Many are wondering what they can do to support LGBTQ people within the LDS community as well as those along its borderlands right now. Here are 3 immediate needs:
1. Volunteers for Operation Safety Net
Operation Safety Net is a budding initiative “looking for volunteers to be part of expanding the safety net for LGBTQ / SSA youth, especially Latter-day Saint youth, to help prevent youth suicide and homelessness and strengthen families.” The organization is based out of Utah, but in need of volunteers from all over the country — and even outside the U.S. — to fill the following roles (from their website):
- “Buddy” (individual, couple or family) for an LGBTQ youth and /or LGBTQ youth’s family for social activities and to be a friend
- Local Director (has information and resources to help youth and families in their community and helps to match “Buddies” with youth and families)
- Regional Directors are the point of contact for Local Directors and Resource Mavens
- Resource mavens are responsible for compiling national, regional, state and local resources
- Hotline team members, responsible for providing referrals to resources for youth, parents, etc.
- Database team members enter and maintain names, resources, regions
If you would like to be a part of this initiative to promote the well-being of LGBTQ/SSA young people, please fill out this short form to be placed in their database.
2. Funding for the September 2016 International Affirmation Conference
Affirmation is an all volunteer, non-profit organization with the purpose of providing community and support to LGBTQ/SSA Mormons, families and friends. Each year, the organization puts together a 4 day international conference, creating a much needed safe space for LGBTQ/SSA Mormons of all varieties to come together. For a community profoundly impacted by the Church’s recent policy changes on same sex married couples as well as numerous reports of LGBTQ lives lost since, the genuine need to gather, connect and comfort one another is as real as ever. Organizers of this year’s conference (which is only about 10 weeks away) are currently seeking funding to help make the conference accessible to as many LGBTQ/SSA Mormons as possible via scholarships and financial assistance. You can help support the important work of Affirmation by donating whatever you can here.
3. Conveying Safety and Support to LGBTQ/SSA people from a Trauma Informed Perspective
Now this last need takes more explanation and persistent effort. The general concept of trauma informed care came out of the recognition that when working with populations who’ve experienced high levels of trauma, we (meaning those of us offering our help) should operate within a knowledge and mindfulness of those past traumas, so as to avoid inflicting further harm. It’s something like not asking your house guest to chop tomatoes for the dinner salad because you know she has a cut on her finger — only in this case, we’re not just trying to avoid an annoying stinging pain from getting acidic liquid into a minor wound — we’re trying to avoid the re-triggering of the intense “fight or flight” fear response (along with possibly other PTSD associated symptoms) that can accompany the re-opening of previously inflicted psychological wounds that have yet to fully heal. We are trying to avoid re-triggering deep distress in people that once activated can significantly inhibit their ability to function cognitively and interpersonally. Furthermore, being trauma informed means we have at least some understanding about the figurative “size and shape” of the pain they might be grappling with when they are re-triggered, and we can consciously send healthier messages than the ones they may be internalizing.
Potentially Painful Messages Received AKA Common Re-triggers of LGBTQ Wounds and/or Distress Include:
- LGBTQ people are unwanted/do not have value in the community
- LGBTQ people are disproportionately responsible for problems in society
- LGBTQ identities do not exist
- LGBTQ people are destructive and or damaging to families and children
- LGBTQ identities are symptomatic of psychological problems/damage/disfunction
- LGBTQ pain and suffering does not warrant a re-examination of how LGBTQ people are treated
- LGBTQ people are unacceptable and or un-beloved of God
- LGBTQ people cannot live happy, successful and meaningful lives
- LGBTQ people who are Mormon, inevitably means suicide
This is not an exhaustive list, but definitely some of the most common messages that many LGBTQ people have internalized and experienced deep psychological pain from as a result. A trauma informed approach means we are aware of how wounding these messages can be for many in this community. It means we are mindful in our actions and language to do our best not to reproduce them. Additionally, when we sense that something or someone has re-sent those messages and potentially re-opened a wound, from a trauma informed perspective we also recognize our role is to:
Help re-establish a sense of safety. Think of how we respond to people right after a natural disaster or someone who has witnessed an act of violence in their neighborhood. Take on a similar mindset as a first responder seeking to convey the most basic sense of care and safety. Be mindful that it is not helpful to send out messages that further heighten distress.
Help re-establish a sense of voice. When we make ourselves available to listen without judgement or directives, we create the needed space for individuals to process their pain and express their emotions. This is the individual’s work of assessing and re-grouping, and it is extremely difficult to do without a listener.
Help re-establish a sense of agency. The nature of trauma generally is that it drastically disrupts the individual’s perception that the world around them is just, predictable, caring and safe enough to function within. The re-empowerment of a sense of agency within the individual to determine how they personally will move forward helps to restore the sense that the world is safe enough to operate in— even while they are now more aware of risks and potential harm. We tend to empower agency in others best when we communicate that our ongoing support and connections are not contingent upon individuals making particular life choices or achieving pre-determined outcomes.
Taking a trauma informed approach can help to reduce distress and better facilitate LGBTQ people on their individual paths towards greater well-being and healing. Whether you are able to volunteer with Operation Safety Net, help fund the work of Affirmation or better engage from a trauma informed perspective, I would like to give a heartfelt thank you in advance to those willing to send healthier messages and offer greater support to LGBTQ people both within and beyond The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.