Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with several other Mormon and Mormon-esque friends to talk about the relationship between our LGBT brothers and sisters and the Mormon church. HRC sponsored the meeting in an effort to understand how they can better support those of us who are trying so desperately to see full equality between straight and gay Mormons within in the Mormon church.
The meeting started with a prayer and introductions. I was thrilled to see so many dear faces and meet so many new friends. As is our way, we spoke about the injustice of the fight against gay marriage. In fact, gay marriage was the main topic of conversation in the meeting, all of us pouring out our hearts about how difficult it is to gain empathetic ground with traditionally-believing Mormons about the rights and happiness of our beloved gay friends and family members.
As the meeting drew to a close, we went around one more time to discuss our final thoughts. Many of us spoke of the unending battle of standing up for marriage equality and of loving our fellow man, until we got to a mostly quiet young man, Samy Galvez, president of Understanding Same Gender Attraction at BYU (go like them on Facebook). He said, “Ninety-five percent of what we’ve talked about today is marriage equality. You all are completely ignoring the fact that a huge percentage of Mormon kids are killing themselves because they are gay.”
His words hit me like a ton of bricks.
Later, as I was recounting the story to my own gay brother, he said, “Yeah, you can’t get married if you’re dead.”
Again with the bricks.
Last weekend forced me to realize I have been wrong in my support of marriage equality. Setting up marriage as the end-all/be-all for my beloved gay and lesbian friends only perpetuates the same belief that people must have partners in order to be full people and to be happy. That is the message the Mormon church sends to straight people and it’s the same message I send when all I talk about is marriage equality.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a hard and fast supporter of marriage equality. I still believe and will advocate that marriage needs to be open to all consenting adults who want to bind themselves legally to one another. But my heart breaks at the anguish and self-loathing so many of our young people must feel and that is sustained by the words they hear in their homes and at church.
A while ago, I created a series of graphics to bring awareness to the issue of gay suicide. In creating them, I’d felt the influence and love of God, and I’m not sure why that moment wasn’t the turning point I needed, but last weekend, I received the message loud and clear and I now pass that message on to those gay and lesbian kids who are struggling just to stay alive:
I love you and I want you in my life. I want you to sit at my table and tell me your stories. I want you to pour your pain and anger out onto my strong heart so that I can lighten your load. I want to tell you silly stories and watch you laugh. I want to pray with you and place my hands on you and my arms around you while we talk of Jesus and Heavenly Father and of the great love and healing that can be found in our Heavenly Mother.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. There are many things we can do as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to stop the suicides of so many of our own and I believe every Mormon can get on board with each one of them.
1. Get Educated. There are lots of resources out there to learn about the struggle our gay kids and adults face. Here are a few, written and produced by members of the church:
Goodbye, I Love You by Carol Lynn Pearson
No More Goodbyes by Carol Lynn Pearson
Supportive Families, Healthy Children by the Family Acceptance Project (Caitlyn Ryan and Bob Rees)
No More Strangers
USGA at BYU
Mormons and Gays (the LDS church’s own resource for members)
2. Join In. Use your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blog or whatever platform you have, to extend the hand of fellowship and love. Share posts and articles that show love and compassion to our LGBT brothers and sisters. No matter what your beliefs on LGBT issues are, I believe we can all come together and agree that nobody should die because they do not feel loved. Find ways to show the love.
3. Stop expressions of negativity around LGBT issues. Stop micro-aggressions. Learn about your own straight privilege. Don’t say things like “I love gay people, but [insert something you don’t love]” because whatever comes after the “but” negates everything you said before it. Don’t pass judgement on behaviors or choices of gay people. Judgement is not yours to deliver. Strip away your learned stereotypes. Stop negativity and judgement and learn to love our LGBT brothers and sisters as God loves them—fully consuming and never-ending.
4. Love. Just love and only love. In Matthew 22:37-39, the Savior says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” It is difficult work to strip away judgment and to just love, but your ability to do so will evolve and grow the harder you work. We are the literal hearts and hands of God on earth and it is through us that His love is expressed to one another.