This is a recent article I wrote for my blog which I thought I would post here in the hopes of generating more discussion surrounding LGBT Youth issues and specific needs for Youth from faith backgrounds and the issues that surround them.
Why is a place for Gay Christian Youth needed in our Society?
By Ben Gresham (2009)
“Sometimes I feel so guilty about my feelings’’.
“Am I going to hell? That’s the gnawing question that is always drilling little holes in the back of my mind. Please don’t send me to hell….Lord I want to be good…I need your seal of approval” – Bobby Griffith
The statistics of GLBT Youth suicide is significant, especially from Christian backgrounds. “The suicide rate for gay and lesbian youth is up to eight times higher than for their heterosexual peers, often due to homophobic bullying, abuse and anxiety about coming out” (Stark J, 2009).
Many young GLBT people from church backgrounds have previously made attempts at self harm with some even committing suicide. “Recent Australian research found up to 31 per cent of gay people suffered from anxiety disorders and depression compared with between 4 per cent and 14 per cent of heterosexuals. Seventeen per cent of young gay women had tried to harm or kill themselves in the previous six months compared with 2 per cent of straight women” (Stark J, 2009).
In September this year we kick started Freedom 2 b[e] Youth in Sydney to help make a step forward in targeting youth suicide, depression and self harm.
A safe, welcoming space is provided for GLBT youth from Christian church backgrounds. By Youth, we refer to those under the age of 30. A ‘open’ space is facilitated where there is no agenda, a place free from ‘cruising’ and a space where people can be themselves as they journey on the path of reconciling faith and sexuality, or discovering new beliefs or truths for their lives.
It is important to establish strong networks and connections and give youth the support they need from services we know and trust. Freedom 2 b[e] is not a church, nor is it a counselling / crisis service. It is not our responsibility to provide those services but it is our responsibility to be able to connect youth with those organisations that can. We are currently working on strong networks with ACON, Twenty10, SGLBA, MCC Churches and other Christian churches right around Australia including Hope Street Baptist (Sydney), Bayside Church (Melbourne) and in the future many more.
However with much support already received…much more is needed. I believe that God is raising up a generation of individuals passionate about life and seeing people equipped with the hope, motivation, resources and love to move forward in every sphere of life.
Keep watching for more exciting information about this new community group. Our latest event was a BBQ and beach day where we provided lunch and drinks for almost 30 gay and lesbian youth and their friends. It was an incredible success and provided a safe space for youth on their journey of reconciliation.