I was fortunate to learn earlier than most in Utah that the idea that homosexuality is a choice or results from bad choices, character defects, or Satanic influence is cruel and untrue. This was because my best friend whom I had gone to EFY with, and been in the same ward as, from the time we were 5 years old, came out as gay/bisexual when we were around 15 years old.
We had spent thousands of hours together, had countless deep talks on every topic imaginable, and I know him as well as I have ever known anyone in my life. He was/is a uniquely kind and good person. The conflict between who he naturally is at his core and what his religion told him about who he is, was a profound source of immense suffering for him. He 10000% would have chosen to be straight if he could have because he loved his religion and wholeheartedly wanted to believe it was true. Through knowing and loving this exceptional, vibrant person, I learned unquestionably that the theories about homosexuality being a choice, defect, etc., were false.
If anyone out there still believes in these toxic, cruel, archaic, superstitious, supremacist, thoroughly debunked ideas about human nature/sexuality, please also consider this: two recent sociological studies found that 13-20% of students at BYU self-identify as LGBTQ. These kids are two-times more likely as their straight peers to suffer from suicidal thoughts because of the religious messaging about their nature that incessantly haunts and severely wounds them.
They would have much to lose, and nothing to gain, by “choosing” to be non-heterosexual as a kid attending an ultra-conservative religious university like BYU.
The only possible way to believe that all these people are lying about their nature and human experience is to never have gotten to know anyone like them — on even a surface level. These superstitious, outdated, guesses about human nature are not only inaccurate, they are a malignant evil, and among the most widely damaging ideas still openly held to by large portions of the world’s population.
In my personal opinion, if we give money to an organization that discriminates against LGBTQ people, we not only are not a friend or an ally, we in fact are complicit contributors to discrimination. marginalization, and suffering that they needlessly face. And we can’t put out a fire from within the burning building.
The easy way is to say, “I will stay faithful to the institution and hope that they will change,” or think that we might influence change from within. It has never worked this way in these institutions. Our money is the only voice we have in this situation. It is the only voice they will truly hear.
Someone smart recently said, “Fires can be put out from within a burning building, that is why they have sprinkler systems.” In a way, I think this is a crucial point. An emergency sprinkler system is a built-in part of structure to guard against things going wrong. Prophetic religions have no such safeguards. In fact, not having them is one of their defining characteristics. With statements like: “When a church leader speaks, the thinking has been done,” and “it is wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true,” they openly decry such safeguards and make clear that there is no place for them in the institution. The only safeguard is people with integrity and honesty who care and are willing to sacrifice convenience, privilege, and peace in relationships to defend the marginalized and data-backed objective truths.
For those struggling to get to that level of caring about this marginalized community, an effective first step can be to acknowledge to yourself that if you had been born LGBTQ in a fundamentalist conservative religion, your life would have been far more difficult, that this simple fact is not okay, and that it is truly nothing more than a matter of chance—not a result of anything you did or accomplished—that you yourself were not born this way.
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This story is dedicated to helping people learn to love better, while fostering an atmosphere of understanding. When we know better, we do better.