A Refuge for the Forgotten
Two months later, on Aug. 1, people of faith turned out in droves at our own Chick-Fil-A location as well as across the nation to take a stand for traditional marriage. At our own Chick-Fil-A, lines were out the door all day and the drive-through line wrapped around the store several times.
But no one had lined up for the girl from Bauxite. She died alone.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24. For gay people in this age range, their chances of suicide are quadrupled. Gay young people from families who strongly reject homosexuality have the worst numbers: They are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide as their LGB* peers with little or no rejection from their families.**
When stories such as the June 26 SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage and Caitlyn/Bruce Jenner hit the news, outrage and disgust are natural reactions for a lot of people. This bothers me for several reasons, but here’s the main one:
Our children are watching. Our children who might be struggling with feelings they don’t understand. Feelings they’ve been taught are horrible and disgusting. And they see members of their own families/churches reacting with statements like these:
“Dear God, I'm so sorry that humanity is using your beautiful rainbow of promise in such a horrible way.”
“Makes me sick.”
“Very disgusting. Sickening. My goodness what a world we live in.”
Notice a theme here? And our LGBT young people, who already have a suicide risk that is much higher than that of their straight peers, are watching this. And they know this outrage and disgust is coming from people who represent what should be their refuge: the church.
It’s easy for some people to forget that LGBT people are not a faceless mob with an agenda. In reality, they are our family and friends. And some of them are young people who think they have nowhere to turn. The outpouring of disgust they have been witnessing will only convince them to keep their secret buried, which will keep them on the road to becoming a statistic. There is a lot of debate about things Christians should tolerate. This is not one of them.
What I pray for is for more followers of Christ to be proactive when it comes to our LGBT youth. If you would like to become more proactive, here are some ideas:
- Spend some time over at The Trevor Project. The Trevor Project “…is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24 (www.thetrevorproject.org)." The website has a “Get Involved” link that gives several ways you can help bring an end to this national epidemic.
- Think you don’t know any LGBT young people? You probably do and you just don’t realize it. We know several who are friends with our oldest daughter. They are always welcome in our home. For one thing, we like them and enjoy hanging out with them. But we also want them to feel that if they ever find themselves unwelcome in their own homes, they can come here. Be that person and have that home these young people can come to when they have nowhere else to turn.
- Find out about initiatives within churches to create safe places for LGBT people. Sally Gary is doing just that with Centerpeace, an organization devoted to providing those safe places, and helping churches, schools, and families have healthy conversations about homosexuality. (Sally has written in her own story in a book called “Loves God, Likes Girls.” I can’t recommend it highly enough. Please watch this short, powerful video of Sally describing her experience growing up in church and desperately needing a safe place and safe people to talk to.)
I believe people who follow Christ should be at the forefront of initiatives to end suicide among LGBT young people. There’s a reason Jesus preached love above all else, and it’s because the alternative is something none of us can live with.
*Transgender young people are not included in these statistics because that category has its own numbers (and they’re not good, either).
**These statistics are from www.thetrevorproject.org.