LGBTQ Suicide Crisis and the LDS Church

October 20, 2010 by Tariq Khan

by kristina grace k.

Today the Human Rights Campaign is asking people to wear purple, to remember LGBTQ lives lost and to show solidarity to struggling LGBTQ youth. Media attention lately has rightfully been drawn to a spike in LGBTQ suicides this Fall; suicides that were the result of anti-gay bullying. There has also been a number of abuse cases carried out by anti-gay perpetrators. On September 30th, Democracy Now reported,
“At least four youths have taken their lives nationwide this month following incidents of anti-gay bullying and harassment. A New Jersey college student jumped to his death from a bridge last week after two classmates broadcast a videotape of him having sex with another man in his dorm room. The students had recorded Tyler Clementi’s sexual encounter without his knowledge. The eighteen-year-old Clementi had just started his freshman year at Rutgers University. In California, thirteen-year-old Sean Walsh died on Tuesday, nine days after a suicide attempt left him on life support. In Texas, thirteen-year-old Asher Brown died last week following months of alleged bullying. Brown’s family says he revealed he was gay shortly before taking his own life. And in Indiana, fifteen-year-old Billy Lucas hung himself earlier this month after also being bullied by classmates.” (http://www.democracynow.org/shows/2010/9/30)

The following weekend, at the October 2010 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Boyd K. Packer, in his talk titled Cleansing the Inner Vessel which was largely about pornography also added this concerning homosexuality, “Some suppose that they were preset and cannot overcome what they feel are inborn temptations toward the impure and unnatural.” (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1298-23,00.html) I couldn’t help but feel that following all these deaths, abuses and even rapes against LGBTQ individuals that this was a slap in the face to the LGBTQ community and its allies. Utah has one of the highest rates of teen suicides and sadly, this doesn’t surprise me when I continue to hear this from the pulpit. It’s also quite dangerous and ridiculously outdated to encourage people to change their identity and to tell them that if they fail to do so, they must not have had a sufficient desire or enough faith. I feel that if anything, this attitude can only push struggling LGBTQ Mormon youths in the more desperate direction towards ending their own lives. The American Psychological Association advises “parents, guardians, young people, and their families to avoid sexual orientation change efforts” and to “seek… social support and education services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.” (http://www.apa.org/about/governance/council/policy/sexual-orientation.aspx)

As a Mormon I feel I have an even greater responsibility to the LGBTQ community both within and outside of my Church to show my solidarity with this community and to interrupt any and all hateful discourse that is happening around me. Because I know what the overall climate is in my Church I should be working and praying to change it from one of rejection to one of acceptance. Even a small show of support may save a life. For racism to end, white people need to confront other white people. For sexism to end, men need to confront other men. And for these murders, suicides, rapes, abuses, and hate against LGBTQ people to end, heterosexual people must confront other heterosexual people. Church meetings and activities are not “safe” environments for LGBTQ Mormons and I should never expect LGBTQ Mormons to have to make themselves vulnerable in such an environment. It is my responsibility to speak up.

Here are a few resources for any LGBTQ folks who are struggling with thoughts of suicide: National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255; See suicide.org/hotlines/utah-suicide-hotlines.html for hotlines specific to city; A hotline for LGBTQ youth 1-866-4-U-TREVOR; and check out ItGetsBetterProject.org for support and resources. I’m not an expert on anything but I can be a friend: “kristina grace” on fb.
Wear Purple Today! http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2010/10/this-wednesday-%E2%80%93-wear-purple-to-remember/

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