Sunday profile: Loving and accepting all
It was about 14 years ago when Cathy Heyliger first had an indication.
Heyliger and her children were at a kids’ library in Boulder, surrounded by books, when she noticed her oldest son, Ben, try to hide a book in the teen section. Despite the 13-year-old’s effort, she was able to see the title on the spine of the book — “Boy meets Boy.”
She told him that he could take that book if he wanted.
Later that night, Ben felt comfortable enough to tell Cathy and her husband Dave that he was gay.
“It’s incredible, our situation growing up, I couldn’t imagine any other way,” Ben said. “I know for a lot of people it’s unheard of the kind of acceptance that mom gave for us.”
However, 18 months later, Cathy’s reaction was different when their youngest son, Web, came out.
“We handled it horribly,” Cathy said. “I don’t know what we were thinking. We tried to talk him out of it.
“We just said ridiculous things. I was just so upset with myself.”
A few weeks later, they apologized, told Web they loved him, and they just want him to be who he is.
“You don’t really want your child to be different, because you know there is a possibility they are going to get hurt,” Cathy said.
“No parent wants their child to get hurt, but you also want them to live as their true self.
“It’s a real hard thing to grapple with.”
BECOMING AN AUTHOR
That struggle of loving your children but wanting them to not get hurt led Cathy to an epiphany from an unexpected source.
Cathy — who grew up in Denver but fell in love with the Roaring Fork Valley, thanks to trips with her grandfather — was working on a presentation for a conference, she was poring over a power point and syncing it to music, when she finally got to the end, she thought this might make a good children’s book.
“I had no intention of ever writing a book,” Cathy said. “It just kind of came to me that it would be a good idea.”
Inspiration came from her sons’ struggles to find self-acceptance and confidence in being gay.
“For mom to write this book really shows us what she really meant to us growing up,” Ben said. “And what she still means to us and how proud of her we are for taking the initiative to try and show the world it’s okay to love who you want to love, and that we’re okay. Its just awesome.”
Cathy’s husband Dave happened to be reading the paper when he heard about Light of the Moon Inc., Publishing in Carbondale, and told her that she should make an appointment.
“I showed them my power point, and they said, ‘Lets make a book out of it,’ so we did,” Cathy said.
She said a book like this would have helped her kids when they were little.
“He’s from a heterosexual family, didn’t know it was going to be OK, and he didn’t know that I would be OK with it.”
Cathy’s sons are two of her biggest supporters, and are both proud of her publishing a book.
“She has been totally supportive my whole life,” Web said. “I’ve been very lucky. Being on the dating scene now, a lot of men have not had that, and it’s a very different result.
“Having love and acceptance from your parents is huge.”
In the interest of education for peace, Cathy has a curriculum based on kids visualizing a light inside. When you feel happy, your heart is really bright, and when you are sad, it is not.
With her book, she hopes parents and children will learn acceptance and love themselves and others.
“It is really important to love yourself,” she said, “so you can love others.”
Both of her sons told Cathy they knew at a young age they were different than other boys.
She said it made her feel terrible, that they spent a lot of time feeling bad about themselves, thinking something was wrong with them.
“You can’t have a very bright heart light if your not living as your true self,” Cathy said.
“It (the book) talks about all the things love is, love is caring, love is sharing, love is peaceful and more.”
Cathy said if we are ever going to be peaceful with each other, we have to start embracing these kinds of feelings and thoughts.
“I want to reach out to families that not only know their children are gay, but families that might not.”
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