let their guard down. I can’t imagine having to function like that in society where we take for granted as cishet people, straight people, we don’t worry about “When are they going to find out about us or think about us” in the way that these kids have or these young people have. And so to actually be in an atmosphere where they can just let their guard down finally and be themselves and see that there are a whole bunch of other people like them. It’s life changing. And they say that. They say, “This is the greatest thing. I can’t believe that something like this exists. It was fantastic. I can’t wait to come back.” So that really, that to me was one of the reasons I wanted to keep this going for so long and felt like we needed to reach as many people as we can because, if what I’ve seen happened here with this person, if we can reach ten more, then that changes lives. That’s wonderful to see. 

JEN: I super want to echo that. When we first started doing youth groups, I was a little bit nervous that we would pull all these kids together and they would just all want to date each other. And then we’d have some relationship dynamics and crazy things like that. and they’d want to talk about, for lack of a better term, they would just want to talk about “Gay” stuff the whole time. And we would be trying to help steer conversations in appropriate directions. And we found the exact opposite. That when we would bring these teens together, they would talk about anime and they would talk about their hobbies and they would talk about their favorite musicians. And they didn’t really talk about gay stuff at all. And the difference seemed to be as we worked with these kids over the years, that they finally could talk to people totally openly and freely without worrying that they were going to slip, that they were going to stay something to make it tense, that someone was going to find out that they were actually transgender. And so they would have to be careful. Where, when they were with a group that felt very safe, they talked about everything except not really gay stuff. 

BRYCE: Yeah. I think that’s true. Absolutely. 

JEN: It was super interesting. So I’ll ask you one more question. Your kids were a little bit older when they came out. But how did you find responsible, healthy, we can look in the news and see some terrifying and scary statistics and stories. How did you find mentors to teach you what it meant as a parent and also your kids to help them walk a healthy path. If we belong to other minority groups, usually our parents belong to that same minority group and can help us. But, in this instance, we have kids who belong to a marginalized community and nobody even knows until they tell them. And they don’t have those models in their house. How did you find those role models? 

BRYCE: That’s a really good point. As I mentioned, we’ve had speakers early on who have been successful, been gay people that have been successful in their careers, maybe they’re married to a same-sex partner and their lives demonstrate that it gets better, that you can just live a normal happy life. And, as worried as some of these young people might be when they first come out about what does that mean for their lives, how can they have any kind of normal life when they’re not like the rest of the majority of their peer group or the people they know at church or school or whatever. If we can bring in people that demonstrate that you can have a good, happy, healthy life. You can go on and be successful and do what you want to do. So that is very important. You asked, how do we find these people? They’re all around us. They’re everywhere. Once you start to meet LGBTQ people, then there are successful happy people everywhere. And they’re usually very willing to come and share their story and be mentors and to be part of the group. 

JEN: A lot of people in the community themselves seem very willing to pay it forward. They remember those feelings and they’re happy to make it a little bit smoother. I’m very grateful for the generations 50 years ago or 40 years ago or 30 years ago or 20 years ago who started to become more visible and make it safer when my own kids were ready to come out. And I find that they continue to be very willing to remember and to guide. And not everybody wants to be a role model all day every day. But they’re pretty good about remembering and sharing their stories. And, we have online now. So we can read their stories and watch their stories. And there’s so many powerful blogs and podcasts and things available. Even if you’re mentored by a podcast that’s kind of walking your path. That’s helpful. Sometimes I think we are afraid that kids learn and believe that they’re queer because they saw it on TikTok or whatever instead of realizing they’re searching these things out to try to figure out if they’re normal or not. So they’re watching those videos – the videos aren’t teaching them to be queer. The videos are teaching them that they’re not alone. 

BRYCE: Exactly. My experience is that they’ve thought long and hard about this for years, oftentimes, before they are willing to share that big secret with someone they trust. 

JEN: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for coming in. I know it’s always a little intimidating to be in the first few episodes of a podcast when the podcast is still trying to figure out how to get their feet on the ground and do what they’re doing. I appreciate you being vulnerable and willing to support our efforts to empower parents. 

BRYCE: I’m happy to help. And if anyone would like to know about how we got our support group going, they can go to ALLArizona.org and kind of see what our website looks like and they can contact me through that site. And I’d be happy to talk with them. 

JEN: And we’ll absolutely include a link to that in the show notes so people can find it even if they just copy some of your ideas to replicate where they live. 

BRYCE: Yep. That would be great. 

JEN: Awesome. Thank you so, so much, Bryce. 

BRYCE: My pleasure. 

JEN: For more information on Mama Dragons and the podcast, you can visit our website at MamaDragons.org. Or follow us on Instagram or Facebook. And if you’d like to help Mama Dragons in our mission to support, educate, and empower the parents of LGBTQ children, donate at MamaDragons.org or click the link below in the show notes. We’re glad you’re here.