On the even of National Coming Out Day, this question came into the mailbox:
Dear Mormons for Marriage,
I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and would like to know what can be done now in the fight for equality for all. How can I get involved and what would I be able to do now?
Coming out is not just for GLBTQ people - there’s a role for everyone interested in creating equality and stamping out fear, misunderstanding, prejudice, bigotry and hatred.
There are even things Mormons can do with their own communities, believe it or not, including:
Speak up in your community. Tell people how you feel about equality. Meet them where they are and encourage them to learn more about what it’s like to be “outside the norm.” You may not change a mind, but you’ll definitely plant a seed. There are some ways to start conversations at www.propositionhealing.com. Sometimes you can bring up a topic that’s been in the news media, internet, or TV/radio and “test the waters” to see where people fall on the continuum of acceptance. Consider the impact of Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks. Watch for some posts in the next week or two about some more specific ideas and “how-to” examples for speaking up in your community.
Speak up at church. Don’t let insensitive, bigoted or poorly informed comments go without a rebuttal. Statistically, there are probably at least a dozen families in your ward who have GLBT family members in them. The Church has no official position on whether same-sex attraction is inborn or not, and it does not officially condone anything but love toward GLBT members and their families. If you don’t feel comfortable or safe speaking out, consider finding a lapel pin or a bumper sticker that can be a conversation starter. Rainbows, equality signs, pink triangles, white ribbons are all subtle messages others can see and notice.
Consider talking with your local leaders about how to provide a safe space for gay members and their families in your ward and stake. The folks in the Oakland Stake have set a wonderful example of messages of love from stake presidency members, inclusive firesides and ongoing discussion groups and counseling to help their units try to understand one another better. If you haven’t heard what they folks in Oakland have been up to, you can read about it here.
Write to general church leaders to express gratitude when they show particular love and compassion and encourage them to do more. Tell them how you feel and how equality issues affect your church experience and ask them what they are doing to help GLBT members and their families.
If you are in a position of leadership, even if you’re “just a home/visiting teacher,” take positive steps to make sure those serving with you know GLBT members and their families are welcome in your organization. Encourage bishops and YM/YW presidents to tell youth that gay slurs (”that’s so gay”) are not appropriate for LDS teens. If you have a gay family member, let your Relief Society President and/or Bishop know that you can be a resource for other members who’s children/siblings/parents are coming out to them. Nobody should have to walk that path alone.
If you know GLBT people, encourage them to share their stories, either by writing them or videotaping them. If they have 3-5 minutes, have them sit down and record a message for the “It Gets Better” campaign. If they’re LDS, be sure to include a metatag “Mormon” so people can find it on that channel. If you’d like to share your story at Mormons for Marriage, we always welcome guest posts. If you don’t want to have a whole post all to yourself, add your story to this page
Get in touch with your other organizations. Some include your local PFLAG chapter or Family Fellowship or Affirmation or GLSEN or Family Acceptance and find out what they do and what kind of help they need. Find out if your children’s school has a gay-straight student alliance or an anti-bullying program in place. If not, suggest to the School Site Council or principal that it might be beneficial to the student community where you are.
If you’re feeling politically motivated, check out places like the Human Rights Campaign or Marriage Equality USA and find one of their action items that inspires you to get involved in your community. There are places in the country where it’s still legal to fire people just because they admit to being gay.
Which one of these sounds like something you could do this week? What could you do this month? What might you come up with on your own?