You Can’t
Pray the Gay Away


Written by: Michael and Zach Zakar

  

A Mother’s Advice
            Mothers of LGBTQA children that have been in your shoes! They have some advice they want to share with you:

            “You can live in the past and lose your child or you can let go of tradition and gain the trust and love of your child. Which is more important: Tradition or a human? Tradition means nothing to God, God searches the heart for love and acceptance.”
            “Did you love your child before you knew they were gay? Then it shouldn’t matter what your child comes to you with-- besides murder.”
            “Parenting is never easy and never perfect. Keep the lines of communication open and love. I just wanted him [her child] to know that I love him and God loves him.”
            “I tried to change her [her child] but after a death in the family, I didn’t care about how she identified, I just wanted a relationship with my daughter.”
            “I am not God, and I do not know all things. I know what I know and I am willing to learn.”
           “The choices that make your child happy should make you happy.”
           “Jesus loved everyone, even the leapers. Why would you not love who ever your son loves?”


          Hello, if you don’t know who we are, let us introduce ourselves virtually. We are Michael and Zachary Zakar, otherwise known as the Zakar Twins on all social media. In 2017, we debuted our memoir, Pray the Gay Away. For a decade, we struggled with our identity and mostly our relationship with our mother, Iman. After years of arguments, tears & green grapes, we wrote this e-book as a tool for parents who are struggling to accept their own children who fall under the LGBTQA category.



You Know
            Let’s start by saying congratulations on taking the first step of acceptance by reading this e-book. You have either just found out your child is gay or are having major suspicions. Call it a mother’s (or father’s) intuition.  
            Either you’re sad, upset, or you don’t know what to do next. We’re here to help!
            I’m Michael Zakar. Six years ago, my twin brother Zach and I came out to our Iraqi, religious mother and got faces full of Holy Water.
            According to The
Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there are over 9 million Americans that identify on the LGBTQA spectrum, that’s about 5% of the human population. Realize that you are not alone in this journey of acceptance. Realize your child isn’t a minority, their part of a majority.


“There are three things that cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”
                                                             -Buddha



Breathe
            Now that you have acknowledged that your child is gay, breathe--because we’re just getting started. Acknowledging and accepting your child are two very different things. I acknowledge that Donald Trump is president, but I don’t accept it… See? Two very different things.
            Let’s assume that your child came out to you or maybe you found some rather interesting videos on his or her computer. Your mind is spinning with a ton of questions:
                       
-Was it my fault as their parent?
                        -How will they carry on the family
                         name?
                         -What will society think of them?
                        -Why me?
                        -Will they lose their faith?

            Remember: They’re coming out, not you.
            Our Mom had plenty of her own questions, questions you should most likely avoid:
                       
-Were you boys molested?
                        -Have you tried having sex with a
                         woman?
                        -Why did God let me give birth to
                         you two?
                        -Why couldn’t you have had
                         cancer? At least, that’s curable.

            Truth is, we grew up in Troy, Michigan. Top 50 safest cities in the USA. We had a very average childhood to which we then graduated at Wayne State University with a Bachelor’s in Film. No one molested us. God doesn’t have it out for us, and being gay isn’t a disease.


Exercise:
Take five deep breathes and realize the reality of the situation isn’t as bad as you think. There are bigger issues in the world.

 

 

Talk
            It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Choose your words carefully, these are the words they will carry with them forever.
            “Are you sure?” is a question we suggest you dodge. It’s like asking a corpse if they’re sure they’re dead. Being this way isn’t something your child woke up to and decided was the trendy thing to do.
            You’re confused, they’re confused. Remember, you’re adjusting to the new them, like they’re adjusting to the new them. Over-reacting happens naturally. Our mom’s gut reaction was to sneak into our bedroom and try to de-gay us by feeding us “blessed-by-a-priest” green grapes while we were sleeping. Zach choked, but he’s fine. We know it isn’t easy for some parents, so if you over-react, take some time to breathe (step #1). It’s easier to react with anger and confusion, but sit down and think before reacting.  It’s okay to feel that way, when I came out I was angry just because I didn’t know how to tell anyone what I was feeling.
             Be open, talk to your child. They have processed this situation for years, working their way from confusion to anger to self-acceptance, similar to the emotions you’re feeling.
            Start with these questions:
                       
-When did you know?
                        -How did you know?
                        -How can I help?

            You may not like the answers. If it’s too much, don’t speak, a hug speaks volumes.

Exercise:
 Think about the big picture…
take out a notebook and write out in the future how you want to see you and your child’s relationship.




Remember
            Underneath all your confusion, your child is still that five-year-old that cried when they fell down. Reassure the love and safety.
            If your child is coming out to you, it is because they are:
A. sick of repressing their true selves.
B. feel comfortable enough to come out to you.
            For me (Zach) my mother confronted me after my cousin showed her a suspicious Facebook photo of me and a drag queen. A photo my mother didn’t find funny. In the summer of 2012, my mom came into my room. She always asked why I didn’t have a girlfriend, she knew, but was hanging on to some hope that I would meet the girl of my dreams. When that hope died, she blindsided me, expressing that she wanted me to admit it (or to not admit it). After I confessed, I told her that Michael was also gay. She looked like she didn’t know who I was. I was an alien in my own home. That night, I feared what was going to come next. I was planning on coming out, just not like that. Michael technically didn’t even get to come out, I came out for both of us.
            The main reason most teens don’t come out is the fear of losing their home. 40% of homeless youth, identify as LGBTQA.
            If you, as a parent, have weighed this option—you need more time to think. A child’s home is a safety zone, not a war zone.
            That is your baby, nourish them don’t destroy them. What this does psychologically for a child can lead to depression and/or suicide. We recommend the movie Prayers to Bobby for a deeper understanding.

 Your God Doesn’t Hate You
            Our mother blamed God. Asking why he would curse her with two “mistakes.” She questioned her faith.
            But your God isn’t spiteful. Your God isn’t testing you. Your child is truly born this way. And if you don’t believe that, look at the gay twins writing this book.
            A problem with religion lies with the misconceptions in what your God values as “good” and “bad.” Jesus never turned away from anyone, so why are you? We all forget that religion has one end goal; treat everyone with respect/love. Realistically, who is going to Heaven first? Someone like Ellen DeGeneres or one of the 16 members of the Westboro Baptist Church… if it takes you more than half a second to say Ellen, then your concept of good and bad might be misconstrued.
            The destruction of love and happiness is not God’s work, that is the Devil’s work. The Orlando shooter from 2016, said he was upset by “two guys kissing.” Are we under the impression that murder is considered God’s work?
            Let us emphasize by saying, you cannot cure homosexuality. Many gays and lesbians have had satisfying heterosexual sex in their life. Most gays don’t even have to have sex to know what they like. Most, maybe all straight men, don’t go “hm, I should suck a dick, just to make sure.” And if they do, have them read our first book.
            Also, before your mind goes any further into the idea of “fixing” your not broken child, therapy is not the answer. Conversion-therapy is never the answer. From someone who has experienced this; conversion therapy does more harm than good. Remember, you can’t pray the gay away.

Exercise:
Take out a notebook and write 5 things your parent/guardian didn’t agree with at when you were a teen.
Did it strain your relationship?
How did it make you feel?



Acceptance Isn’t A “White Thing”
            Our mother was under the illusion that acceptance was a “white thing.” When we asked her why she couldn’t accept us, she responded:
“Cause I’m not white.”
            Sure, the American culture is more likely to accept LGBTQA children but the idea of acceptance isn’t something that only Americans can grasp. We understand that religion/culture plays a big part, if not the biggest part in one’s thought process. We also understand that acceptance comes easier if it isn’t your own child. For us, in the Iraqi community, being gay is either looked down upon or just not talked about. To the Iraqi community it all starts with the people. As a whole, the Arab Community wants to be accepted by Americans regarding immigration and acceptance but the Arabian people can’t accept their own gay brothers, sisters, and children.
            People of Color want to be accepted into society, it’s a struggle when you’re a person of color— and gay. You’re basically fighting two battles. Sometimes we just need a little help. Support, acceptance & love.

 

Don’t Be Ignorant
            Don’t confuse child molesters with homosexual people. My uncle tried making the claim that if “love is love” than why can’t a man marry a dog. Apples to oranges, people. The majority, if not all gays and lesbians are very happy with their gender. In many ways, their sexual identity is seen as a celebration and an affirmation of their gender, not rejection of it. All we want is to love someone of the same gender. We don’t want to taint your kids’ minds or sleep with an animal.
            It’s 2018, but we still live blindly in a time where being gay can get you killed in some places.
            Don’t we look at this photo today and think, “Man, our ancestors were dumb.”

            Racism and homophobia go hand-in-hand. You can’t accept it because you weren’t taught to accept it. The subject is foreign to you. In 1966, three young men from the Mattachine Society, an early gay-rights organization, entered Julius, a tavern in New York. The three men announced to the bartender that they were homosexuals. The State Liquor Authority said bars can refuse the right to serve homosexuals. Dick Leitsch, the lead organizer of this famous “sip-in,” decided to stay in the bar until they were rightfully served. The next day, the Times ran a story with the headline “3 Deviates Invite Exclusion by Bars,” and the city’s Commission on Human Rights soon vowed to put an end to the injustice. It’s all skin deep—we want the same rights most straight and or white people don’t have to second guess.


 
Fight the Fight
            Media’s portrayal of the LGBTQA community can sometimes be misinterpreted. We are seen as these dirty, annoying, loud sexual creatures. In reality, we are just fighting to be seen as normal. A fight most people fight on a daily basis.
            Understand that a child doesn’t come out once, but nearly every day when they come out to a co-worker, a new friend, a teammate, etc. Our community had to fight for acceptance, i.e. Stonewall Riots, Same-Sex Marriage Laws still being fought for, ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011. Your child wants you to support them. No child wants to make their own life any harder, but they’ve accepted their true selves. They don’t ask you to change yourself and give up your religion or political stance. Educate yourself instead of spewing hatred. Be an ally to your child, not the reason they don’t want to come home.          
            Gay teen suicides are more common in politically conservative regions. So give your child the greatest gift: Acceptance.
            Time is too short. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
            If it’s a religion thing—love your child
            If it’s a political thing—love your child
            If it’s a human thing—love your child.
           
If you are not ready to be an ally to your child, have them download the free app, MyTwin Chat. The app was created by us to talk with your child discreetly and/or you on issues and advice on coming out.

Also check out: http://www.gayfamilysupport.com/
for other parents in support groups.


Again, life is too short. You could be on your death bed tomorrow. The only thing your child is going to remember is that you couldn’t love them in their time of need, so why should they be there for you? You cannot change them, you can only love them. Go out and strengthen the relationship you have with them. Life is never guaranteed but what makes life worth living is connecting to the people around you. From two gay children, thank you for reading this and recognize you are a good parent.