Salt Lake City: Safe or Survival for LGBT Youth?

By Kierra Cable

SALT LAKE CITY — On April 4th, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints revised its controversial 2015 policy that stated that those living in same sex relationships are considered ‘apostates’. According to (According to the church, apostasy is characterized as when individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel. The church removed this policy from its records, allowing children of same sex relationships to be baptized and receive blessings. Instead of having the title of apostasy, same sex couples are now referred to as living in serious transgression.

Although serious transgression calls for definite consequences, removing the title of apostasy is a serious relief for same sex couples. However, the reversal of this policy has created a myriad of reactions toward the church.

Some angry members believe that it is too late. An article by Benjamin Knoll stated that the leading cause of death for youth ages 15-19 is suicide. His article Youth Suicide Rates and Mormon Religious Context, tackles the possibility of a correlation between suicide and LGBT youth in the LDS church. During the period of 2015-2019, the church had large numbers of members remove their names from the church role due to disagreement, anger, and even those who took their own life

Unfortunately, suicide is not the only danger toward Utah youth of Utah. An overwhelming amount of youth living in homelessness raises the question: Is this also connected to the predominantly Mormon population? 40% of the homeless youth living in the Salt Lake area identify as part of the LGBT community.

Jayme Anderson of the VOA Youth Resource Center works to house thirty to forty youth every night. The Youth Resource Center provides meals three times a day to youth ages 16-22. The Youth Resource Center It prides itself on being an accepting and safe space for anyone. The staff truly reflect their mission of creating safety for all youth who come through.

“The youth we see are generally coming from a religious background. By identifying as LGBT, the youth assume that they aren’t safe in their homes. Whether that’s true or not, we see a large amount of youth just wanting to be accepted and loved,” Anderson said, “The stigma of LGBT youth in the church has caused a large amount of youth to become homeless.”

Bryson, a youth involved at the VOA, stated that “I didn’t feel safe in my house. When they released the new policy in 2015, my parents tried their best to almost knock the gay out of me. They didn’t want me to be an apostate. They were embarrassed by me, but I can’t help that. I am going to love who I want to love even if it means getting kicked out on the streets.”

When the reversal came about, Bryson’s parents attempted to reach out to him. “I didn’t want anything to do with them. They already had their chance. The church should never have done that to us. Reversing the policy is like putting a bandaid on the situation, it’s bull shit.” Although Bryson’s story is not uncommon, it’s not concrete evidence for of a correlation between homelessness and the LDS church.

With the new revision to the 2015 policy, church leaders are hopeful that this will bring LGBT members and allies back into the church. “The church embodies love, just like our Savior Jesus Christ would” stated Mark Lewis, a bishop of a South Jordan stake, “With this new revision of policy we rely on our Prophet Russell Nelson to guide us as the church. We believe that prophets speak directly to God and if we have faith, we can be guided by that revelation. This new revelation will encourage members of the church who struggle with same sex attraction to feel at home. Our church beliefs on marriage haven’t change, but the way we include others has. I hope that every member and nonmember can be reminded that they too are a child of God.”

Since the reversal of the 2015 policy, we have seen many different responses to the church. A large congregation is in full support of Nelson’s revelation. Another portion of the church is angry that the policy was introduced in the first place.  An article by The Salt Lake Tribune entitled, ‘It hurt people’s hearts’ — How the LDS Church’s now-rescinded policy affected these LGBTQ believers and why the pain persists, shows both ends of the perspective well.

“When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rescinded that policy earlier this month, anger accompanied their elation, hurt tempered their happiness, bruises scarred any healing” (Salt Lake Tribune). The battle of doctrine and gay rights continues to persist and damage as time goes on. The growth of this conflict will continue to push children out of their homes and even to take their own lives. With the possible correlation of LGBT homeless youth and religious backgrounds we can potentially anticipate an increase in numbers. As a community we can come to the aid of those who need a roof over their head and people to love them unconditionally.

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Student finds pride in his work and life

   by Jessica Morgan

Drew McGee was sitting in class early yesterday morning listening to a lecture on how to write a paragraph. He was a good student, he always had been, so he tried to pay attention and take good notes. However, it was rather obvious that McGee’s mind was somewhere else.

McGee’s thoughts were still lingering on his previous day spent at work. Many people would find this to be troubling, but to him it was a good thing. McGee loves his job: “It is a lot of work, and takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it and I love my job,” said McGee. He works at the Utah Pride Center.

The Utah Pride Center is a community-based, non-profit organization in Salt Lake City that provides support, education, outreach and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals.

“Life is often hard on children who don’t fit neatly into the category of ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, especially when it comes to making friends. But thanks to a group at the Utah Pride Center, this aspect of growing up gender variant may be a little less difficult,” said Rose Ellen, a member of the LGBTQ community.

The growth and acceptance of the LGBTQ community in Utah is largely attributed to the Utah Pride Center and its efforts.

According to “Utah, where President Bush received more than 70% of the vote in 2004, has moved from 38th in 1990 to 14th in the most recent rankings” of the nation’s ‘gayest’ states.

In addition, “Salt Lake City recently approved a benefits program for lesbian and gay couples; identifying openly as gay is no longer considered an honor code violation at Brigham Young University; and perhaps most striking, the state now has three openly gay state legislators. That’s one more than the US Congress,” reported Northern Lights.

McGee was born and raised in Salt Lake City, where the acceptance of the LGBTQ community has long been an issue. Throughout his growing years he wished to find an outlet or support group and would often dream of a day that he would no longer feel like an outsider. When he stumbled upon the Utah Pride Center back in 2009, he felt as if he had finally found what he was looking for all those years.

In the past years that McGee has worked for the UPC he has found much pride and satisfaction in seeing the growing acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and their community within Salt Lake City, and knowing that he has been a part of it, whether large or small.