01/17/2012 04:18 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Religion, Family, and Gay Teen Suicides

It breaks my heart to read about yet another gay youth suicide. What's astonishing to me is that I know of three gay suicides in as many months just among my Facebook friends. That's a whole lot, considering my relatively small number of friends. Granted, I don't know them all personally, but most of us share the common bonds of like-minded values and a respect for human life. Current events have caused me to start thinking -- a little deeper than before -- about the senselessness of these tragedies.

As I listened to the "It Gets Better" message produced a month ago by Eric James Borges (who recently took his life), I could hear the pain of abandonment in his voice as he spoke about growing up in a deeply religious -- and deeply prejudiced -- home. This appears to be a common thread among every gay suicide I've had to ponder. Deep in the fabric of the pain that pushes them to take their own lives is hate, more than likely 
"justified" by the misguided religious beliefs of others. Most media attention tends to focus on peer bullying as a major factor, and I agree with that to an extent. But often overlooked is the impact of the hateful bullying that takes place right in our own homes.

Dogmatic religious beliefs are the most often used defense against acceptance of gays. That argument lacks the most credibility and is the least tenable. It's hard to fathom a parent who despises and exudes contempt for their own child, but it's happening all the time. I have the unfortunate privilege of hearing their stories almost daily, and it never gets any easier. The emails are from gay youths thrown into a reparative therapy of the worst kind: rejection by siblings and parents. Many are left homeless on the street, with all family communications cut off. They're uninvited to family events, and parents feel that their actions are justified by religious dogma -- it's the Christian thing to do.

Rejection exacerbates the self-defeating nature of hate on a universal level, because it was most likely heterosexual relationships that procreated gay children: black or white, pharmacist or drug pusher, president or car thief. The simple solution would be for "haters" to not procreate. As unrealistic as that is, it would prevent some hate on the secular level of human existence. Most aren't willing to abstain from sex; it's a price they aren't willing to pay.

My cousin was a teenager when my family first learned he was gay, and you would have thought an airplane had crashed in our backyard. The malicious, bigoted religious rhetoric that ensued stunk to the heavens. I'm certain it contributed to my remaining closeted for the next 20 years. When I finally did come out, you would have believed Jesus himself had shown up in the backyard that time. Their rhetoric was condescending, venomous, and loaded with ill intent. It felt like the weight of the world was upon my shoulders. I've since become immune to the dissent, but the pain that these gay youths endure from those supposedly closest to them is simply unimaginable, and it's because they've been indoctrinated with religious beliefs that condone hate.

There are no winners in this religion-driven massacre of human life. The loss of even just one life is a love story that will never be told. If gays (or others) need any justification for rejecting religion and hate-based teachings, it can be found within the family circle, long before the impact of society. This burden of judgment and condemnation that awaits at home is horrendous and completely unbearable for many. Families must accept that using language that dehumanizes gays does not make them virtuous -- and it cannot make their children straight -- contrary to what religious beliefs may have taught them. Even if they can't identify with what it's like to be gay, they can still love their gay son or daughter.

Healing has to begin in our homes. Far too many are not fortunate enough to have authentic love, like that my mother provided. Religion, society, and self-righteous family members took a back seat to the reassuring love she provided.

Religious beliefs were introduced to our independently functioning universe by man -- and are incapable of absolving the perplexities and mystifications of human sexuality. The ignorance of asserting that everyone be the same, and aspire to the same existence, is bizarre, unfounded, and dogmatic against the backdrop of our highest aspirations to love others as we love ourselves.