April 21, 2016

How can I reconcile my or my loved one's sexual orientation or gender identity with my faith?

For people with close ties to a faith tradition or faith community that is not welcoming, this can be a very difficult question. When an LGBTQ loved one comes out, you may feel as though all that you know is in conflict with your love for that person. Being LGBTQ does not impact a person's ability to be moral and spiritual, and indeed many LGBTQ people are religious and active in their own faith communities. This can be a good time to explore and question in order to reconcile religion with sexual orientation and gender identity, and determine the next best steps for you and your loved one.  

Are there other people of faith out there who are LGBTQ or have LGBTQ loved ones?

Absolutely! We cannot say this enough: to be a person of faith and a person who is LGBTQ--or who has a loved one that is LGBTQ--are not mutually exclusive. LGBTQ people and their loved ones can be found in almost every faith tradition; you’re not alone.

Are religious attitudes toward sexual orientation and gender identity changing?

Thankfully, yes. When the Metropolitan Community Church was founded in 1968 as a positive ministry to the LGBT community, it was the first of its kind in the world. Not only has MCC grown in the intervening decades, but other mainstream congregations have affirmed the rights of LGBTQ people, including other Christian faiths, Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, and more. Within almost every denomination, individuals--and sometimes entire congregations--are blazing a trail even when the denomination as a whole lags behind. Those changes, from the ordination of openly LGBTQ clergy to progress, on marriage equality, to affirmation of people who are transgender, were often spearheaded by people who’ve done the hard work of changing hearts and minds.

What does scripture say about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression?

Our interpretations of religious texts has changed and evolved over history. Every text, including the Bible, Koran, and Torah (among others), is open to a variety of interpretations, and passages about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are no exception. Explore the text with fresh eyes, and acquaint yourself with the scholarship and the debates. You may be surprised to find that those questions deepen not only your understanding, but also your appreciation, of scripture you may have taken for granted.

How do I tell my faith community about my loved one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

Start by thinking about how your faith community views LGBTQ people. Think about the conversations you’ve had with fellow congregants, and the kinds of preaching you’ve heard about LGBTQ people during services. If your community is open and welcoming, it’s likely that you will find a strong support system among clergy and faith leaders. Other situations can be more dicey, since an individual congregation’s stance may run contrary to their denomination as a whole, or may be split on their attitudes toward people who are LGBTQ. Finding someone you can trust can be a helpful source of perspective and help.

Can faith or therapy help people change their sexual orientation or gender identity?

In a word? No. Any efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are unnecessary, damaging, and dangerous. Learn more about reparative therapy and PFLAG’s position on it.

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