LGBTQ youth of faith retell their stories to inspire others

Sabrina Hodak was raised in Modern Jewish Orthodox families, but she only fully embraced Judaism when she was 16, which is around the time that she realized she was bisexual.

It was a difficult and confusing time because her religious mentors kept telling her that her sexuality would be in conflict with her faith.

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Hodak, a Florida International University psychology major, said, “That was very frustrating because I also knew that many other religious people believed that.” She kept writing in her journal that she wanted to ask, “Can you please find someone like me? Someone who is religious but can embrace their queer identity?”

Hodak joined Beloved arise to find the support and encouragement she needed. This Christian nonprofit is dedicated to celebrating, empowering, and supporting LGBTQ youth of faith. It is one of many online groups that members share their stories during Pride Month, as part of a campaign to encourage others who have been excluded by religious communities.

Hodak, who is a member of Jewish Queer Youth and Beloved Arise, stated that “I want to prove that these identities don’t seem to be a contradiction” and that younger people should know there’s hope.

The “Don’t Say Gay” Florida law, as critics call it, prohibits instruction in sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. These subjects should be discussed with parents and not teachers, according to supporters. Opponents claim that the law exempts LGBTQ persons from classes, which sued to block.

The Texas state child welfare agency was ordered to investigate reports that minors were subject to gender-confirming care. This directive, opponents claim, is the first by any governor in the midst of widespread GOP attempts to limit transgender rights.

Roswell Grey (16 years old) from Sherman, Texas, who identified as queer and nonbinary, said that Texas is “definitely one of the most hot spots for anti-LGBTQ Rights… and that was especially difficult given that my faith could also be similar — and not the most accepting.”

In the past decade, the Mormon church, a Utah-based religion, has attempted to make the environment more welcoming for LGBTQ members. Some church positions remain hurtful for many LGBTQ members. For example, it teaches that homosexuality is not a sin and that same-sex relationships are against God’s commands.

Grey stated, “It’s really hard to not act upon my identity and not be who it is.”

He was recently appointed a BelovedArise youth ambassador. He has shared his story through interviews and social media in the hopes of inspiring young queer people of faith to remind those religions that they should welcome them.

“The original church Christ established on Earth was very diverse. Grey said that he taught sex workers, and he also taught disabled people. He is also a member the Rainbow Connection, which focuses on young queer people in his faith.

The circumstances for LGBTQ youth who seek religious engagement vary across the United States.

Major Christian denominations like the Catholic Church or the Southern Baptist Convention condemn the practice of same sex marriages. They also believe that all sexual activity between men and women is illegal. Many mainline Protestant churches and synagogues have LGBTQ-inclusive policies. However, thousands of houses of worship do.

Lily Clifford (21 years old) has also been sharing her story publicly. She is also a youth ambassador with Beloved Arise. Lily was raised Southern Baptist in Missouri and describes it as a “very fundamentalist, extremely homophobic” environment. There she heard many times that gay people would end in hell.

Clifford, a pansexual student at Multnomah University, Portland, Oregon, came out last year and started a club with other queer youth of faith on campus. Because they fear reprisals from Christian college students, meetings are kept private.

Clifford stated, “If everyone tells you God hates and you’re going straight to hell, and your family disowned or you are fired from a religious job, it causes a lot depression and makes you feel isolated.” One person can tell you that God loves you and listen to you.

Christine Wehner (22 years old) grew up in Virginia. She attended a Presbyterian Church with her family, and then she came out to be gay during college. She said that she was raised in a Presbyterian church and never doubted her church’s teachings about homosexuality being a sin.

“When I discovered I was gay, my core identities — my faith and my sexuality — felt like they were in conflict. She said via email that she felt pressured to choose between the two. “But I couldn’t choose one; they were too deeply ingrained in me.”

It led to feelings of guilt, shame, and cognitive dissonance. These were difficult feelings that she had to overcome over the years through therapy, prayer, and guidance from mentors who helped her deal with her queerness. Although she is not part of the awareness campaign, she spoke to The Associated Press in the same spirit as her goal of inspiring others.

Wehner stated that “seeing someone in a happy, healthy and God-honoring queer partnership may help alleviate any shame they feel.” “Similarly, lesbians and gay men might have a better experience of Christianity than those who aren’t Christians.”