There’s been a lot written on the recent bullying-related suicides. I found this piece by Rabbi Victor Appell, “If Only Tyler Clementi Had Been to a Gay Synagogue,” particularly moving. Too often religion and LGBT rights are set up as opposites; Appell shows us how they don’t have to be, and how “coming out in a religious context” might even have helped some of the youth who have committed suicide after anti-LGBT bullying. Appell himself was the subject of such bullying. Now he is a rabbi and a gay dad, raising two children with his partner.
I am not myself religious, and would not ever say that religion is the best or only answer to bullying. I do know, however, that messages of hate disguised as religion help no one, and can do great damage to LGBTQ youth. On the positive side, religions have the power to offer great comfort and assistance to those within their communities of belief. Some might say they have a God-given duty to do so.
It is difficult to have a positive self-image when much of society would tell you that what you are is abnormal or that you are a sinner and would seek to deny your civil rights and make your expressions of love against the law. Coming out in a religious context challenges all that. We can learn, in synagogues and churches that welcome us, that what we are is good; that we can love and be loved; that we are created, like everyone else, in God’s image; and that God loves us with an unqualified love. Religion has the ability to transform us. With people not only hating us but also trying to make us hate ourselves, we desperately need places where we can learn to love ourselves.
Regardless of your particular religious faith or lack thereof, go read the rest of his piece. Appell makes a point more people need to hear.