I grew up in Reedley, in a very conservative Christian home. I led a bit less traditional life from your average person because I traveled and sang Gospel music with my family from the time I was 12, until my early twenties. I have then sung off and on by myself ever since.
I have also been a writer pretty much all of my life. I wrote stories about my stuffed animals as soon as I could put sentences together. Somehow I always knew it was what I wanted to do. Through the years I've had many things published, worked for the Reedley Exponent off and on, and published five mystery novels. For me, singing is something I do; a writer is who I am.
Six years ago my life took an unexpected turn. I found myself out of work and not knowing what to do. So Kings River Life Magazine came to be with the idea I would write and publish what I wanted to--not what someone else told me to. This is actually the 6th anniversary of KRL which went live on May 29 six years ago.
Before that though, around the age of 40, my life took a different kind of unexpected turn. I had for the most part, lived my life with the conservative beliefs I'd grown up with and never really questioned them. Over the years, as I experienced more of life, I thought things out more for myself, that had changed some, but the biggest change came when I was around 40. I met a teenager who would become like a son to me. His name is Toni, or Antonio as he was called then. He was in middle school and just a little older than my daughter. We became very close to him and a couple of other kids I got to know through my job at that time at a local library. I led a teen book club, chess club, and taught a writing class, and we all had a lot of fun.
In high school, Toni went through some rough times at home, part of which were because of his family's reaction to him coming out. So there I was, a moderately conservative mom who could honestly say I had never really known anyone who was gay--sounds kind of crazy now huh--and we ended up taking Toni in and he lived with us for awhile--and he became like an adopted son to me.
Getting to know Toni so well totally changed my perspective on gay rights, and about people who are gay. Now don't get me wrong I wouldn't say I was prejudiced before then, it just wasn't something I really thought about, I was ignorant. There were other factors that came into my life around the same time, but I'd have to say this was the huge turning point for me. Loving someone who is going through the things that he went through changes you. You want to not only help them, but be a part of helping anyone facing the kind of things that they faced. You want to right the wrongs that are out there, erase the prejudices, help make things better.
Since that time I have gone from a moderate conservative, to I'd say maybe a moderate liberal. I've seen the whole world in a new light and I'm glad, and a little annoyed with myself that it took so long.
It's kind of funny how things change--I went from not really knowing anyone who was gay, to being blest with many friends who fall under the umbrella of LGBTQ+.
As to Toni now--he's a very successful and talented young man who thankfully finally was accepted by his family. And he will always be my "adopted" son.
Written by Lorie Lewis Ham