The new hate-crimes law extending federal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people was seen as a crucial victory for the gay rights movement. But few believe the law will end anti-gay attacks and discrimination — especially when it comes to young people, who remain the most vulnerable LGBT population, as statistics show.
In fact, The National Center for Children in Poverty reports that about 1.6 million unaccompanied young people join the ranks of the homeless each year, and that 20 to 40 percent of these young people identify as LGBT. Many of these young people say they left home because of disagreements with their families, including religious disputes erupting from their sexual identity.
The recent, widely broadcast “exorcism” of a gay teenager by a group of Connecticut church elders has highlighted the struggle of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (or in transition) youth within some faith groups.
Faith groups opposed to homosexuality say that episode does not reflect the usual approach to deterring or changing homosexual orientation in young people, while faith groups tolerant of homosexuality say young people should be accepted no matter what their sexual orientation. Other religious communities note that they support social services for youth whatever their issues.
Yet many scholars, pastors and other religious people say religious communities — whether opposed to homosexuality or tolerant — are not doing enough to help these teenagers. Rather, denominations have focused more on the issues of gay pastors, gay marriage and gay members than on the LGBT youth in their midst. This, they say, makes LGBT youth among the most vulnerable because of their relative immaturity and lack of resources specifically for them among faith groups.
This edition of ReligionLink highlights this phenomenon and provides resources for covering the story.
For more general LGBT and religion sources, see ReligionLink’s Aug. 25, 2009, tip on “Gay Clergy: The State of the Debate,” which lists religious denominations and links to their statements about homosexuality. It also has links to numerous LGBT advocacy groups with links to religious bodies.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force offers a publication for download on the subject of Hell Houses, many of them held in churches around Halloween, and the effects they have on youth attitudes toward LGBT people. The task force also has a publication on “ex-gay” Christian ministries and how they affect LGBT youth.
Read an Oct. 27, 2009, New York Times story, “For Runaways, Sex Buys Survival,” about the frequency with which young runaways have to resort to the sex trade.
Read a Sept. 23, 2009, article from The New York Times Magazine about young boys and girls coming out in middle school.
Read an April 13, 2007, Washington Post article about LGBT activists visiting Christian college campuses in support of LGBT rights.
Kaleidoscope, a project of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests, publishes a resource packet for college groups that has an excellent glossary of terms (queer, genderqueer, intersex, omnisexual, etc.) and a list of biblical quotes dealing with sexuality.
ORGANIZATIONS AND GROUPS
- The Center for Progressive Christianity is an organization that seeks to incorporate the marginalized, including LGBT people, in mainline denominations. It is based in Gig Harbor, Wash. Fred Plumer is president. Contact 253-303-0022 or email through the Web site.
- Dignity USA is an advocacy organization of LGBT Catholics. It has a resource page for youth. Marianne Duddy-Burke is executive director. Contact 617-669-7810, email@example.com.
- Fortunate Families is an organization for Catholic families with LGBT sons and daughters. It is primarily for parents but has resources for getting youth to talk about their sexuality with their parents. It is based in Rochester, N.Y. Contact 585-698-6100.
- The Gay Christian Network is a ministry to LGBT Christians. It is based in Raleigh, N.C. Justin Lee is executive director. Contact 919-786-0000.
- Integrity USA is an advocacy organization of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church. It does not yet have a youth program but can be helpful in finding individuals and churches within the denomination who do. John Clinton Bradley is the acting executive director. Contact Louise Brooks, director of communications, 626-296-9620 (office), 626-993-4605 (cell), firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Kaleidoscope is an LGBT youth support and advocacy group of the Brethren Mennonite Council for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Interests. It has a page of youth resources, including a blog, Coming Out Strong, specifically for young LGBT people. Carrie Fry-Miller is Kaleidoscope coordinator. Contact email@example.com.
- Soulforce has a publication about Christian gay youth. In summer 2009, Soulforce convened its first summer camp for young LGBT people where part of the activities involved religious analysis and activism. Soulforce volunteer activists have traveled by bus to Christian colleges around the U.S. to speak out for LGBT rights. It is based in Austin, Texas. Jeff Lutes is executive director. Contact 321-948-3423, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The United Church of Christ’s Coalition for LGBT Concerns has a program for youth and young adults that holds national, regional and local conferences and camps. It seeks to support LGBT youth in a faith-based context. Tim Brown is coordinator of its youth and young adult program. Contact 216-861-0779.
- Some groups, principally Exodus International (see Wikipedia article), are associated with conservative Christianity and promote a “reorientation” strategy that seeks to switch homosexuals to a heterosexual orientation. This approach is very controversial. One well-known ministry is Exodus Youth. Another is Reach Truth, a ministry affiliated with the Portland Fellowship in Oregon.
- Other ministries accept the sexual orientation of LGBT youth but try to encourage them to live a life of chastity so they do not act on their sexual instincts.
- The Gay and Lesbian Vaishnava Association is an organization for LGBT Hindus and Viashnavas both in the U.S. and around the world. The Web site contains no information about officers and contacts but has an email form.
- Faith in America battles religious-based prejudice against LGBT people. It is not a religious organization but works with people of all faiths. It is based in Hudson, N.C. Brent Childers is executive director. Contact 828-612-4682, email@example.com.
- HeartStrong is a nonsectarian organization that supports LGBT students in religious schools and institutions. It is based in Seattle. Marc Adams is executive director. Contact 206-388-3894, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Jewish Mosaic is the National Center for Sexual & Gender Diversity. One of its programs provides curricula and other educational resources for religious schools. It has a helpful section on LGBT terms and definitions. It is based in Denver. Gregg Drinkwater is executive director. Contact 303-691-3562.
- JQ Youth is a New York-based social and support group for LGBT Jews, especially those from Orthodox backgrounds, ages 17 to 30. Contact via the Web site.
- Keshet is a Boston-based nonprofit that works for the full inclusion of GLBT Jews. It produced the documentary Hineini: Coming Out in a Jewish High School and a companion curriculum and operates a “Safe Schools & Supportive Communities” program that targets young people. Contact Andrea Jacobs, 617-524-9227 ext 3, email@example.com.
- The National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning Students offers training and programs for college-age students. Vanessa Prell is executive director. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons is an organization of LGBT people who are religious or culturally aligned with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the church’s policy against any lifestyle that is not heterosexual. Affirmation seeks to support and encourage LGBT Mormons and has multiple services for youth. It has local chapters in many states. Dave Melson is executive director. Contact 661-367-2421.
- GLYA World is a blog by and for LGBT Mormon youth. It maintains a list of spiritual resources. Contact email@example.com.
- The Al-Fatiha Foundation is a nonprofit that advocates for LGBT Muslims. It is compiling a study of the LGBT Muslim community in America. At the time of publication, its Web site was under construction and listed no current contact information.
- The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., supports LGBT seminarians and the schools and churches that hire them. Bernard Schlager is executive director. Contact 510-849-8206, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Colage is an organization of children, youth and adults with one or more LGBT parent. It is based in San Francisco. It has produced a publication titled “Just for Us” that focuses on spirituality and religion. Contact Chiah Connolly-Ingram, email@example.com.
- The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is an organization that works to combat LGBT prejudice and bullying in schools. Its Web site has pages of research about LGBT youth in U.S. schools.
- The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organizes and operates the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, a group of leaders from LGBT-welcoming faith organizations, and runs the Institute for Welcoming Resources, which works with eight major denominations. Contact via Inga Sarda-Sorenson, communications director, 646-358-1463, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign supports programming efforts in many different groups and will also offer its own Web-based resources and event support for religious LGBT advocacy. Harry Knox is director. Contact 202-628-4160.
- The Advocate magazine runs a Web site for LGBT youth called Advocate Gen Q, which has a section on religion.
- Whosoever is an online magazine for LGBT Christians. It is edited and published by Candace Chellew-Hodge. Contact email@example.com.
- YouthResource, a project of Advocates for Youth, is a Web site for LGBT youth. It has a section (scroll down) on faith and spirituality. Contact 202-419-3420 ext. 30.
- Marc Adams is executive director of HeartStrong, an organization that supports LGBT youth in religious schools and institutions. He can discuss fundamentalist Christianity and abuse related to people of all sexual orientations, religious schools and LGBT youth, “ex-gay” issues and ministries and coming-out issues. He is the author of The Preacher’s Son, a memoir about growing up gay in a Christian community. He gives workshops on bullying of LGBT youth in religious schools. Contact 206-388-3894, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Allison Bingham is the founder of youth services at Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons. Contact 661-367-2421.
- Tim Brown is coordinator of the youth and young adults program of the United Church of Christ’s Coalition for LGBT Concerns. He is co-editor of Coming Out Young and Faithful. Contact 216-861-0779.
- Chap Clark is a professor of youth, family and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. He is the author of Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers, which is currently undergoing a major revision. He is an expert on youth, how they relate to religion and their religious development. Contact 626-584-5524, email@example.com.
- Miguel De La Torre is an associate professor of social ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. He is a member of the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. He says the only denomination truly serving LGBT youth is Metropolitan Community Church. Contact 303-765-3133, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Denise Eger is a Reform rabbi who sits on the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. She is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, Calif., and is active both nationally and locally in LGBT issues. The synagogue’s religious school has LGBT students and children of LGBT parents, and the rabbi runs a teen support group at the synagogue twice a month. The congregation has also coordinated with other local synagogues and schools on youth issues. Contact 323-606-0996 ext. 101, email@example.com.
- Mitchell Gold is the founder of Faith in America and editor of its book, Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America (2008). Contact 828-612-4682.
- Jared Horsford is one of the young LGBT people of faith whose stories are featured in Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America (2008). He can discuss his personal experiences of growing up gay in the Southern Baptist denomination, his experiences with an “ex-gay” ministry and the resolution and reconciliation of the religious and personal parts of his life. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mark Jordan is a professor of divinity at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and author of the forthcoming Recruiting Adolescence: American Churches Learn About Homosexuality. He says many of the studies and much of the research conducted on LGBT youth plays down or even ignores their religious beliefs, which are important to many of the subjects. Contact 617-496-3397, email@example.com.
- Harry Knox is a member of the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign, where he helped develop a weekly preaching resource for congregations seeking to welcome and affirm LGBT people. He is a national advocate for LGBT inclusion and equality. Contact 202-628-4160.
- Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook is an Episcopal priest and a professor of practical theology and religious education at Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif. She can discuss LGBT youth and religious education, the ways LGBT youth connect sexuality and faith, and coming-out issues. Contact 909-447-2592, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Cindi Love is the founder of FamLo, a faith-based nonprofit that works for social justice for the marginalized, including LGBT people. She is the author of Would Jesus Discriminate?: The 21st Century Question (2008) and can discuss the issues and conflicts faced by teenagers coming out in evangelical and fundamentalist Christian communities. She is also a member of the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. Contact 972-358-5907, DrCindiLove@famlo.org.
- The Rev. Irene Monroe is coordinator of the African American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. She recently wrote an essay for Religion Dispatches about the black church’s failure to embrace young LGBT people. She lives in Cambridge, Mass. Contact via her Web site.
- Alex Sanchez is a Florida-based author of several novels about being young, gay and Christian, including The God Box and Rainbow Boys. Contact email@example.com.
- Erin K. Swenson is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church who was the first known Protestant minister to transgender after ordination. She is now a pastoral psychotherapist in Atlanta, where she works with individuals and families on gender identity issues. She is a member of the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. Contact 404-312-5677, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Leanne McCall Tigert is a United Church of Christ minister and pastoral psychotherapist. She is co-editor of Coming Out Young and Faithful and lives in Concord, N.H. Contact 603-224-1162, email@example.com.
- Mary Ann Tolbert is vice president for academic affairs, dean and professor of biblical studies at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., and former executive director of its Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry. She is a member of the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. Contact 510-849-8217, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel is a United Church of Christ minister and serves on the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. She is also program director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources. Contact via Inga Sarda-Sorenson, communications director, 646-358-1463, email@example.com.
- Melissa Wilcox is an associate professor of religion and director of gender studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. She is the author of Coming Out in Christianity: Religion, Identity & Community and teaches a course titled “Queer Religiosities.” Wilcox is on sabbatical for fall 2009. Contact 509-527-5247, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mark Yarhouse is a professor of psychology and counseling who specializes in Christian thought and mental health practice at Regent University, a Christian school in Virginia Beach, Va. He has written widely about same-sex attraction and church counseling, including “ex-gay” ministries. He can talk to reporters about the conflict young people experience between religious and sexual identities, ways in which that conflict might be resolved, and the role of the mental health professional in facilitating that potential resolution. He can address some of the professional ethical issues that arise when working with minors on these and related sexual and religious identity issues. Contact 757-226-4829, email@example.com.
- The Queer Jewish Youth Group is organized as a part of Keshet’s programs for the Massachusetts area. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Andrea Jacobs, 617-524.9227 ext 3.
- John L. Selders Jr. is an ordained minister and bishop in the United Church of Christ and is the organizing pastor of Amistad United Church of Christ in Hartford, Conn. He is on the religion council of the Religion & Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign. Contact 860-236-4500, email@example.com.
- Scott Thumma is a professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. He has written about evangelical Christianity and homosexuality and can discuss LGBT youth in megachurches, evangelical outreach to LGBT youth and “ex-gay” ministries. Contact 860-509-9571, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania has a Queer Christian Fellowship. Contact email@example.com.
- Toby Manewith is the rabbi at Congregation Bet Mishpachah, a congregation for LGBT Jews and others in Washington, D.C. Lee Salawitch is the congregation’s social justice coordinator. Contact Manewith at 202-870-3144, firstname.lastname@example.org; contact Salawitch at 410-764-1180.
- Melissa Simon is a rabbinical intern at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York City, an LGBT-specific synagogue. She leads some of the congregation’s services for LGBT people and is an advocate for LGBT rights. Contact 212-929-9498 ext. 16, email@example.com.
- Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church in Old Town Manassas, Va., hosted a gay prom in 2009. Contact 703-361-6269.
- Matt Comer is the editor of Q-Notes, an online watchdog magazine for the LGBT community in the Carolinas. His coming-out story is featured in Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America (2008). There is a video of his testimony about being young, gay and Christian on YouTube. Contact 704-531-9988, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Congregation Etz Chaim in Wilton Manors, Fla., is an LGBT-specific synagogue. Contact 954-564-9232, email@example.com.
- Paul Turner is the pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, an LGBT-focused church in metro Atlanta. The church actively supports and participates in local Youth Pride events. Contact 404-604-8124.
- Durrell Watkins is senior pastor at Sunshine Cathedral, a Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that is predominantly lesbian and gay. The church has a social service unit called SunServe with a support group for LGBT youth. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Eighth Day Ministries is an LGBT-affirming ministry based in Nashville, Tenn. Contact email@example.com.
- Glendale Baptist Church is an LGBT-welcoming and affirming congregation in Nashville, Tenn. It has an active youth group. Contact 615-269-0926.
- Mary Lou Wallner is co-founder, with her husband, Bob, of Teach Ministries, an organization that works to education Christian congregations about the dangers of homophobia. The Wallners founded the organization after the suicide of their daughter, a lesbian. They live in North Little Rock, Ark. Contact 501-542-4302, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Larissa Kwong Abazia is an associate pastor at Lake View Presbyterian Church in suburban Chicago and lead organizer of Café Pride, a social coffeehouse for LGBT youth sponsored by a group of area churches. Contact 773-281-2655.
- Larry Edwards is the rabbi at Congregation Or Chadash, a LGBT-specific synagogue in Chicago. Contact email@example.com.
- The Rev. Robyn Provis and the Rev. Paul Eknes-Tucker are co-pastors at All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church in Minneapolis. The church has a young adult group. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
- Bruce Bastian is the founder of the B.W. Bastian Foundation, based in Orem, Utah, which works to support LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS. Bastian’s story of growing up gay and Mormon was featured in the book Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America (2008). Contact 801-322-0260.
- GayRMs is a social Web site for gay returning missionaries ages 21 to 36 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Contact contact@gayRMs.com.
- Beau Heyen is youth minister at Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. The church was formerly a Metropolitan Community Church, now affiliated with the United Church of Christ, and has a large number of LGBT members. Contact 214-351-1901.
- The Rev. Theresa Novak is the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden, Utah, which has a drop-in center for LGBT youth. Contact 801-394-3338.
- Camille Shira Angel is the rabbi of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, a LGBT-specific synagogue in San Francisco. It has extensive teen programming, including organizing teen activism for LGBT rights. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lisa Edwards is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim, a LGBT-specific synagogue in Los Angeles. Contact 323-931-7023 ext. 200.
- Timothy Murphy is youth pastor at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif. The church is a member of the Center for Progressive Christianity and openly welcomes and affirms people of all genders and sexual persuasions. It recently began a relationship with the Gay-Straight Alliance chapter at a local high school. Contact email@example.com.
- Karen Oliveto is a minister at Glide Memorial Church, a United Methodist congregation in San Francisco. She is an advocate of LGBT rights within the United Methodist Church. Contact via press contact Denise Lamott, 415-381-8793, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Rev. Roland Stringfellow is an African-American Christian minister based in Oakland, Calif. He has spoken to the media about his own struggle as a young gay man within the Christian church. Contact 510-849-8934, email@example.com.
- The Rev. Pamela Lee Cranston is long-term interim vicar at St. Cuthbert’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, Calif., where one-third of the congregation is LGBT. In 2008, church members rallied in support of a “gay prom” in nearby Hayward. Contact 510-635-4949.