Thursday, May 17, is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and this year Care2 is bringing you personal stories from around the world on the fight to eliminate anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination. For our complete coverage, please click here.
I try to avoid telling people that I’m from Utah. It’s not because I’m ashamed of where I come from; Utah is a beautiful place, and many members of my family are lovely people. But I hate being put in a position where I have to explain my family and my personal life to near-strangers when they invariably assume that I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I was born in Utah, and spent much of my childhood there. Like many LGBT children, I knew I was different at a young age, but I couldn’t tell you how or why. I can count the number of crushes I had on boys on one hand – when girls talked about the boys they liked, I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. When boys asked me out, I was never interested. But I spent an awful lot of time quietly adoring my female friends from afar.
I didn’t realize that intense longing to be near someone constantly was what a crush felt like. I was hitting puberty in Utah, and I was only aware that homosexuality existed in the abstract. I felt something was “wrong” with me and I didn’t know why. I tried to pray for guidance and clarity, but when none came, I began to doubt there was anyone listening – and then I prayed for forgiveness for questioning.
My family left the church – and Utah – when I was a young teen. While it’s left me with a lifelong aversion to organized religion and impatience for dealing with some of my more conservative relatives, the experience did little lasting harm. We began attending the Unitarian Universalist Church, where I received mildly flawed but fairly comprehensive sex ed which clarified my bisexuality for me. No one disowned me when I came out. I didn’t lose any friends. I didn’t get in any heated debates. (In fact, I married the first person I ever came out to!) I’m luckier than most queer people who grow up in the church.
It’s no secret that Utah, which is about 70% Mormon, has a suicide rate 3 times the national average. And a huge proportion of those deaths are among LGBT Mormon youth. What else can you expect, growing up insulated within a religion which makes clear, in no uncertain terms, that homosexuality ensures failure in your life’s purpose?
In past years, LDS leadership was explicitly anti-gay, promoting reparative therapy and counseling gays and lesbians to marry members of the opposite sex in order to be “cured.” This has worked out about as well as you might expect – resulting in divorces, broken families, and suicide.
I could try to describe what the Mormon church has done to gay members for you, but I think it’s easier to let Steve, an ex-Mormon and close family friend, tell you about his experiences:
The LDS church, to its credit, has progressed a little over the years. Oh, they’ve still donated tons of money to oppose marriage equality legislation, but their official line is no longer to try to force LGBT members into heterosexual marriages and hope it works out.
Read more: bisexuality, church of latter day saints, gay teen suicides, homophobia, IDAHOT, IDAHOT 2012, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia 2012, lds church, mormon church, mormons, proposition 8, suicide
Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr
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