With the media and the world sending so many different messages about LGBT/same-sex attracted individuals, it can be confusing to know exactly how to help.
The Church has been clear on its stance–the Church-produced site mormonsandgays.org says:
“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
There are many ways to help LGBT/same-sex attracted individuals in the Church without compromising our beliefs in the family and the plan of salvation. Here are 10 ways to help:
1. Let love be your guide.
Always think about how the Savior reached out to everyone in his life. He did not stop talking to anyone because of their sins/temptations/imperfections/qualities. Show interest in your friend’s life and remember that he/she is still the same person as before.
2. Remember that it is ok to be gay/LGBT/same-sex attracted and Mormon.
Being gay means only one thing: that the person is attracted to the same sex. It does not mean they do not believe in Christ, that they hate the Church, or that they plan on marrying someone of the same sex. It is perfectly ok to be gay and still be a member of the Church. In fact, gay/LGBT/same-sex attracted members of the Church bring diversity to our Church and many also have strong testimonies of the Savior and the Church.
3. Ask before making any assumptions.
Finding out a friend is LGBT/same-sex attracted can be hard. There may be many questions in your head, and you may jump to conclusions unknowingly. Avoid the tendency to jump to any conclusions. If your friend has trusted you enough to talk to you about this, your friend will appreciate that you ask questions and show interest. It may be intimidating to ask questions sometimes–nobody wants to feel like they’re making dumb or insensitive questions; but as long as you show true interest and care, questions will be welcome. That being said, respect the right your friend has to not answer a question.
4. Be proactive in learning about LGBT/same-sex attracted issues.
Google can be your best friend. Use the internet to learn more about different perspectives, but do not let just one website define your whole understanding. Make sure that, whatever your source is, it is not the only one. Again, learning as much as possible will help you be the best ally for your friend.
5. Use proper language.
While there are many words and labels that can be used, and the best one is always the one your friend chooses. Ask your friend how they would like you to talk about it. Some will choose gay, others will choose lesbian, queer, or same-sex attracted. Respect the word your friend has chosen and use it.
6. Don’t be a bystander.
If you hear anyone using language that is disrespectful or hurtful, make sure you talk to the person and kindly invite them to use different language. The Prophet and Apostles have emphasized that there is no room for bullying or abuse in the Church, so we shouldn’t stand by in these situations.
7. If your friend is in danger, seek help.
If you feel your friend is at risk of hurting him/herself or others, seek help immediately. There are many lifelines that are specialized in helping those at risk of suicide. It is better to be safe than sorry. Here are a few places where you can find help:
8. Respect your friend’s decisions.
Sometimes your friend might make decisions you may not agree with. This does not mean you should stop talking to your friend, nor does it mean that you can no longer be friends. Use this as an opportunity to ask more questions and understand. Maybe you will change your mind and learn more! Even if you do not agree after talking, always remember that your friend still loves you and will also respect your choices.
9. Become involved.
There are many ways to serve the LGBT/same-sex attracted community. There are a few Mormon organizations, Affirmation and Northstar (neither are Church-sponsored), that help mormons who are LGBT/same-sex attracted. Mormons Building Bridges is also another group for members who are not LGBT/same-sex attracted but want to help their friends. If you are at BYU or BYU-I you can visit USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction), a student-run organization that meets every Thursday at 7 PM in both campuses. All organizations have friendly people in them who will be more than happy to help you and answer your questions.
10. Share this post!
Share this post with others who may have questions, and, if you have more questions, feel free to ask away!