This week at choir rehearsal, we sang some songs that really hit close to my heart. Among them are “My Song in the Night,” “Hold On (from the musical The Secret Garden),” “Sing Praise to Him” and “Amazing Grace.” For me, these songs coincide remarkably with the increased attention to suicide.
I don’t write about this much. It’s a tender topic, and I’m no expert in addressing it. But it does break my heart every time I hear of another gay teen taking his/her life. Yes, most of the suicides I’ve heard of recently are from the LGBT Mormon community. I’ve had experiences that quite naturally push me away from the more mainstream LGBT community, and I’ve had to withdraw, take care of myself and secure my home in the gospel. But suicide is something that should be a concern to everyone, no matter what we feel about church doctrine, politics, sexual orientation or gender identity.
I love Utah. I love the Church. But I also understand that there is a culture that doesn’t lend itself to authenticity. I attend a singles’ ward, and most of my social life consists of my family and gay/SSA friends (or “covenant-keeping queers,” to be more specific). So I’d say I’ve been somewhat sheltered from this culture, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there.
I was recently with some friends from this demographic, all faithful members of the Church, some married, some single. The topic of suicide came up, and I was saddened to see how many (yes, myself included) had had thoughts of suicide within the past year. Sometimes I wonder if there’s this notion that just because some of us remain in the Church and/or are married, it means that we have it all figured out. Right now I’m picturing a husband and father who experiences same-sex attraction, but feels like he has to keep it a secret from his friends, people at church and making every effort to keep up the appearance of the perfect dad, the perfect Mormon family.
On a larger scale, my heart goes out to anyone who is still struggling silently, trying to pretend they're someone they're not. It could be anyone…even among those who are married who appear to have it all “figured out.” Are our families, wards and stakes safe places to open up and talk about this? Much of the pressure, stress, depression and suicidal ideation could be averted if we could just be authentic with fellow disciples.
I know some people have concerns with the basic doctrines and the Church’s stance on marriage. I know there are some who are angry with Church leaders and criticize anyone who has faith in them. That is not me. That hasn’t been my experience, so I can’t write about it. I’m only talking about the culture. I acknowledge that there are other aspects of Utah Mormon culture outside of the LGBT spectrum that need addressing as well.
As I mentioned above, I have been to that edge; the edge where I wondered if I could carry on another day. In fact, I knew I couldn’t do it with the feelings I was feeling then. This wasn’t too long ago, actually. But through divine intervention, I got the help I needed, and I’m in a much better place. The thing is, I don’t have the answers. I can only share what has worked for me so far (and that could be a whole other blog post). There is no one size fits all solution. Each individual needs to be listened to. Each individual needs to come to a level of self-acceptance before progress can be made, at least that has been my experience. For some, it DOES mean leaving the Church, or at least pursuing a path that may cause limited participation at church. But does that mean they can’t feel like they can still come to church? Still be involved in the activities? Be in a place where they can feel the Spirit?
Christ continues to be my rock. When I don’t meet the approval of others, whether in or out of the Church, I constantly remind myself that it is ultimately between me and my Savior. With that in mind, I’m still thankful for those who have been placed in my path. It still is a major blessing to have others who are facing similar circumstances (not always “struggles”) and who strive to hold on.
The music we sang this week was not depressing, of course. It was filled with hope. My heart was touched as we sang, “Child, hold on to what you know is true.” I resonated with the phrase, “Unto Thee, O Lord, in affliction I call. My comfort by day and my song in the night.” And as always, I am grateful for the “Amazing Grace,” patience and mercy of a loving Heavenly Father.