Today we’re tackling one of the more difficult questions many parents ask when their child comes out. Luckily, these days there is a place in religious and spiritual communities for LGBTQ+ people and those who love and affirm them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a complicated issue. Keep reading to learn more…
Navigating the Contradictions
People who belong to spiritual and faith communities often receive negative messages about LGBTQ+ identities. These messages can be extremely harsh and hurtful (i.e. “Your LGBTQ+ child is going to hell,” “Being LGBTQ+ is a sin,” etc.) These kinds of beliefs might have seemed benign or even logical before finding out your child was LGBTQ+, but when applied to your precious child they become hard to swallow. You may find yourself questioning previously held beliefs, which can be a confusing and difficult process.
Some religious parents respond to this news by cutting ties with the LGBTQ+ person, which has devastating consequences for their emotional and mental health. Thankfully in recent years more faith communities have accepted and affirmed LGBTQ+ people, and there are more resources than ever for parents who want to learn more.
This shift makes sense, considering that the overarching message of many religions is to love one another, and some version of The Golden Rule, or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It can be helpful for parents of LGBTQ+ kids to begin focusing more on these messages than specific passages of religious texts that seem to condemn LGBTQ+ people.
Take Small Steps
Even if you have a hunch that your current faith community will not be accepting of your child, you don’t have to take any drastic measures yet. Instead, take some time to observe and learn. Notice how your community talks about LGBTQ+ people. Is there outright condemnation, or do they just not talk about it at all? Are there any openly LGBTQ+ members of the community? Depending on the answers to these questions, you could talk to church leaders about your questions.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking directly, try to research statements that leaders or organizations have made about LGBTQ+ people and issues. Nearly every denomination and major religious group has resources for LGBTQ+ people. For example, the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ have had LGBTQ+ inclusive policies for many years. They ordain LGBTQ+ people and perform weddings for LGBTQ+ people. Other major institutions have adopted LGBTQ+ inclusion policies as well.
Help Your Child Keep Their Faith
Last but certainly not least, youth raised in faith often have deep spiritual longings for faith connections. Staying in a condemning community may drive your child away from faith entirely. Finding a spiritual home that accepts the entire family may be the single greatest gift of faith, witness, and guidance you can provide.
https://www.hrc.org/resources/faith-positions – Click on a faith tradition below for an overview of their position on LGBTQ+ people and the issues that affect them.
http://www.welcomingresources.org/about.htm – National LGBTQ Task Force
https://pflag.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Faith-in-our-families_Web_2021.pdf – Faith in Our Families PFLAG