Hi! So my husband and I have been trying to spread awareness about how members of the LDS Church can help support other members of the church who experience same-sex attraction. We have started by holding what we call Ally Nights, evenings where members can come and talk to Chad and I specifically about same-sex attraction and what members can do to help. So far it has been going really well! Everyone has been super kind and even though not everyone has accepted our invitation, I feel like we are leaving a positive impression. Especially since this is a topic that will be touching members of the church more and more, both within and outside of the church and within their own families.
Although it is no replacement to actually coming to an Ally Night where you can have your questions answered, get comfortable talking about it and have a one on one conversation with someone who both experiences and is comfortable talking about same-sex attraction, I created this handout that kind of leads our discussions during our Ally Nights. Since we can’t have everyone come to our Ally Nights, I thought I would share some of the information about what members can do to help and support members who experience same-sex attraction.
I created this document after going to a North Star conference* and sitting and taking notes about what gay members wanted church leaders to know about how to support them. I then sat down and organized the document into the following: *(See what North Star is in the Resource section below)
Purpose: To help leaders, members and parents understand gay members and to help the aforementioned know how to help and approach gay members with love and compassion.
- Being gay is a choice: For many gay members of the church, they have been in denial for most of their lives and when they finally admit it to themselves they are TERRIFIED, not to mention have deep feelings of guilt and shame.
- You can “pray the gay away”: While prayer is powerful, simply telling someone to pray is not enough to make same-sex feelings go away
- Traditional marriage is a cure for being gay: While some gay people do choose to marry someone of the opposite gender, this should not be seen or promoted as a cure. It is a very personal choice and must be decided by the individual on their own and in their own time otherwise it can be very harmful to the individual experiencing same-sex attraction.
- Talking about it will infect us and cause it to spread: This is not going to go away. Our children are coming across it in their everyday lives. Some will experience it whether they want to or not. Do they know they have a safe place to turn? Plus not talking about it only promotes feelings of misunderstanding among straight church members and feelings of shame among gay church members. Talking about it will not infect us, it will only make us better.
5 Ways to Help Gay Members at Church
- Get Comfortable Using the Terminology
- Saying someone has same-sex attraction or that they are gay is the same thing. The word gay does not imply they have or are acting on their same-sex desires. As members of the church, many see same-sex attraction as a softer term than gay but for many people who are gay, the term same-sex attraction sounds like they have a disease. It is best to get used to using both terms and if someone who is gay comes out to you, use the terminology that they use in talking about it. And get comfortable with it! Discussing this issue is hard enough without watching your leader or parent swallow or flinch every time they have to use the term *gulp* gay.
- Create a Safe Environment
- We want to create wards where everyone feels welcome
- Some people who are gay believe they will take the secret to their grave
- Be proactive: Because you don’t know who these members may be, it is important that you take the initiative. Talk about it publicly: Let them know you care, understand that being gay is not a sin, and that your door is open.
- Share and discuss the Church’s Mormonandgay.lds.org videos in church and in meetings
- If you think there is a member of your ward who may be gay: Don’t ask—it is better that they come to you. Talk about things you are experiencing in your life that may help them feel more comfortable opening up: ex) something you learned by watching a video on the church’s Mormon and Gay website.
- Something to consider: Where do we want our youth and members to turn to talk and learn about being gay: the church or other places?
- Express Love
- 1st thing is to express love: Not “I still love you,” but “I love you.”
- “I’m not coming out, I’m inviting people in to help me,” said one gay man.
- Do not assume sins have been committed and that is why they are telling you they are gay
- Do not assume you have to fix anything: many just want love and acceptance
- Ongoing support: Many may need ongoing support especially if you are the only person they have told or their family is unsupportive. Many may need help on how to come out to family members and others they love.
- Avoid Shaming
- People don’t feel the most pain from same-sex attraction, they feel the most pain from the shame they feel
- Sometimes good intentions unintentionally cause shame: when leaders try to fix, compare same-sex attractions to sins or other challenges, ask if they like it or tell them they need to pray.
- Talking about it helps gay members to deal with feelings of shame
- When people act like they shouldn’t talk about their same-sex attraction, the shame is magnified.
- Be Humble and Ready to Learn
- “Tell me what it’s like for you?”
- It’s ok to say: “I don’t know, let me get back to you.”
- “If I say something wrong or offensive, I’m sorry, will you give me another chance to say the right thing?”-One bishop’s approach
- Be an example of love and acceptance to other members
- Be an example of a gracious learner to other members
- Mormonandgay.lds.org: Church’s website: videos and other resources
- Northstarlds.org: Not church affiliated but it is a support community and a resource for members of the church who are gay and choose to live church standards. Their page Voices of Hope has many members of the church sharing their experience with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria.
- For church leaders: https://providentliving.lds.org/leader/ministering-resources?lang=eng
- Please feel free to contact us about any questions or thoughts that you may have. Also if you come across other members of the Church who may be gay in the Tacoma/Seattle area, please refer them to us (with their permission of course). We would love to be a support!