Sabrina Hodak has grown into Art Nouveau Jewish An Orthodox family, but truly converted to Judaism only at the age of 16, around the same time she realized she was bisexual.

It was a sad and confusing time because the same religious teachers who helped her strengthen her beliefs kept saying that her sexuality would be contrary to her faith.

“It was very unpleasant because I also knew that many other religious people believed in it,” said Hodak, now a 19-year-old psychology major at the International University of Florida. In her magazine, she kept asking, “Can I please just find someone like me – who wants to be religious and able to accept their amazing identity?”

The walker found the necessary support by joining the Beloved Rise as well Christian a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and empowering LGBTQ believers. It is one of a number of online groups whose members share their stories during Month of Honor as part of a campaign aimed at encouraging others that religious communities have shunned.

In video and written testimonies, the message of young advocates to their peers also occurs at a crucial time for LGBTQ youth in states such as Florida and Texas enact legislation or policies that critics say marginalize them.

“I want to show that these identities are not contradictory, and that young people should know that there is hope,” said Hodak, who, in addition to the Lovers, belongs to another group, Jewish queer youth.

Florida law, criticized by the Do Not Tell Gays Act, prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten until third grade. Proponents say parents, not teachers, should discuss these subjects with their children; opponents say the law demonizes LGBTQs by excluding them from classroom lessons, and recently sued to block it.

In Texas, meanwhile, the state agency for child protection has been ordered to investigate reports of juvenile care, which confirms gender as ill-treatment, a directive that opponents say is the first of its kind by any governor amid extensive Republican efforts to restrictions on the rights of transgender people.

“Texas is definitely one of the hotspots for fighting LGBTQ rights … and it has certainly been very difficult, especially given that my faith may also be similar – not the most acceptable,” Roswell said. Gray, a 16-year-old teenager from Sherman, Texas, who defines himself as a queer and non-binary and was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Utah-based religion, also known as the Mormon Church, has tried in the last decade or so to create a more friendly environment for LGBTQ members. However, some church positions remain painful for many LGBTQ members, such as their teaching that being gay is not a sin, however, entering into same-sex relationships is contrary to God’s commandments.

“It’s really hard not to act on who I am and not be who I am,” Gray said.

He was recently recognized as Bill Arise’s youth ambassador and shared his story as part of the campaign through interviews and social media, hoping to inspire other young queer people of faith and remind religions that reject them that they should be welcoming.

“The original church that Christ created on earth was really diverse. He taught sex workers and taught people with disabilities, everyone and everyone, ”said Gray, who is also a member of Rainbow Connection, a group that focuses on queer youth in their faith.

In the United States, the circumstances for LGBTQ youth seeking religious activity vary widely.

Some major Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, condemn same-sex unions and say that any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful. But thousands of houses of worship, including many major Protestant churches and synagogues, have policies to include LGBTQ.

Another who has told her story publicly is 21-year-old Lily Clifford, also a youth ambassador for Beloved Arise, who grew up on southern Baptists in Missouri in a “very fundamentalist, very homophobic” environment where she often heard gays would find themselves in hell.

Last year, Clifford, who identifies himself as a pansexual, graduated while studying at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, and set up a club on campus with other amazing youth of the faith. Meetings are private because they fear reprisals from other Christian college students.

“If you are told all this God hate you and you’ll go to hell and your family has abandoned you, or you’ll be fired from religious work … it causes severe depression and you feel isolated, ”Clifford said. “So only one person who will tell you that God really loves you … listening to you can do everything.”

Christine Venus, 22, grew up in northern Virginia and attended Presbyterian Church with her family until she became gay in 2019 while in college. As a child, she never questioned her church’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin, she said.

“Once I realized I was gay, the two main identities – my sexuality and my faith – felt that they were in deep conflict. I felt I had to choose one thing or another, ”she said by e-mail. “But I couldn’t; they were both too deeply rooted in who I am. ”

The result was a sense of guilt, shame, and cognitive dissonance that took years to overcome through prayer, therapy, and teacher guidance that helped her reconcile her quirks. She is not involved in an information campaign, but has spoken to the Associated Press for a similar purpose to inspire others.

“Seeing someone in a happy, healthy, God-honored amazing relationship can help take away that shame for the viewer,” Venus said. “Similarly, amazing people who are not Christians could have a more positive experience of Christianity.”


Religious Coverage Associated Press is supported by AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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