As a licensed clinical social worker, Kristen Coltrin had experiences working with and learning from the LGBTQ community. This helped to prepare her for when her professional life and her personal life would intersect. Check the full show notes for references, resources and ways to support the podcast.
PEBBLE OF THE WEEK: Check out that list of Kristen’s favorite resources, pick one and learn more. Seek to listen and learn to understand a perspective that may be different from yours.
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Some of Kristen’s favorite LGBTQ Resources. All of them are active church members who are LGBTQ allies. Liftandloveorg also has a support group.
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Anne: [00:00:00] I’m so grateful for the chance to speak with Kristen Coltrin. And today, Kristen is a dear friend of mine, and I’m really excited to talk to her about a topic that is very close to her heart. And that is the allyship of LGBTQ. Kristen, will you take a minute to introduce yourself?
[00:00:15] Kristen: [00:00:15] Sure. It’s good to talk to you.
[00:00:17]I’m so glad that you asked me to speak, even though, you know, I’m a little bit nervous about how I might come off and I hope that this is, good for those who are seeking some answers. I hope we can be some, light to someone. I am a recent graduate of, the master’s program at NNU for social work. They have a couple different directions that they go for that master’s program. And one is community mental health and addictions, and that’s the direction that I decided to go.
[00:00:51]You and I had talked a little bit about maybe sharing my story of why I ended up going into that master’s program. For those people that are out there that don’t know me, I’m old. I have three grown children and, back to school when that child was in high school and finished my bachelor’s degree and then decided to get my master’s and I had been led through.
[00:01:19] Oh, gosh, now I need to back up again. I have a patriarchal blessing that told me that I would be able to further my education and I would be able to function in the profession that I chose and have joy and satisfaction in it. And, that did not happen before I had my children. And so when I did go back to school, I was told in that patriarchal blessing that I would be guided to what I was supposed to do.
[00:01:48] And I really had never felt guidance. I, I knew what I was interested in, but I didn’t really feel the guidance that I needed to do. So I was going to go back to school to be a dietician. And there were only, there weren’t any programs in the area, but I just got my core classes done. Took some online classes and, and realized that I don’t really learn that way.
[00:02:14] I can get a hundred percent, but I just, I can’t, remember all of this stuff. So I decided that probably wasn’t going to be a good direction for me to go. And we started some new businesses and I really worked with that with my husband. I didn’t really feel any guidance until I was young women’s president.
[00:02:33] And when I was, I had 52 girls that were active. Wow. It was an awesome ward. But there were definitely some challenges and things that were going on with the girls and with their parents. And I had people coming to me and I was talking to them and I was just trying so hard to follow the spirit.
[00:02:53] And I do feel like I was guided by the spirit, but I just remember standing in the shower one day and just thinking, I wish. I knew how to help them. Like, I would just wish I had the skills to help them, like beyond just following the spirit. And, and I got an answer standing there. This is what you’re supposed to do.
[00:03:19] And so I went back to school, got my degree in psychology. I was going to go into counseling. I thought that that was the direction I was supposed to go. But I started volunteering for the suicide hotline and when I went to the training for that, there were a lot of counselors because they do continuing education credits. They explained to me that they wished that they had gotten their degree and social work. I knew about social work, but I just thought it was like working for CPS or, you know, there’s a lot of other things that social workers do. And that’s what I thought they did. I didn’t realize that they could be therapists. And they said, yes. And you have so many other options and.
[00:04:04] I’m not trying to dissuade anybody, but that was the answer for me. That was what I decided I needed to do. When I tell this story, it’s like, honestly, everything happened in order in the way it was supposed to. I was guided so strongly to apply at NNU, went into NNU. When the counselors told me, that I should do that, I had two weeks to get my application in, to NNU, to go into social work. I applied. I was accepted. That all happened within like a three week period. And it was just like clockwork. Everything happened perfectly. And I didn’t really know why I was supposed to do that. And then, because I was volunteering at this at the suicide hotline, they asked me if I’d like to intern.
[00:04:59] And I did and had an amazing experience, learning so much about, , how to teach people, to talk about suicide, how to teach people, to be prepared, to help people with suicide. And I trained at least 2000 people in the treasure Valley, especially clergy leaders, to be able to know what to do and how to help someone get the help that they needed so that they can be safe.
[00:05:30]That was a really great experience. From there, I got an internship with a company called Lifeways and Lifeways owns several different, companies. They also had, contracts with a lot of the schools in the area, I was able to go and have an experience to work with the high schoolers at a rural high school.
[00:05:54]One of the things that the counselors there felt very, and the administration felt very, passionate about the LGBT community that they have there and wanted me to do a support group with them.
[00:06:09] Those kids had been, bullied. It had to be secret. We had it during school, so they were able to miss a class to come and do this support group with me. I fell in love with those kids. They were so amazing. They’re just that their hearts are so full and ready to accept whoever and whatever.
[00:06:33] And I just had an amazing experience with them.
[00:06:37]Anne: [00:06:37] In that experience of getting to know those kids better, how did that change your mindset ?
[00:06:42] Kristen: [00:06:42] Honestly, and I have always loved the LGBT community, so that has never been a problem for me.
[00:06:49] I think the only thing that it changed for me was understanding more about what goes on for them. One of the first weeks that we met together, I asked them all to just share their story of coming out with me. I had about 15 kids, and their stories broke my heart. I had three of the kids that weren’t even living with their families anymore because they’ve been kicked out for being gay. And one was in foster care. Two were living with other family members and it just broke my heart.
[00:07:24]I think there was one that came out and had support from their family. The other words all were, you know, a lot of it was because of religious reasons. But a lot of it was just sheer. You know, we don’t, we don’t believe in that. That’s a choice. You’re not going to live in our house. If you choose to be gay.
[00:07:49] I had one that was transgender, a few that were bisexual but the rest were, gay or lesbian.
[00:07:57]Anne: [00:07:57] We have a mutual friend who shared a really great insight with us talking about her daughter who came out to them. And the daughter had really struggled with even suicidal thinking and things like that.
[00:08:10] And the friend, eventually the daughter came out, you know, that was happening beforehand. And then the daughter comes out and then kind of the light bulb goes off and you’re like, Oh, that’s, that’s what’s going on. Other people were very judgmental of this family, but our friend, the mom had prayed so much to know how to support her daughter and help her.
[00:08:29] And the answer she kept getting was to love her. And people would say, Oh, it’s, it’s just a trend. Our friend was, she would say, but to my daughter, it’s not a trend. It’s not a fad. This is what she really feels is going on. And so I need to love her and support her and accept that. That’s what she’s feeling and.
[00:08:49] She said that her daughter just kept kind of saying, well, you know what, if I do this, you know, kind of pushing to see, you know, what happens and she’s like, we’ll love you no matter what. And she said that she realized that her daughter was feeling a lot of shame about what was going on. The little catch phrase that our friends said to us that I really appreciated was she said, because of her shame, we had to show our pride and to just love her even more.
[00:09:12]Be there for her and stand by her as she was working through this process for herself. And it’s made a difference for their family and for this daughter, especially to recognize that her parents are going to love her and support her no matter what. So what advice would you have for parents?
[00:09:30]If parents have a child who comes to them and says, I’m gay, I’m lesbian or even the other side of that of, I think I’m gay. What would be your advice for parents?
[00:09:41]Kristen: [00:09:41] So I feel like I need to share more of my story.
[00:09:44]In my, Master’s program. We had a class on diversity and a couple of weeks we spent just talking about transgender, a couple of weeks on gay and bisexual. Every time we had a panel of people come who were so gracious to come and just talk to us about their struggles, their stories, and how they wish things could be. It was an amazing experience. We had one panel of transgender that came and I didn’t understand transgender at all. It’s not that I looked down on them or anything. I just did not understand their plight really, and how they felt, because obviously I don’t struggle with that. Anyway, somebody asked them, how do you wish that somebody would respond to you when you tell them that you’re transgender? And one of them said, I just would like somebody to say, I believe you, because people don’t believe us. They think that it’s a choice and that we just, and like you said, like a trend or something like that.
[00:10:58] And, whether it’s a trend or not, I don’t know that it’s a trend. I think there might be kids who are trying to figure out. What they are, but they know that they’re different and they might be trying things on for size and trying a label, for a minute to decide, you know, maybe I’m non-binary, maybe I’m trans, maybe I’m gay.
[00:11:21] I don’t know what that is, but for some reason, they’ll try that on for a little bit. And if it doesn’t fit, then they can try something different, but they know that they’re different. And they know that they’re not the norm heterosexual, cisgender. I think most people are a little bit judgmental on that and think, you know, Oh, you just don’t, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
[00:11:44] You’re just struggling mentally or you, you know, whatever the case may be. But I have to say that. If anybody knew the struggle that they go through, they wouldn’t do that on purpose. They wouldn’t put themselves through that on purpose. Nobody wants to lose family members, nobody wants to lose their friends.
[00:12:05] And that is the case with. A lot of these kids and adults that are going through coming out. And, so my answer would be to say that you believe them. And I think another really good answer is to say, thank you for sharing that with me and feeling comfortable enough to tell me this part of you, because I love you.
[00:12:31] And I’m here for you.
[00:12:32]It was very timelyfor me to be able to have that class, because it was a class that went until December of 2019. And, December, right before Christmas, our youngest child came out to me as transgender. And that was not expected. I had no idea that she felt transgender.
[00:12:59]I had kind of an idea that there maybe she was gay or something was going on, but I didn’t know for sure. And it was definitely shocking, but because I had had that class so recently and had been prepared with that and being prepared with my LGBT group at the school I felt, so guided and it was very, very easy for me to say to her, I believe you, and I love you, and nothing’s going to change that.
[00:13:34] And we cried together and it was a good experience and I’m so, so grateful that I was prepared and able to handle that question with grace and, not have to look back on that and regret the things that I said. I think it was helpful for her to be able to know that she’s loved and that nothing she could do would change that and that wasn’t going to change our relationship in any way.
[00:14:04]Anne: [00:14:04] I think about my mom. I’ve talked on the podcast before that my mom is gay. You know that my mom is gay. For her, she was gay in Northern Minnesota in the 1980s.
[00:14:14] And society, it was a very different environment than it is now. But I feel like now at least society for the most part it’s better than it was. But I think knowing that it’s a difficult life, it’s a difficult direction to go. I think about our, our other fund that we were talking about and all of a sudden you’re like, Oh, well, in regards to church, say, you’re not going to get married in the temple. You may not stay active in the church because of this decision. And it’s hard to reconcile those two things.
[00:14:46] So was there kind of a little bit of mourning as a parent of, Oh, this, this child’s trajectory is going to be different than what I had expected.
[00:14:54]Kristen: [00:14:54] You know, I didn’t really feel that. I felt worried because I knew from that panel, some of the things that she might be subjected to, and, I felt, a little inadequate as far as not knowing everything that I could know to help her to navigate this. She has an amazing counselor who was on a different panel that came and talked and I’m so, so grateful for him. He has really been helpful to her and our family. And I would recommend that anybody who how’s the struggle, will reach out to someone to go to counseling, someone who’s gender affirming, someone who is LGBTQ affirming.
[00:15:45]I don’t know if you, if everybody knows that, especially in the church, there was a tradition, sending LGBTQ to counseling to, change them. It was called conversion therapy and it didn’t work.
[00:16:02]If someone did, quote unquote change. It was very damaging mentally. and that has been pretty much outlawed everywhere now. And the church does not, use that anymore, but it was something that did happen. It was in our past and it was hard. There are a lot of, counselors who don’t necessarily, do conversion therapy, but do try to help someone to not be, gay anymore or transgender anymore.
[00:16:31] And I don’t subscribe to that. That’s just my opinion, but I don’t think that it’s healthy at all. We just need to accept these children of God for who they are.
[00:16:43]Anne: [00:16:43] You’ve given a couple, I’ve heard you talk about this idea and I’ve loved it about how God doesn’t make mistakes. Can you share a little bit about that?
[00:16:51]Kristen: [00:16:51] Yeah, everybody is so different. Like, we can’t expect any LGBTQ to be like the same as anybody else’s family, you know? So what I want to make sure that everybody knows is that your child coming out or your family member coming out is different for you than it is for anybody else. They’re all unique. One of the people at, that panel that I was talking about said if you know, one transgender, you know, one transgender, and that is so true.
[00:17:21] And I expected the trajectory of my daughter’s coming out to be one way. That it would be okay now she’s out now, everybody knows, and now she’s going to be very feminine and it was going to be. One way, and that’s not how it has been. It’s been a year and a half since she came out to us almost.
[00:17:45]And she still looks the same pretty much as she did before and her hair is longer. She has started hormone therapy. She started at last year. I think, everybody’s different and we cannot expect them to fit inside a little box. So we have to be really careful about the way we talk about LGBTQ and not expect you know your child to be exactly the same as somebody else’s and what works for your family may not work for mine and vice versa. So I guess I was kind of on an advocate trail, but I think the reason why I’m bringing this up is because I don’t feel like it’s my job to come out for my daughter. She has told me that if other people ask about her, that I can tell them what is going on with her, but it’s not something that I post on Facebook.
[00:18:43] However, I have become why an advocate. And I do try to help people to understand, a little better about LGBTQ. I think that there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of it is just because we didn’t know, we didn’t have science backing up what LGBTQ have been telling us for a really long time, which is it’s not a choice.
[00:19:07]Because of that, there has been a lot of misinformation and a lot of people that are our age or older, kind of hold onto what they’ve learned and what the culture has told them. I think a lot of people don’t realize that there isn’t just. Male and female, and there isn’t just feminine and masculine.
[00:19:27] There’s so much in between. I kind of brought up on my Facebook one time that, you know, I don’t believe that God makes mistakes and people will say that and use that as a fight against anything that’s in between male and female and anything that’s, directly opposed to that. And so I was teaching people about intersex and what intersex is and how people can be born with both DNA and can be born with both sexes, looking one sex and actually having, another sex inside of them that you don’t see. and then I kind of post the question to everyone. So now what do you think, do you think God makes mistakes and I don’t believe he does. And I believe that, he loves every single one of his children.
[00:20:24] And one of the things that I have felt very, very clearly, is that,
[00:20:31] Heavenly father loves these children and that they are sent here more for us to recognize and understand his love for every one of his children. And also to recognize and understand that we are not perfect, that our perfection comes in and through loving others. I think the judgmental part of ourselves hinders us from understanding that love. I wanted to share, a message that I received and I love it so much. Someone just said, I love and appreciate the info that you share. Us old people have a challenge changing our paradigm. And I have a question and 100% honest, I have no idea how this information integrates into the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
[00:21:21] I 100% believe that in most cases it’s not a choice. So what does that mean? How does that work with church doctrine? It’s one of the pieces in my puzzle that doesn’t fit in the puzzle yet. There are too many pieces missing around it to fit in. And this was my answer. I said, thanks so much for reaching out. I’ve been asking myself that question for the past 14 months, since my daughter came out as transgender, it has been an incredible path. And I know I’m still learning. I mentioned somewhere that I’ve been grappling with which things are of God and which are of man.
[00:21:53] And I love our church leaders, but I do believe that they are human and as such are allowed to make mistakes. We definitely know. That other prophets have made mistakes and it enhances my testimony to know that God can work with imperfect people because I am imperfect. Nevertheless, I do also believe that we will yet have revealed many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
[00:22:16] I have had feelings and I don’t know if I can call them personal revelation, but one feeling is that we are active members of God’s church are the ones who are having a little test right now. Are we going to be able to love people perfectly as our heavenly father does, or are we going to forsake them and add to their burden?
[00:22:35] It’s not easy to be LGBTQ in any society, but especially not in our church. Next, I had a spirituality class last semester that kind of opened my eyes to some of the trappings of religion, things that are not doctrine, but that are perpetuated because it is tradition. And lastly, we also know that God gives society what it can handle. You may have noticed that the younger generations are less judgmental in this respect. The stigmas have been challenged, and I hope that someday we can embrace people of all genders and sexuality. These are just my musings and trying to make sense, because I do love our church.
[00:23:08]I hope this brings you some ideas to ponder and I certainly don’t have the answers, but I have had a lot of time to think. I don’t know how you feel about that, but those are some of the things that have happened over the last year and a half. And I do want to share with people that, , Sometimes for us moms and dads, I think, , our ideas of what was real and what was normal are shaken and our testimonies can be shaken. , I really had a good long time of trying to figure out what my testimony was and I know for certainty and because of some of the experiences that I shared with you and many more that are very sacred, that, there is a God. That he loves us and that our savior Jesus Christ loves us and that he died for us.
[00:24:00] And he suffered for all of these sins and, the mistakes that we make. And I would say that that’s mostly on those of us who are not LGBTQ, who make mistakes, and we need that atonement to help us to, make up for the ways that we treat other people. And we need to be very mindful of them and the love that our heavenly father has for them.
[00:24:27] And I think all it takes is to be related to, or love, An LGBT person to recognize how much our heavenly father loves them, because you can only feel that enveloping love when you’re talking to them. And I’m just really grateful for the experience that I’ve had, to be a mother of, one of his choice, children, all of his children are choice.
[00:24:50] All of my children are choice, but this one in particular, who is struggling and. And, trying to find her way.
[00:25:00] Anne: [00:25:00] I mean, you’ve learned so much through this experience of being a mother and parents have this ability to see their children as children of God, a little bit more than an outsider would necessarily.
[00:25:13]Back in the nineties, I was one of many people at a WWJD bracelet back when they were popular and to think about what would Jesus do. If Jesus was there and someone came to him and came out to him, what would he do? He would of course wrap his arms around them and care for them and let them know that he loved them that he would help them .
[00:25:33] Kristen: [00:25:33] I agree.
[00:25:35]Anne: [00:25:35] Thank you so much for sharing that. I really appreciate it. So the last question is always the same. The purpose of pebbles of light is to celebrate those relationships that have helped brighten our path and in turn help us to light the paths of others. Can you share about one or two people that have placed a pebble of light in your path?
[00:25:54]Kristen: [00:25:54] I’ve had a lot of really good friends. Some that have been more supportive than others throughout this journey. The, and you were one of the first people that I told, because I felt comfortable with you and I didn’t even know that your mother was gay. I didn’t know what you had gone through, but we went to lunch one day and you always, always follow the spirit.
[00:26:16] And I don’t know what made you want to get together with me. And the other thing was is that you wanted me to get together. With our mutual friend, not knowing what I was going through. Like nobody knew. And somehow you wanted us to become friends and, having that influence of you and her and, your strong testimonies has been helpful to me to know that, I am still loved and that other people have been put in my path too.
[00:26:46] Helped me through this journey. I’m also grateful to my friend, Nikki, who has been a sounding board. When you’re a therapist, you don’t have very many people that are sounding boards. You get to be the sounding board for so many others. And she’s been really good about just nonjudgmentally listening to what I have to say.
[00:27:08] And I’m really grateful that, I get to have her and now we’re related her daughter married my son and we get to be grandparents together. And I’m so excited about that. It’s really nice to have friends who will listen non-judgmentally and just be there for you and let you. You know, just bounce ideas off of them and then still have a strong testimony to back you up and just say it’s okay.
[00:27:38] What you’re feeling is, is okay.
[00:27:42] Anne: [00:27:42] Well, I’m grateful for you. I feel like you have done so much to help so many others to see things from a better perspective and to understand, Just parenting, I guess just standing up for parents and recognizing that sometimes our children go a different path, whether that happen to do with LGBTQ or, or anything, or. You know, your children make decisions that you can’t control them. And it really struck me how Kristin had this desire to really stand up for those who, who may not be heard.
[00:28:14]So thank you so much for your words today and for your testimony and near your thoughts and insights. I really appreciate it.
[00:28:20] Thank you