Monday, February 10, 2014

Faith, Gender Identity, and Suicide @DavidOlson11

Back in November, one of our local freeway interchanges was shut down after a man suicided by jumping off the overpass. I recently discovered that man was a transgendered woman, Kaylee Johnson, who also struggled with her faith because of gender identity issues. David Olson's article about Johnson stated:
Johnson had a hard time reconciling her faith in God with her gender identity, after leaving the Mormon faith she grew up with and relied on for support, because she didn’t feel accepted by the church. 
She was stung by rejection from people she loved and whose acceptance she desperately wanted, especially some members of her family, Chambers said.
I didn't know Johnson, so I can't speak to what influenced this final attempt. But as Olson's article states, many transgendered people struggle with faith and consider or attempt suicide. A lot of focus has been on the impact of religion on homosexuality and suicide, as I've written about before. While this awareness is wonderful, anyone familiar with LGBT issues know the T usually gets the least attention. And those falling in the T category are often even more misunderstood than non-heterosexual orientation. Greater misunderstanding=greater persecution.

Regardless of one's beliefs on LGBT issues, I hope all can agree that suicide is tragic and not a desirable outcome. Everyone, especially those of us from faith communities, need to act in ways that prevent such destruction, not contribute to it. People of the Christian faith need to remember that Jesus loved, supported, valued, and spent almost all of his time with the people who were misunderstood, rejected, and devalued. That sort of action positively changed lives, unlike the condemning and criticizing and judging of the Pharisees.

We have the opportunity to literally save people's lives by how we treat them. And even for those who value the next life more than the current one--we can't save someone if they're dead. So please, remember our faith-based priorities when encountering those who are different from and those we don't understand. It could be the difference between life and death. Literally.

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