JB is a 15-year-old female who presents to your office for a wellness check. Mom is concerned because she has seemed more depressed and withdrawn over the past few months. During the confidential portion of your visit, JB discloses that, while she has had boyfriends in the past, she is realizing that she is romantically and sexually attracted to females. Many members of her religious faith, which she is strongly connected to, believe that homosexuality is a sin. She has been secretly researching therapies to help her “not be gay” and asks you for advice.
Adolescence is a time of rapid growth and development. Two important developmental tasks of adolescence are to establish key aspects of identity and identify meaningful moral standards, values, and belief systems.1 For some LGBTQ adolescents, these tasks can become more complicated when the value system or religious faith in which they were raised views homosexuality or gender nonconformity as a sin.
- Identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is normal, just different.
- LGBT people exist in almost every faith group across the country.
- Many religious groups have wrestled with homosexuality, gender identity, and religion and decided to be more welcoming to LGBT communities.
- Within most faiths, there are many interpretations of religious texts, such as the Bible and the Koran, on all issues, including homosexuality.
- While every religion has different teachings, almost all religions advocate love and compassion.
- Clergy and other faith leaders can be a source of support. However, every faith community is different and may not always be supportive. Safely investigate your individual community’s approach. You have the right to question and explore your faith, sexuality, and/or gender identity and reconcile these in a way that is true to you.
- Remember this is your journey. You get to decide the path and the pace.
- Recognize that this may involve working for change within your community or it may mean leaving it.
- Referral for “conversion” or “reparative therapy” is never indicated. Such therapy is not effective and may be harmful to LGBTQ individuals by increasing internalized stigma, distress, and depression.
Dr. Chelvakumar is an attending physician in the division of adolescent medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the Ohio State University, both in Columbus. She has no relevant financial disclosures. Email her at email@example.com.
- LGBTQ and Religion: Your Relationship with Religion is Completely Up to You, the FAQ Page by the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention resources to LGBTQ young people ages 13-24 years. www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/lgbtq-and-religion
- Faith in Our Families: Parents, Families and Friends Talk About Religion and Homosexuality, a resource from PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). www.pflag.org/sites/default/files/Faith%20In%20Our%20Families.pdf
- LGBT Center UNC Chapel Hill: Religion and Spirituality, a page with a link to nondenominational and denomination-specific resources with various religious and spiritual communities’ beliefs regarding faith and LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual). lgbtq.unc.edu/resources/exploring-identities/religion-and-spirituality
- HRC: Explore Religion and Faith, a Human Rights Campaign page containing links to resources on religion and faith. It also has links to the Coming Home Series, guides aimed at those who hope to lead their faith communities toward a more welcoming stance and those seeking a path back to beloved traditions. www.hrc.org/explore/topic/religion-faith
1.(Boston: Center for Health Communication, Harvard School of Public Health, 2001).
2.(Washington, D.C.: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, 1997)
4.. (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2011)
5.. Pamphlet by the Human Rights Campaign.