During the last few months, public discussions and debates have centered around bathroom policies for transgender individuals. In March, the Governor of North Carolina signed HB 2, a bill requiring individuals to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex, not their gender identity, thus prompting intense debate over this controversial bill. Then in April, Target reiterated their trans-friendly bathroom policy. The intensity of the discussion continued to escalate with more media, blog posts, discussions, rants, and a campaign to boycott Target in order to protect women and children. Then last Friday’s guidance from U.S. Departments of Justice and Education Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students prompted yet another flurry of conversations, debates, and news pieces.
I am personally and professionally interested in the issues being raised in this discussion. As a therapist, I’ve worked with dozens of abuse victims in their healing process. I’ve also worked with a handful of LGBT clients and families and have some idea of the challenges they face. As a social worker, I am an advocate for civil rights and social justice issues. As a parent, I am very concerned about my children’s safety, and I do my best to protect their well-being in every area of their lives.
Next month, Julie Hanks will be presenting at Affirmation, a conference dedicated to fostering a loving discussion among LGBT Mormons, their friends and family, and the LDS community. The conference is non-political, but is instead focused on providing healing, love, and support for our LGBT brothers and sisters.
The Deseret News asked Julie a few questions about Affirmation. Here is a bit of the interview:
Q:How did you get involved with Affirmation? How long have you been associated with the group?
A:While I am not officially affiliated with the group, I am a huge supporter of Affirmation’s mission of inclusiveness, love, and support for Mormon LGBT individuals.
Q: What do you hope to communicate with those attending?
A:I hope to communicate a message that every life is valuable and important. No matter where we are on our life’s journey, God’s love for us is infinite, and Jesus Christ’s Atonement is always available as a source of strength and healing. Too often, we think that we have to do something different or be someone different to be worthy of God’s love, but nothing can separate us from the love of God.
As an LDS performing songwriter and a licensed therapist, I plan to share some of my best-loved songs and words of encouragement based on my experiences working with LGBT individuals and their families.
Q:What misconceptions do you think people have about LGBT Mormons and Affirmation?
A: There are so many misconceptions about LGBT Mormons that it’s difficult to know where to start. Here are a few: that being LGBT is a choice, that you can’t be LGBT and participate in the church, that LGBT Mormons want to leave the church, that many LGBT Mormon who have left the church are bitter and want nothing to do with it. None of those things are necessarily true, and we want to help eradicate these myths.
Many people assume that Affirmation is an activist group that is in opposition to the LDS church’s teaching. Affirmation is about creating and maintaining a respectful and healthy dialogue between LGBT Mormons and the broader LDS community that encourages inclusive attitudes and practices.
The Affirmation conference is on September 12-14. Click here for more details and to buy tickets.
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The following is a guest post by Dr. Traci Lowenthal of Creative Insights Counseling.
Having a child come out (reveal that he/she is gay/ lesbian/ transgender, etc.) can be extremely difficult for parents. For Christian families in particular, these words can create a flood of intense, painful emotions. It is possible, however, to navigate this part of your family’s journey in a healthy, positive way. Here are some ways to explore this stage of life for your family.