Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

Houston, Texas – When school bullying drove 13-year-old Asher Brown to take his own life on September 23, the horror and despair of so many LGBTQ youth was laid bare for Houston to see. LGBTQ teen suicide, a crisis for any society, hit leaders of Houston’s gay-affirming religious communities particularly hard. Now, the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Voice report that 22 area churches are doing their part to break the cycle of religion-based negativity toward homosexuality by inaugurating “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” this week.  On Sunday, February 20, churches from a broad range of traditions make it public that their doors and fellowships are fully open and affirming of LGBTQ youth, their families, and loved ones. The connection with the suicide of young Asher Brown is important, since at the time public rallies and memorials in his memory were taking place, the visual absence of churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques was telling. Surely hundreds of people from faith communities attended these public memorial events, but there was no organized presence on the part of religious communities–a glaring absence that communicated a message of neglect or disapproval that concerned religious leaders are eager to dispel. The Houston Chronicle details grim statistics about how religion is perceived to reinforce LGBTQ youth attitudes of alienation from faith communities. The Chronicle reports that a recent survey by the Public Research Institute showed that less than 20 percent of Americans believe faith communities do a “good job” on the issues of homosexuality and gender expression. Almost half of those surveyed said that the religious message on the topic was “negative,” and fully 40 percent said that the intolerant attitudes of religious communities contributed “a lot” to the disapproval and condemnation of LGBTQ people in this country. The most damning statistic associated with these issues referred to teen LGBTQ suicides: two out of three Americans in the survey said that religion contributed heavily to increasing rates of suicide among gender non-confroming, queer, and gay youth. Robert P. Jones, executive officer of the Public Research Institute, underlined the long history of anti-LGBTQ messages coming from America’s houses of faith: “Religious Americans historically have had negative attitudes about gays and lesbians.” In response to the crisis of teen despair in public and private schools in the metro area, the Houston Clergy Council devised “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” as a means of getting out the word that God and the faith community do not hate, reject, or despise LGBTQ youth–quite to the contrary, these affirming churches welcome gender non-conforming people and their families every day.  The masthead of the Facebook page announcing the project reads, “Is your teenager Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, a Questioning (GLBTQ) teen? Bring your teen to one of these affirming churches, and rest assured we won’t try to ‘fix’ them. We think they are awesome just the way they are!” The list of churches is impressive, including historic mainline denominations (Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and United Methodist), non-denominational communities, the Society of Friends (Quakers), Unitarians and Universalists, and the largest Metropolitan Community Church in the world.  There is even a lone courageous Baptist church with an open and affirming stance. The struggle with religious intolerance and hate speech from pulpits in Houston and around the nation will go on for a long time. Thousands of congregations in the Houston metro area deny the acceptability of homosexuality and gender non-conformity, declaring queer youth sinful or worse. But a cadre of deeply committed faith leaders and their communities are determined to get out the word in America’s fourth largest city that sexual minority youth are acceptable to God, and most certainly to them.  “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday” is tomorrow, February 20.

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Bisexual persons, Bullying in schools, gay men, gay teens, gender identity/expression, Gender Variant Youth, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Houston Clergy Council, Internalized homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBT teen suicide prevention, LGBTQ suicide, Popular Culture, Public Theology, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, soft homophobia, suicide, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Houston Churches Break Cycle of Gay Hate: “Bring Your Gay Teen to Church Sunday,” Feb. 20

   

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