A change in tone. I have to apologize that this blog has taken a turn to the negative the past few posts. I’ve not yet learned to disconnect my emotions from my research and writing. I’ve been deeply hurt; devastated by the actions of those who fundamentally don’t understand the realities we as LGBT Mormons face. This anger and hurt was apparent in my posts. I am sincerely sorry. My goal in writing has always been to provide hope, and going forward, this will be my focus.
For reasons beyond my complete comprehension, I have found myself in a situation that allows me to support those who feel lost or marginalized within their faith. I recognize that I have been blessed beyond measure by my Heavenly Father. I’ve been blessed with an ability to communicate; to write and speak with ease. I’ve been blessed with an ability to experience and demonstrate sincere empathy. I’ve been blessed temporally in a way that being “out” poses no complications for my family’s livelihood, and I’ve been blessed with an amazing wife who provides passionate insights and perspective. I’ve also been blessed with a variety of family relationships that allow me to see and experience the myriad of scenarios others face; ranging from contempt to complete love and support. As I know these resources and blessings were provided to me by a loving Heavenly Father, I know they are to be used to serve others.
I’m deeply grateful for the church’s official statement regarding, specifically, LGBT LDS Youth: “Leaders and members are taught to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to reach out in an active, caring way to all, especially to youth who feel estranged or isolated.” (Source) I have taken this direction to heart. Indeed it’s our shared responsibility as disciples of Jesus Christ to reach out to youth as needs present themselves.
Over the past three years, I have been contacted by hundreds of people. From LGBT youth who were (are) homeless and needed financial help, to youth who were aware they would soon be homeless after coming out, to youth with amazingly supportive parents and families. Parents have contacted me as well asking how they can better support their children, and how they can create safe environments in their homes, congregations and communities. Largely due to unrighteous pride developed from receiving a tremendous amount of attention, I felt as if I had the answers everyone was looking for. I would tell people exactly what they needed to do, who they needed to talk to, and how they too could be happy. I was quickly humbled when I saw that my counsel was essentially useless, and in some cases detrimental. In reality I had.. and continue to possess… no answers.
My new found humility didn’t stop calls from coming and emails from pouring in. LGBT youth want to reach out to somebody who understands them and who won’t condemn them. Within Mormonism, I have noticed LGBT youth already do a fantastic job condemning themselves; they don’t need more disdain piled onto their misery. And they definitely do not need ignorant leaders denying their identity. Sadly, many LDS leaders still reduce LGBT members as well just suffering from sort of affliction or “same sex attraction.” What LGBT youth need is somebody to share their burden. This is why most of them don’t come out to their parents or leaders. They know that the condemnation of another person, especially a person in authority like a parent or religious leader, could very well be the final motivator to end themselves.
So what am I supposed to tell people who reach out to me for support? As it turns out, a lifetime of experience with these issues only qualified me to mourn with those who mourn, and show empathetic compassion. Yet I know I must say something.
I receive two types of phone calls / emails; urgent and less urgent.
For the less urgent contacts, I generally just listen. Most youth just need a listening ear, and acknowledgement that they aren’t alone. You’re not alone. I’ve been where you are. It really does get better. And that’s the simple truth; it really does get better. I understand that you feel that Mormonism is your entire life. It’s been ingrained into your identity in such a way that you feel that happiness can only be obtained by strict obedience to every LDS tenet. I can tell you with complete certainty that happiness can be found all around. Do you really think God would only allow an infinitesimal group to feel true joy and happiness? It’s a completely absurd notion.
For the urgent contacts, there are three sentences I recite immediately. These calls and emails generally occur late at night. As I don’t know the people contacting me, or where they live, I often have no way of reporting to local authorities of a potential suicide. It’s up to me to talk them down. This is what I say: I love you. God loves you. There is nothing wrong with you. I believe these statements with all my heart, and I feel a confirmation from the other end of the line that they are received as truth. Curiously, a number of these calls have come in immediately after somebody has finished meeting with a local LDS leader.
I feel for local LDS leaders; they are pushed into a position with no training on counseling individuals and are expected to learn on the job. Tragically, many of them consider themselves qualified to counsel on issues simply because of the calling they received, or because they read a one-page website published by an institution that fundamentally doesn’t understand its LGBT members. This is curious pride. I wonder if they’ve ever considered that they were called so they would finally realize there are things they are not qualified to speak on… or how to love and accept people who are different, for who they are?