Oct 24, 2015

Conference delves into Mormons 'Growing Up LGBT in America'

The Salt Lake Tribune
October 23, 2015

Survey » LDS LGBT youths go to church more often than non-LDS LGBT youths, study finds.

Mormon youths who identify as gay, transgender or questioning their gender identity or sexuality attend weekly church services far more frequently than their non-Mormon counterparts, but they feel unaccepted in their places of worship despite that participation, a national survey shows.

The findings are included in "Growing Up LGBT in America," an online survey conducted in 2012 by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group.

According to the data, 48 percent of LGBT kids who are also Mormon report attending church weekly, compared to just 16 percent of all other survey respondents.

Sixty-one percent of Mormon youths said they are not accepted by their faith community.

"Still, they go, even though the environment may not be affirming or supportive," said Anne Nicoll, a social worker and consultant to the HRC's Children, Youth & Families Program, who evaluated the data.

That's on par with the 60 percent of respondents who are members of other faiths, she said.

In all, 10,030 youths ages 13 to 17 responded to the survey. Of those, a small sample — 72 — self-identified as Mormon.

Nicoll shared the data on Friday during an opening-day workshop at the second-annual Inclusive Families Conference at the University of Utah's College of Social Work.

The two-day event was organized by local groups, including the Utah Pride Center and Restore Our Humanity, with support from HRC, and is in part a counterpoint to the World Congress of Families event, which begins Tuesday.

The congress has been labeled a hate group by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center for its worldwide work in support of policies that many say foster homophobia and policies that result in harm to the LBGT community.

Congress organizers dispute the characterization and say their focus is on promoting and protecting the "natural family" unit of one man and one woman with children.

The Inclusive Families event aims to recognize a diverse group of individuals and families, including same-sex couples, people with mixed ethnicities, races and religious beliefs, as well as people with multigenerational and differently abled families, and others.

The HRC survey data suggest a need for inclusive communities, particularly for Mormon youths: In each of seven categories — from school to work and relationships — respondents indicated a belief that their future happiness and success will likely require them to move out of their hometowns.

For example, 51 percent of Mormon youths said they believe they will be happy, but 21 percent believe that will happen if they stay in their current communities.

Most — 57 percent — also said they will find a loving lifelong partnership, and 26 percent say that will happen if they don't move.

"So the LDS youth feel the only way that is going to happen is if they get out of Dodge," Nicoll said.

Overall, a significant minority of LGBT youth characterized their lives as "very happy": just 11 percent of LDS youths and 6 percent of non-Mormons.

Instead, about 51 percent of Mormon youths and 45 percent of others said they were "somewhere in between" happy and unhappy, Nicoll said.


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