In what has become a divided society, many of us see a clear, preconceived distinction between faith communities and LGBTQ+ communities. The fact of the matter, though, is that people are full of multitudes and can be part of many communities and connect with various identities at once.
In fact, one in five LGBTQ+ youth says that their spirituality is important to them.
Yet — queer youth of faith are struggling.
While many young LGBTQ+ people find community and connection to their faith, they also experience ostracization, shame, and bullying in their homes and social circles.
In fact, according to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, religiosity has been associated with significantly higher rates of suicide attempts among gay, lesbian, and questioning youth.
In instances where LGBTQ+ youth are sent to religious conversion therapy (harmful programs aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual and their gender identity to the one they were assigned at birth), suicide rates increase.
In 2020, 27% of LGBTQ+ youth who attempted suicide were sent to conversion therapy, according to a national survey from the Trevor Project.
The answer to these crises, of course, is not forcing young people to change to fit certain gender roles or expectations, but to create religious spaces and communities that are inclusive for all who seek a place there.
Beloved Arise is the first national organization for queer youth of faith, building relationships, offering support, and inspiring youth to embrace their truest selves.
A multi-faith approach inclusive to a myriad of spiritual modalities, Beloved Arise has a variety of affirming resources for LGBTQ+ youth who identify as Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu.
One of its major initiatives is Queer Youth of Faith Day. This multi-faith national holiday occurs on June 30 to round out Pride Month and unite in prayer for the “safety, well-being, and flourishing” of LGBTQ+ youth.
Participants can sign up to pray (either with a group or on their own) and join in for a virtual program on June 30 to come together in prayer.
The organization’s goal is to connect 1.8 million people for the event, which represents the estimated 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth who will seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S.
“When you’re queer, it’s hard to be able to step into a church without worry of judgment from those around you,” Beloved Arise youth ambassador Sid High told Good Good Good. “Having a safe space to do so when so many of us are desperately seeking a space to belong is truly beautiful.”
High, who is a transgender Christian, said Queer Youth Day of Faith is an opportunity to bring together other queer siblings of various faith backgrounds under the same mission: to spread love, regardless of one’s individual religious teachings.
“Being queer and religious are not mutually exclusive; they are a part of each of us,” another Beloved Arise youth ambassador, Sabrina Hodak, a bisexual Modern Orthodox Jew, said.
“We have a place in religion just as much as everyone else. We can’t choose who we love, but we can choose our faith, and people need to respect that, regardless of their understanding.”
Regardless of the expansive communal experience of the day of prayer, each participant will likely connect to a personal meaning and spirituality completely unique to them.
Jacob Feldan, a youth ambassador who identifies as a bisexual Jew, hopes to break narratives surrounding tradition and strengthen his faith.
He said: “Queer Youth of Faith Day is an opportunity to engage with our whole selves, all aspects of our identities, and remind ourselves that we are all made in the divine image.”