Church Leadership Needs to Take Action to Change Attitudes toward Queer Members
by Andy Winder
Submitted to Affirmation following The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s reversal of their November 2015 policy changes that prohibited children of LGBTQ parents from being blessed and baptized and characterized members of the church entering into same-sex marriages as apostates. These changes became known within the LGBTQ Mormon community as the “exclusion policy,” “policy of exclusion,” or “PoX.” The day after the reversal of this policy was announced, Nathan Kitchen, President of Affirmation, invited anyone willing to and share their authentic feelings and all their stories of grief, anger, relief, sadness, happiness, confusion, whatever they may be that surround the rescinding this policy. “As President of Affirmation, I want to be sure Affirmation does not hide you or your stories as we move forward,” wrote Kitchen in his invitation. If you have reactions or a story to share about the reversal of the exclusion policy, please send to [email protected]. You can also read other stories and reactions to the reversal of the exclusion policy.
When the Church announced the reversal of a policy that banned LGBTQ families from baptizing their children and declared gay relationships “apostate,” I was reminded of the example my college roommate Rachel set several days after the policy was announced in November 2015. After a church speaker started to complain about the upset over the new policy banning children of queer families from getting baptized, she walked out of the meeting even though so many heads turned in her direction.
As a closeted transgender freshman at Brigham Young University, I appreciated her bravery for doing something that I couldn’t. Later in the year, Rachel was the one who helped me discover my preferred, masculine name. She attended a therapy session with me to help her better understand what I was going through. Even though LGBTQ issues in the church didn’t affect her as a straight woman, she listened to those who were hurting and offered compassion.
What separates Rachel’s example from the recent church announcement, I think, is actions versus words. This announcement doesn’t erase all of the pain queer families have experienced at church. I’ve known many gay or transgender people who were banned from sacrament meeting for going to church as their authentic selves and more whose families cut off communication after they came out. And after the policy came out in 2015, I and many of my queer friends felt anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts because we felt like the Church had turned its back on us. It’s frustrating to me for that reason that, while this change is positive, it didn’t come with an apology or action for change.
Changing policies or offering a vision for “better understanding and less contentious communications” is important, but it doesn’t heal the trauma LGBTQ members have felt over the past three-and-a-half years. Attitudes toward queer Latter-Day Saints aren’t going to shift until Church leadership takes action to change them. If we really want to be a Christlike church, then nobody should feel like they don’t belong in sacrament or don’t have a place in Church doctrine. Changing a policy to welcome LGBTQ families at church is a good start, but I think we can all do better to open our minds and act with compassion towards each other.
Read more in an article Andy published on HuffPost Personal.