by Michael Wells | photo courtesy of Eric England
Laura Bohling wants you to know you can’t hurt her. She considers herself to be in a unique position, feeling more powerful than ever before, and after a period of deconstruction and rebirth, she’s using her newfound clarity to be an ally for the LGBT community.
“I never suspected that my son was gay as he was growing up,” Bohling said. In 2004, Laura’s son, James, returned from a two-year mission trip and announced he was leaving the church. Laura and her family were active members in the Church of Latter Day Saints. She couldn’t understand why James had made this decision until November 2014. He called a family meeting to announce he was gay.
The entire family was present for the meeting: Laura, her husband, two daughters and James. He sat before the family that loved him more than anything in the world and said the words and waited for a bomb to drop. Seeing her son struggle before his own family began a process of transformation in Laura. “That was the moment I realized how hard it was to be that person; just to be who they are…and that I needed to do something.”
Her son coming out prompted Laura to question and deconstruct everything she believed in. She tried to remain a member of The Church of Latter Day Saints but found it hard to play the game of Russian roulette on whether the service would be in attack mode or actually have a message that day. During her reconstruction, she found a welcoming home with the Mama Dragons council, a group of mothers who support one another on their journey with their LGBT+ children while supporting their faith, families, and communities. This helped her make the decision to separate from The Church.
Laura’s deconstruction also brought a closer look at the political party she was affiliated with. She was raised in a Democratic working class family. As a member of the Mormon Church she made a cultural decision to be Republican. She’s always been Pro-Choice, about Equality, and Anti-war…so she always knew she didn’t fit in with the Republican belief system. “I don’t really fit with any party but the one that aligns with my family, my history, and my values is the Democratic Party.” Laura’s reflection led her to make the brave choice to switch parties in the ruby red Tennessee. It also pushed her to be so politically involved she ran for State Representative for her district.
Bohling is excited that as she has found her voice and that her fellow Tennesseans have found their voice as well. “People are involved like never before, they’re organized, and holding elected officials accountable.” Our current President was elected on the slogan of Make America Great Again. “He’s going to make America Great Again because he is waking people up, people who believed everything would just be okay…and they are realizing they must be a voice for not only LGBT but immigrants, labor, people of color…He’s going to make America great again, just not how he thinks.”
Bohling’s son coming out transformed her. From The Church of Latter Day Saints to the Mama Dragons, she is a woman reconstructed with new views and ideas. She knows that the LGBT movement has a long way to go but so does she. “I’m still learning about people’s differences every day and I love it.” As an ally, she’s setting an example to others. “It’s okay to love your gay child. It’s okay to support the gay community. It’s ok.”
What’s next for Laura Bohling? “I have a ton signs left over, so I’m definitely running for district 34 again.” Bohling is the rare politician with actual common sense and a sense of humor. She will be running for State Representative for District 34 in 2018.
Laura Bohling’s life took on a different path after her son revealed her true self to him. She discovered someone she loved was gay, and the world didn’t stop. She continued to love them unconditionally.
“That moment in my living room when James came out is what keeps me going.” An ally indeed.