LGBT service highlights difficulties with religion

By By Jamie Bowen

By Jamie Bowen

A Sunday memorial service for gay and transgender members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have committed suicide sparked old and new emotions in students at the U.

The Foundation for Reconciliation held a memorial service titled “From Despair to Hope” at the First Unitarian Church the same weekend of the LDS Church’s semiannual conference. The service honored more than 35 members of the LDS Church from the past three decades who committed suicide because they felt despair about being gay and LDS.

“It’s hard to talk about it, especially for those seeking help,” said Kayleigh Martin, a heterosexual transgender sophomore in English who works with the U’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center.

Teachings in the LDS Church frown upon members being in gay or lesbian relationships.

Sheron Li, a lesbian senior in political science who attended the service, said there needs to be a better understanding between some religions and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

“Religion is supposed to be the thing that empowers people, but in this case, it destroys people because they both think their worlds are different,” she said.

Alli Shepard, a bisexual senior in health promotion at the service, said it is sad that gays can’t reconcile their religion with their orientation.

According to the American Foundation for Suicidal Prevention, more than 33,000 people commit suicide in the United States each year. In 2005, Utah ranked No. 16 nationally in the number of suicides per 100,000 people.

The odds for committing or attempting suicide go up for someone who is a part of the LGBT community, Martin said.

“One in three (people) in the transgender community will attempt or be successful in committing suicide, and religion can augment it,” Martin said.

There are many sources available for those seeking help at the U and abroad.

The LGBT center, located in the Union, is set up to provide education, information and advocacy services and create a safe and open environment for the LGBT community at the U.

Another source is the Trevor Project, a hotline to help prevent suicides, which was set up in 1998 by the creators of the movie “Trevor,” about a homosexual high school boy who deals with prejudice from his friends and family.

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Lennie Mahler

Darin Adams lights a candle in memory of his partner, Steve Bowman, a member of the LDS Church who was gay and committed suicide in November 2008. The Foundation for Reconciliation held a memorial service Sunday at the First Unitarian Church. Adams and Bowman met through a website designed to help gay members of the LDS Church fight their feelings and remain part of the church.