The Burchett Family. Photo courtesy of Terry Johnston Photography

Family Support Offers Brighter Future

'I Am Still Good And Loveable'

By Megan Anderson

It all started with a web search.

When Lisa Burchett's son Nick came out to her and her husband John, she conducted a web search to find resources to assist, and the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center was one of them.

"The KGLRC has helped us get facts and resources to support Nick," said Lisa, 44. "It has helped us open conversations and given Nick a safe place to be himself."

And Nick, now 15, agrees. He first participated in a youth group bowling outing. "I can be me without judgment, and no one cares I am gay," he said. "They understand what I go through. Youth group lets me be with people like me."

But Nick has learned being different is fine too.

"I have learned it's okay to be different than most people. I am still good and lovable. Seeing that my mentor John is a professional and in love, I have learned that I will have a good future too. I hope to marry and have a family. He shows it can happen," said Nick.

The process hasn't always been easy. Nick was initially anxious to talk to his parents about his sexual orientation. "It is safe. Do it," he says. "I was scared, but I think I knew my parents would love me no matter what. My parents are the most understanding I know. Most parents will love you no matter what."

For Lisa and John, who have been married for 19 years, educating themselves is important to them to be strong advocates for Nick.

"Laws are changing fast and outside institutions will not seek to implement changes without your encouragement," Lisa said. "Parents have to be open. Children are essentially the same child as before they came out; they just have to let themselves be more vulnerable to you."

Her best advice: Be the parent your child deserves.

The Burchetts believe in getting involved. Nick participates in the KGLRC Triangle Mentorship Program and the youth group. He has also attended Kalamazoo Pride and the dog walk with his dog Freckles. Says Nick, "I like to be with and help people who share what I go through."

Encouraged by Lisa and John, Nick joined the mentorship program. "Basically, neither John or I have been a 14 year old gay boy. We can love, support and advocate, but there are aspects and feelings and concerns that we will never have firsthand knowledge of," Lisa said. "His mentor gives Nick a perspective we never could."

Lisa and John participate in many volunteer activities through the KGLRC such as the Triangle Mentorship Program, fundraisers and Kalamazoo Pride. They were also the recipients of the 2011 Ally of the Year Award from the KGLRC. "We participate because the work done by the KGLRC is vital," says Lisa. "Our son's future depends on the real changes the KGLRC affects. We believe in the mission of equality."

Family is very important to the Burchetts, and they share a love of watching scary movies. Nick likes to spend time with family, including his brother Jacob, whom he considers his best friend.

"I feel I can talk to my parents about anything," Nick shares. "Sometimes my mom wants to talk too much about things, but she is always open to my questions."

Nick also turns to his Sam, his other best friend, for support. "We have been together since we were three. I came out to him within two weeks of telling my parents. He never reacted. He never changed how he treats me. We love each other like brothers."

While things may not always be easy, the Burchetts are grateful for the love of their family and the support and friendship they have received from people at the KGLRC.

"Because Nick is who he is, we have been given an opportunity to know some of the most wonderful people we have been ever been blessed to know," Lisa said. "We never would have chosen such a difficult path that our son is on. But now that we are here, we know it's where we belong."

Most importantly, Nick has positive thoughts about the future.

Editor's note: This is an ongoing series of articles featuring KGLRC staff, volunteers and community members. See KGLRC's video interview with the Burchett family here.

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