Ep 14. Susan’s Story: What Brené Brown Did for Shame and Vulnerability Susan Cottrell Is Doing for Love and Inclusion

In this episode:

A typical Christian family, Susan and Rob raised their five children in the Evangelical Church. Then, two of their daughters, Annie and Hannah, came out causing Susan and Rob to rethink life, primarily their relationship with religion.

When Annie was twenty, she called Susan; their conversation was lifechanging. Annie was struggling with a same sex attraction towards women. She had prayed about it, resisted it. Yet her feelings persisted. Despite feeling terrified of rejection, Annie came out to Susan. Touched that Annie shared the most intimate part of herself, Susan was grateful for their closeness and the gift of Annie’s truth. Yet, Susan was afraid. For Annie. Their family. She wondered “What now? What does this mean?”

Susan shared Annie’s coming out with her friends and her bible study. Their reaction? “It’s a sin and you can’t accept it.” Shocked and disheartened by their reaction, Susan struggled to understand how a parent could reject their child in their moment of need. Susan and Rob withdrew from their church and moved to a new community. Never once did they consider withdrawing from Annie.

Susan and Rob re-examined their relationship with religion, church, faith, and God. Susan began researching, reading everything she could find, watching videos, and relying on her faith. Not finding what she was looking for, she created the resources she needed. Because so many parents reject their LGBTQ children (primarily out of fear), Susan wrote, “Mom, I’m Gay.”

“Love is the foundation. Always press into love.”

Love of family and God paved the way for Susan and Rob to found their nonprofit, Freedhearts. They created community to unconditionally love and affirm, to connect individuals to loving and embracing community, and to share resources. Their greatest vision is that no one is left alone and unloved. What Brené Brown did for shame and vulnerability, Susan works to do for love and inclusion. Everyone deserves love and inclusion—simply because they are human.

“My heart longs to set people free.”

Two years after Annie came out, Susan’s daughter Hannah said, “I think I’m like Annie. I think I’m gay too.” “No, you can’t be,” was Susan’s first response. Thinking – in that moment – that if two of her children were gay, it was something Susan and Rob did. But they quickly realized that is not true, and they moved forward in continued love and inclusion.

She says to parents who may be struggling after their child has come out, look for the love. Find the love in yourself. Love means to embrace, accept, and be with someone along the journey. Love will overpower the fear. Go have coffee with your child and talk about your lives, not their orientation or identity. That child coming out is facing more than we could imagine.

LGBTQ children want their parents to know

“It’s just me. I’m the person you cuddled when I was little, that you sang songs to. I’m that same person. I’m good-hearted, loving, and kind.”

Susan’s strength throughout her journey is rooted in loving herself, her family, and God. We are all filled with love, beauty, and wisdom. Susan has laid aside judgment and instead discovered a depth of love, compassion, tenderness she didn’t know was possible. She sees and loves people as they are.


TedTalk Susan shares choosing her daughter over the church



Thank you for listening!

May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.