Monday, July 25, 2011

Queer Youth of Color Beyond Faith

From The New Humanism

By Sikivu Hutchinson

At LGBTQ youth conferences it is common to see sunny-faced volunteers from gay-friendly ministries and other faith organizations hovering by tables stocked with attractive promotional literature. Their message is simple: God is merciful, forgiving and accepting of difference. And it is important for queer youth to know that Jesus loves them too. Each ministry claims to offer sanctuary from the draconian storm of Christian fundamentalism. As a visible and vocal faction in the LGBTQ youth movement, these faith-based organizations fill a moral, cultural, and social void that Humanist organizations have yet to proactively address.

A recent summit on improving the visibility of LGBTQ issues in K-12 curricula, instruction, and faculty training within the Los Angeles Unified School District highlighted the gaping void in secular Humanist outreach. During the summit, the San Francisco-based Family Acceptance Project screened a film called "Always My Son" which chronicled a Latino family's journey to acceptance of their gay son. Finding a church that welcomed LGBTQ youth and families was critical to their transition. The boy's father spoke eloquently of how he struggled to come to terms with his own hyper-masculine identity as a tough ex-Marine. The relationships the family developed in their new gay-friendly church inspired them to open their home to other families with LGBTQ children looking for community support. In the summit's breakout sessions, representatives from the faith community touted ministries which were accepting of LGBTQ families and youth. They maintained that the model of an angry punitive god was inaccurate. Several condemned the Religious Right for perpetuating the view that being gay and Christian was incompatible. They stressed involvement opportunities for LGBTQ youth struggling to come out. They also spoke of providing a bridge for religious families seeking to reconcile their faith with the dominant culture's heterosexist notions of "morality."

In large predominantly black and Latino urban school districts like the LAUSD, Humanist voices are rarely included in these school-community dialogues for several reasons. First, for better or for worse, social acceptance of LGBTQ youth oftentimes begins with family, and a majority of the students in the LAUSD come from religious family backgrounds. Second, it is assumed that making organized religion kinder and gentler is the end goal for disenfranchised queer youth hungry for moral acceptance. Since faith is an important source of cultural identity in many families of color, it stands to reason that educators and resource providers working with gay youth develop culturally responsive approaches to engaging families around homophobia, LGBT identity, and religious belief. Third, and, perhaps, most importantly, Humanist organizations that do this kind of work are few and far between...

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