Immoral, disgusting, an enemy to the family and God and other derogatory words are just a few of the phrases I’ve heard at BYU-Idaho toward those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Some might question what the problem is. They’re just words, right? The attitude of these LDS members in regards to those who are LGBT has been heartbreaking. Discrimination and intolerance for those who are attracted to the same gender has led to very sad realities.

On Jan. 28, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement that the Church mourns with the families and friends of those who feel they have lost all hope in their lives. This statement followed unconfirmed reports of 32 LGBT Mormons who have committed suicide since early November 2015, according to Wendy Montgomery, a co-founder of the Mama Dragons, a group of Mormon mothers who have LGBT children.

High suicide rates among LGBT Mormons aren’t anything new. In 2012, Understanding Same-Gender Attraction, a group at BYU that offers knowledge, understanding and support, reported that 75 percent of LGBT Mormons have contemplated suicide, 24 percent of those individuals have attempted it.

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Why do so many LGBT Mormons contemplate taking their own lives at one point or another?

Imagine what it would be like if you perceived that your faith, something you cherish, made you feel not wanted or that there is something wrong with you. Imagine what it would be like to perceive that the God you believe in and love doesn’t love you back, or having to decide between faith or companionship. Imagine what it would be like to be completely rejected by your own family, friends and community.

In a heavily religious community such as Rexburg, rejection and discrimination against those who do not fit the “norm” can lead to serious problems.

LGBT young adults who report high levels of family rejection during adolescence are more than three times as likely to use illegal drugs, more than three times as likely to engage in risky sexual behavior and more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGBT peers who report no or low levels of family rejection, according to research from the Family Acceptance Project.

I know many BYU-I students have strong views on marriage strictly being between a man and a woman, but having those views shouldn’t lead to hurtful statements and actions against others. We never know who is having a difficult time trying to reconcile their faith and sexuality.

To those who are attracted to the same gender on this campus or wherever you are: know that you are more than a religious statement or a political stance. You’re a person just like anybody else and you deserve to be valued as such.

The world is a beautiful, diverse place with a variety of people and life experiences. Instead of excluding anything you are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with, use it as an opportunity to learn and to gain a new perspective on something you might have viewed inaccurately before.

Change starts with you. If someone comes out to you as gay, don’t condemn them. Be there for them. They’ve trusted you. If you hear or see hateful statements or actions, say something. The person next to you might need someone on their side. Realize you don’t know everything about what others might be going through and take the time to seek more knowledge and understanding.

The more you know about a person’s story, the more difficult it is to dislike them.

 

Update: A previous version of this article contained a source from Deseret News. That source has been removed. The Family Acceptance Project source has been updated since its original published version.