The majority of major religions around the world condemn being gay and believe being gay will send you to hell. With major religions comes religious culture and many religious cultures encourage homophobia and transphobia. Religious culture is a culture that is built around the beliefs of religion but is not an actual following or rule within a religion. An idea many people who believe in religion seem to believe is that people are not born gay, they choose to be gay. A simple yet effective argument to refute this is to mention how people in many countries are stoned to death for being gay, and even in recent history people were sent to mental institutions for being gay, so why would anyone willingly choose to struggle? We must ask ourselves how can we understand and empathize with those who are facing religious abuse because of their sexuality, and what can we do to help?
Young adults apart of the LGBTQ community are at high risk of facing religious abuse. A recent meta-analysis by Friedman et al. (2011) found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adolescents report higher rates of abuse, victimization, and bullying than their heterosexual peers. LGBT young adults also report higher rates of mental illness, suicidal ideation, and self-harm when compared to their non-LGBT peers. When living with religious families many children never come out to their parents because they are afraid of the risk of being kicked out, disowned, or even physically assaulted, and for those who do come out to their families these risks become their reality.
Besides not being able to come out to their families many religious people do not believe in struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts, they believe turning to God and praying will solve all your problems. “The majority of Americans (57%) identify religious belief (belief in God) as a requisite for moral judgment (Kohut, Wike, & Horowitz, 2007). Due to these factors, LGBT persons who mature in a religious community context report experiencing increased discrimination and internalized homophobia (i.e., negative attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and stereotypes about LGBT people that is directed inward by someone with same-sex attraction or feelings of discontent with one’s biological gender.” In western countries, many religions have made exceptions to accepting the LGBTQ community and are in support of gay marriage, but this is not the reality for many third world countries where it remains legal for someone to be killed because they are gay. The aim of a study that was conducted was to investigate how religious upbringing impacts suicide and internalized homophobia. “The purpose of this study was threefold: 1) to determine if religious and LGBT identity conflict indicators are associated with suicidality, 2) to investigate if internalized homophobia mediates this relationship, and 3) to determine if a religious upbringing is associated with suicidality.” The data indicated that identity conflict that comes from dissonance felt between religious beliefs and LGBT identity was associated with a higher risk of suicide. All three indicators were associated with suicidal thoughts in the last month, parental anti-homosexual religious beliefs were associated with chronic suicidal thoughts in the last month and two indicators (i.e., leaving one’s religion and parents’ religious beliefs about homosexuality) were associated with suicide attempts in the last year. There are countless things we as a society can do to assist those who are suffering at the hands of religious abuse, we can open shelters for runaways, provide more government-aided therapy, build community centers, and most importantly educate ourselves.
Homophobia within religious communities is strictly religious culture as no religion encourages targetting people apart of the LGBTQ community or murdering them, these horrific actions are justified with religion. As newer generations become more westernized, acceptance of persons of LGBTQ has become more prominent, even with religion. There are endless sources and means of education for one to learn about what it means to be gay and how it is not a choice. We as adults in this generation must make changes that previous generations did not make. Regardless of what one might believe in, we must empathize with people especially when we do not know what they are going through. We must stop speaking on their behalf and start giving them platforms to teach us how we can become better allies. We must stop justifying violence towards the community because of religion because no God who is supposed to be merciful and loving would ever condone the actions of those who inflict pain on others simply because of love and attraction. Mental health resources must be more accessible so that those who can’t be open to their families can at least have someone they can talk to about what they are experiencing.
Gibbs, J. J. (2015). Religious conflict, sexual identity, and suicidal behaviors among LGBT young adults. Archives of suicide research: official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706071/.