Hope & Healing After Tragedy: Kathy Carlston

Kathy Carlston is a filmmaker whose credits include The Avengers, and founder of Resilient Hope, a nonprofit that connects survivors of school violence incidents with resources to aid in the trauma recovery process. Carlston grew up in the Denver, Colorado area and was a freshman at Columbine High School when a tragic shooting occurred in April 1999. This event affected her deeply and instilled in her a motivation to do whatever she can to alleviate the pain of others. 

As a self-described shy, often sad child, she remembers the kindness of people who simply reached out, and the huge impact that had on her. She makes it a priority to be a friend to the discouraged and lonely. 

Kathy dropped by Encircle to engage in a dialogue about her experiences.

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“I like the idea of a friendly universe. Things have been very difficult, but I felt very loved and cared for.”

Carlston says she knew she was lesbian by the age of six, but it was a slow, gradual coming-out process. She came out to a trusted bishop at 14 but declined therapy, knowing that meant she would have to tell her parents. When she went to BYU, she started attending counseling, both for the trauma from living through the Columbine shooting as well as for being LGBT. She never met any other LGBT people while at BYU, so she always felt very isolated. She came out to a few close friends as “same-sex attracted” and was met with generally kind reactions, although also supportive of her efforts to change. 

She did conversion therapy off and on for eight years, and found that in a way, following the instructions of therapists and bishops did work – in the sense that she “didn't feel attracted to anybody and was very numb. And compressed. Almost like a slinky. I finally got it to be flat. I felt nothing.”

But even after those thousands of dollars in hours spent on therapy, her orientation never changed.

Carlston says it's important to control expectations when it comes to family, since she had 20 more years than they did to “grapple with the fact that [she's] gay, and the ramifications and the conflicting ideas." She says, "My parents have had maybe a decade so far so it's not super reasonable for me to have the same expectations that I do for myself now.” However, she has seen changes over time and says her mother has really embraced her wife and has done a lot to support them as a couple and a family, including driving from Denver to attend their wedding. About her wife, Berta Marquez, Kathy says, 

“A lot of the things I suffered now feel worth it to me because I've found someone I adore so much and [who] is just the best. … I feel so safe with her. It's like being home.”