“FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”— Four Families with Children


Four Families with Children

Amos Lassen

When the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality, the backlash by the religious right came quickly and  was very harsh. It was also successful. Daniel Karslake’s documentary film  “For They Know Not What They Do” looks at four faith-based families with LGBTQ children who are caught in “the crosshairs of sexuality, identity, and scripture.”


When the Bible is read to teach that homosexuality is wrong and unforgivable in the eyes of God, many parents with gay or transgender children become conflicted and challenged to learn to love their child unconditionally. Here we see how powerful Christian faith is for many people. Religion, for them, is more than studying the Bible and attending church, it is dedication of life to God. To not follow all of the laws that Christianity imposes means, according to them, that one will  burn for eternity.

However, there are many rules and if you deviate from them, you will not enter the gates of heaven and will burn in hell for eternity.The Christian faith sees homosexuality as a choice and it is possible to stop being homosexual at any time. There are Christian parents who use strong measures to what they believe will “cure” their child of homosexual tendencies. These include conversion camps and the removal of any publications, movies, or items that even mention or suggest homosexual relationships. While the parents are dealing with their own issues of shame, frustration, and conflict, their children suffer in silence and face drug addiction, self-harm and attempted suicide.

The four young adults that we meet here come from different backgrounds but all share similar stories. All four felt that they were different, whether it be an attraction to the same sex or not feeling connected to the sex which they were assigned at birth. Because their feelings go against their religious rules, they hide who they are hoping  that it will all go away.

Ryan Robertson is the son of Evangelical Christians who becomes deeply deep depressed because his parents’ difficulty coping with his sexuality. He participates actively in church but feels misunderstood since he is unable to  understanding how he can feel this way knowing it is against everything he was raised to believe. He has tried conversion methods and eventually he veers off the deep end leaves home and uses drugs to relieve the pain that he feels inside. The drugs and a final overdose led to his death. It was only then that his parents learned to be more open and less fearful of homosexuality.

Sarah McBride came out to her parents as transgender and it was very difficult to do so because she already had an older brother who had come out as gay. Her parents has no idea what transgender meant and did not know how to accept his becoming a woman. Sarah went through severe depression and doubt feeling that she would ever meet anyone who would accept her for who she was. She finally came out publicly in college while shew as student body president and she gained a lot of support. She later became the first transgender intern in the white house and fought to change (such as the Bathroom Bill).

Victor Baez Febo hid his homosexuality from his parents because they are very strong Catholics. He moved back to Puerto Rico to live with his grandmother where he thought he could live his lifestyle and no one would find out but was outed by a neighbor who caught him fighting with a current boyfriend. When his grandmother learned of this from a neighbor, she changed the locks on the door and told him to leave and never come back After his parents were called, he returned home and faced his parents. He eventually moved into his own apartment. After a house warming party with tons of his friends at his home, he went to Pulse, a gay bar. When fire was opened on those there, Victor hid in a closet surviving his friends and many others who were killed that night. A member of a church actually congratulated the shooters in getting rid of all of the so-called “sinners.”

Elliot Porcher was a Tom Boy growing up. She played with bugs, wore baggy clothes and felt like a real boy. She tried to express herself with clothing and outside activities but gave up and starting wearing feminine clothes. She became depressed and withdrew. When she came out to her parents, they didn’t understand and thought it was just a phase and she would eventually grow out of it. They tried to come to terms with the fact that their lives would change once their little girl would totally change identities. They were able to find a way to still have their faith and support their daughter rather than lose her to drugs or suicide.

The film isa wake-up call against complacency. Today many gay men and women live comfortably and we often forget the others who are not so lucky. A film like this reminds us to remain aware of  the struggles that so many other LGBTQ people face daily.

Christianity is evident throughout the film. We see extreme evangelicals misquote the Bible to justify their behavior. This is a sign of the times in a society where people in high places can lie to make political gains and power. Now that evangelicals have lost the battle for same-sex marriage, they have turned on the transgender community.

Those of us in the LGBTQ community must continue to celebrate our rights and acceptance while being vigilant all of the time.

Karslake looks at the toll this culture war has taken on families through four very different but equally devout sets of parents and we see the very real damage they have caused yet it also shows us the parents as otherwise well-meaning. The film is a strong case that the bonds of family and community have the capacity to rise above hate, but at the same time, we are reminded that the LGBTQ community is still under fierce attack.

Thisis a film of honesty, sadness, and joy. It could have easily been just been a collection of clippings of people with religious power showing their hatred toward homosexual and transgender people yet here that hatred is so much more than that.


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