How does it harm gay youth, their families and others?

Posted on: July 30th, 2012 by feyadmin

CRISIS book

Imagine telling a 13-year-old child who is just coming to understand that his or her sexual orientation is different from her peers or her siblings that there is something terrible and awful about the very person they were created to be. That it is so ugly and bad that they will never be treated with the human dignity and respect of others. Something so shameful that they will never be able to experience the sanctity that is seen by others in a lifelong, committed relationship with someone they want ti share their life with.

More than a million LGBT teens today are suffering debilitating depression because families, pastors, peers and elected officials promote a societal climate of rejection and condemnation toward them. Suicide rates amongst LGBT youth are four times higher than heterosexual youth. It truly is a national disgrace. It truly is shameful that this is still going on in America. We must not allow it to go on in North Carolina.

LGBT people are victims of discrimination and bigotry, which is justified and promoted often by religious teaching that says homosexuality is immoral, sinful or an abomination. It is a debilitating form of oppression that brings to bear incredibly destructive force to bear on innocent lives.

In 2008, Faith in America Founder Mitchell Gold printed and self-published the book, “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.” Traveling the country promoting CRISIS, we have seen first-hand the pain that so many gay and lesbian people, especially youth, are suffering at the hand of reloigion-based bigotry. This is what Dr. David Gushee, a Christian ethicist, author and Southern Baptist minister wrote about CRISIS in the June 2009 issue of Christian Century “As an evangelical Christian whose career has been spent in the South, I must say I find it scandalous that the most physically and psychologically dangerous place to be (or even appear to be) gay or lesbian in America is in the most religiously conservative families, congregations and regions of this country. Many of the most disturbing stories in this volume come from the Bible Belt. This marks an appalling Christian moral failure.”

Faith in America has spoken with thousands of gay and lesbian individuals, especially youth, who have relayed the emotional and psychological pain and trauma that have experienced from religion-based bigotry and those who promote it and also those are complicit in the harm it causes through their silence or unwillingness to stand against it.

The possibility of being fired from a job is in ways harmful to a person but it cannot compare to the type pain and trauma associated with being condemned or rejected as morally inferior by a parent, your school peers or society at large.

An article in the Oct. 5, 2010 edition of the Washington Post entitled “As life experiences of gay teens illustrate, the world is still far from accepting” included the following observations:

“Trina Cole remembers the head-to-toe, white linen outfit she wore to junior prom.”

And how the outfit looked after she was attacked, how the cranberry juice her classmates threw at her as they yelled and screamed and shoved her in front of everyone made it look as though she were bleeding, even though it only felt that way.

Rejection, harassment and humiliation – first by her conservative Washington family and then by tormentors in high school and at a college in West Virginia – have left scars all over her arms.”

Cody J. Sanders is a Baptist minister and Ph.D. student in Pastoral Theology and Counseling at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, TX. After the rash of gay teen suicides in October 2011, Sanders published an article entitled “Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue And the moral imperative of anti-bullying preaching, teaching, and activism.” In the article he states:

“While a majority of LGBT people may avoid ever becoming the victim of a violence, none will be able to avoid the psychic terror that is visited upon LGBT people with each reminder that this world is one in which people are maimed and killed because of their sexual and gender identities. It is this psychic terror that makes life so difficult for many LGBT people. It is this psychic terror that does the heavy lifting of instrumental, systematic violence. It intends to silence and to destroy from within.

“Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

“I cannot count the number of times I have heard well-meaning, good-hearted people respond to this appeal, saying, “Things are a lot better for gay people today than they were several years (or decades) ago. In time, our society (or churches) will come around on this issue.” To these friends and others, I must say, “It’s time.” For Lucas, Brown, Clementi, Walsh, and Chase the time is up. For these teens and the myriad other bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay youth lost to suicide, the waiting game hasn’t worked so well.

“As simply as I can state the matter: The longer we wait to respond, the more young people die.”

The thought of a young teenager taking his or her life for any reason should make us shudder. The thought that a life was ended because we as a society has allowed an awful form of bigotry and oppression to bear on their young lives is truly horrendous.

While suicide is the most tragic consequence of such oppression, there are many other harms inflicted upon gay and lesbian youth, their families and other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals that can take other tragic forms of harm.

According to recent research by Caitlin Ryan, Founder and Project Director of Family Acceptance Project, LGBT teens who are highly rejected by their parents and caregivers are at very high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults as they are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide; and nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression.

This is the very real and very painful emotional, psychological and physical harm that is brought to bear on gay and lesbian youth when they face the type of rejection and condemnation that is promoted within our society by expressions of religion-based bigotry.

Make no mistake – the proposed anti-gay marriage initiative is an expression of such bigotry. It will unleash a torrent of ill-will in North Carolina against children in our schools and homes, parents with gay and lesbian children, our friends whom we cherish, our co-workers in the workplace and those who we worship with in our faith communities.

We appeal to the conscience of our lawmakers in Raleigh and the citizenry of our great state to stand with us and many others who do not want to see this type harm being waged in our communities.