Tag Archives: PFLAG

Prayers for Bobby: A Mother’s Coming to Terms with the Suicide of her Gay Son. — Leroy Aarons

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This book tells the tragic story of the Griffith family, of Walnut Creek, California, whose gay son, Bobby, committed suicide in 1983. He was 20 years old. The death of a young person, gay or heterosexual, is tragic in its own right, of course, but in this case, his mother, Mary, a staunch Presbyterian refused to accept him as gay. She put him through psychiatric treatment and prayer with church groups to “cure” him of his homosexuality, threatening to disown him otherwise. His struggle to understand his same-sex attraction and the pressure from his family to overcome these feelings drove him to suicide. Her son Bobby was an aspiring writer and kept a diary, documenting his experiences and feelings. The book incorporates Mary Griffith’s experience before and after her son’s suicide and entries from his diary. Their story was made into a movie for television in 2009, Prayers for Bobby, in 2009, featuring Sigourney Weaver as Mary Griffith and Ryan Kelley as her son Bobby. The film is well worth watching, though it tugs at the heartstrings.

Their story is compelling and stresses the importance of suicide prevention for gay youth. Suicide among young gay people is a reality that this book brings home to the reader. In fact, gay youth are at higher risk of suicide according to many surveys. Mary Griffith cannot bring back her son Bobby, but in sharing the story of her family’s tragedy and in campaigning for acceptance of gay youth, through her involvement with PFLAG, he lives on. PFLAG, founded in 1972, reaches out to families with young gay people, like her son Bobby, who are struggling with their identity to help them through the experience and keep them from harming themselves.

Mary Griffith learned the hard way it was her ignorance of what her son Bobby was experiencing and her inability to question her Church’s intransigent doctrine concerning homosexuality that proved fatal to him. She realized too late that while it is essential in her Christian faith to care for her son’s soul; it was equally necessary to care for him in accepting him for who he was in the here and now. To her credit, Mary Griffith came to understand she was mistaken in what she believed and sought to atone for this. In examining her conscience and her understanding of Christianity, she becomes an ardent supporter of gay rights and working with the organization Parents Families and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG). Mary Griffith cannot bring back her son Bobby, but in sharing the story of her family’s tragedy and in campaigning for acceptance of gay youth, through her involvement with PFLAG, he lives on. PFLAG, founded in 1972, reaches out to families with young gay people, like her son Bobby, who are struggling with their identity to help them through the experience and keep them from harming themselves.

Posted by Geoffrey