It's no secret that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens attempt suicide at significantly higher rates than do heterosexual teens. In fact, research on family acceptance of LGBT youth conducted at San Francisco State University found that LGBT youth who were highly rejected by their families were more than eight times more likely to have attempted suicide. Imagine your friend, family member, or loved one ending their own life because they feel alone or rejected by the ones they love most.
Having attempted suicide myself as a result of the emotional toll that rejection from my loved ones over my sexual orientation took on me, LGBT youth have my heart. I have dedicated myself to fighting for equality for the LGBT community, and I've made a genuine effort to be a resource for youth who need help or just someone to talk to. Unfortunately, LGBT teens have very few resources in this area.
Ex-gay therapy, commonly called reparative therapy or conversion therapy, has already been banned in multiple states, including New Jersey and California. This "therapy" has extremely detrimental psychological effects on LGBT persons, and countless suicides, by teens and adults alike, have been linked to the practice. The American Medical Association states that it "opposes, the use of 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation." Similarly, the American Psychiatric Association states that it "opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as 'reparative' or 'conversion' therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation."
On Sept. 23, 24, and 25, Lakeside Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., is hosting a conference led by Refuge461, an ex-gay "ministry." According to its website, the organization offers individual counseling and "[w]eekly meetings to provide help and encouragement through worship, Bible study, and small group sharing and accountability" for those who are "impacted by homosexuality."
Members of GetEQUAL Mississippi, Walk Fellowship, and OMEGA Mississippi have teamed up to organize a rally to send a message of love, acceptance, and, most of all, hope to those attending this conference. The pastor of Lakeside Baptist was made aware of our planned presence and used it as an opportunity to claim, in a sermon with children and youth present, that the congregation is "now engaged in intense spiritual warfare," and that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are "wickedness." In addition, he called the congregation to prepare for battle. You can watch the sermon below:
Such intolerance sends a grave message to the potentially desperate ears upon which the message falls.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, at 3 p.m., Walk Fellowship will be hosting a question-and-answer session on what the Bible really says about homosexuality. We strongly encourage your attendance. (For more information, please visit walkfellowship.org.) It is up to each of us to ensure that LGBT children and teenagers hear messages of love and acceptance rather than messages of hatred and ignorance. We all know that love wins, but it's up to us to make sure of it.