Created by Jake Abhau after his son came out, Dragon Dads is a secret (meaning unsearchable) Facebook Group and community that allows dads of LGBTQ children to ask questions, share advice and learn from each other on how to best support their kids.
Originally created by and for men following the Mormon faith, it has now expanded to over 110 members that joke that “it’s okay to be a beer drinking, football loving, Jeep driving dad who loves their gay kid.”
These dads have created a community around loving their LGBTQ children “because you shouldn’t feel alone because of the way that you want to love your kid.”
We had the opportunity to chat with Abhau and some of the other fathers in his organization. Here is what they told us about the intersectionality of their acceptance for their children with their faith, common questions they get and what their kids think about common misconceptions.
Hornet: How does your Mormon faith intersect with the acceptance you have for your LGBTQIA child?
Jake Abhau: I no longer identify as an institutional Mormon, but it is still my culture and has shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve learned the value of love, family, and more than anything, taking care of those in your community. This is why I strongly identify with the others in our Facebook Group. Community is so important to most Mormons, and when you lose it, it is a black hole in your soul that desperately needs to be filled.
I found little room inside the LDS Church’s buildings to be able to safely bring my son with me to attend. And if there is no room for him, there is no room for me. So I bring with me the Christian values that the Mormon religion has taught me and find that my desire to “do good” has increased tenfold now that I can decide how to express love towards other human beings.
Brian Taylor: Families are forever. They are eternal organizations. The church is a temporal organization. I choose my family over church. It’s not a difficult choice. I love all my children unconditionally!
Ralf VonSosen: For me and my family, the church continues to play an important role in our lives. We accept the church as an institution that can help us lead a Christ-centered life, but also recognize its faults. All of us, including our children try to lead by example in the acceptance of all within the church and respectfully challenge where we can. Our gay son has been lucky to have very positive experiences with our ward and stake members. He does not attend church, but maintains his own spiritual growth, and we all make Sunday a special day of the week in terms of the gospel.
What is one of the common first questions dads have when they join your group? Maybe share three questions?
Jake Abhau: “What do you have to do in order to be a member of this group? Do you have to leave the church in order to be a member of this group?”
Most people don’t have questions. Instead, most dads are so desperate to be a part of something where they can be “themselves” that they don’t care. They just want to join the community.
What is one common misconception many dads have when they come to you about the LGBTQ community?
Jake Abhau: They think that the LGBTQ community is driven by their sexual behavior. They do not understand the difference between sexual identity, sexual orientation, sexual behavior, sexual preference, sexual activity and mostly: sex vs. gender.
How many dads are dads to gay or lesbian children in your group, and how many dads are dads to trans kids?
Jake Abhau: Our group is constantly changing. Some gay kids are trans, some trans kids are pansexual, some pansexuals are trans. We don’t get hung up on labels and spend little to no time caring or distinguishing among how people identify.
The only real exception to this is when a father is dealing with a particular challenge and is looking for another father for advice. This is usually done in an open forum where the rest of us can witness and learn from our peers.
What has your son’s (child’s) reaction been to this work you and your wife are doing (this applies to all of us)?
Jake Abhau: My son tells me that I am gayer than he is. Having lost his best friend to suicide in 2016, he sees the value in the community we’ve created, but he isn’t involved. He does not mind that I am, but he just wants to live his life. I feel that because of what we’re doing, he’s able to do that.
Brian Taylor: I think that my kids are empowered by us standing up for them, and this group is part of that.
Ralf VonSosen: My son’s reaction to the work my wife and I do has been very positive. My wife is much more active within Mama Dragons. My son is very supportive of the work I do within the church, specifically young men, to impact and change the attitude regarding the LGBTQ community.
Don Christensen: My daughter seems happy and empowered by how we have responded. I think it communicates how much we have her back and lets her focus in trying to be a happy kid as best she can.
Ralf VonSosen is an Austrian native who joined Dragon Dads in 2016 and currently volunteers his time to work with his local LDS youth program.
Brian Taylor’s youngest came out as trans in January, 2017 followed by his 31-year-old daughter coming out as bisexual. Brian served a Mormon mission in Mexico when he was 19. Years later, one of his missionary friends came out as gay. Brian met Dragon Dads at Salt Lake City Pride in 2017 and has been active in the community ever since.
Don Christensen has been a member of Dragon Dads for 18 months and a member of the Dragon Dad board.
To follow Dragon Dads, head here.
This story was previously published on June 17, 2018