Debi Lowry is already a bit of a legend in gay Atlanta: a fixture on dance floors and at charitable fundraisers, a surrogate mother to the dozens of gay men who affectionately know her as Mama Deb. As much as Lowry revels in her popularity and being able to offer a compassionate shoulder to those who feel turned away from their biological families, she was unsatisfied by the thought of her legacy being limited to her being a social butterfly.
“When I’m gone, when I die, I want to have had an impact on someone else’s life — I don’t want it to be just, ‘Oh, she was a really nice person’ or ‘She made me laugh,’” Lowry says. “If I can change their lives for the better, I absolutely have to do that.”
Lowry, the heterosexual mother of two adult children, one of whom is gay, is on a crusade to remind other parents about unconditional love, and to challenge the subtle and aggressive ways that they deny their children happiness. She recently published her first book, “Three Grim Fairy Tales and a Happy Ending,” which she hopes will be “a tool to start the dialogue” about parents being more accepting.
“I wanted to talk with parents, I wanted to knock on their doors and say, ‘How come you don’t get it? What do you see as wrong with your child?” Lowry says. “When they were babies, you loved them and you never questioned your love and affection and your loyalty for your child, and so when they become sexual beings, why does that stop?
“What’s important to remember is when they were babies, when they were learning to walk, when they were learning to talk, when they went to elementary school,” Lowry adds. “Those are the milestones you remember and cherish, and then they go, ‘I’m gay.” How do you wipe the slate clean and say that that was all good but now you’re different? No, they’re still the same person.”
All proceeds from “Three Grim Fairytales & a Happy Ending” are being donated to the Atlanta-based For The Kid in All of Us and CHRIS Kids’ Rainbow Program, and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. The book is divided into two sections, with the first part chronicling heartbreaking stories of some of the gay men who Mama Deb bonded with over the years.
“The first one was someone who lived his entire life pleasing his parents, and in the end was still so unhappy and couldn’t be true to himself and show his parents who he was, and he committed suicide,” she recalls. “The extremes that people go through emotionally to avoid or mask themselves based on what they perceive the expectations are from their family are very painful to me.”
The will be a July 7 book signing at Outwrite for “Three Grim Fairy Tales,” which is aimed not only at openly hostile parents, but also those who take a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” approach to their children’s sexual orientation, Lowry says.
“Sexuality is only a part of who they are, but it does affect who they give their heart to, and so it’s a major part of who they are,” she says. “If you fall in love with somebody, how do you not tell your mom?”
However, the themes in “Three Grim Fairy Tales” transcend sexual orientation, and “apply to everybody who doesn’t meet their parent’s expectations.”
“Parents need to remember in regards to their children, my ambitions for you are not your ambitions, and that doesn’t change the fact that you’re an amazing person,” Lowry says.