While religion is often used as an argument against homosexuality, faith can still play a large role in the lives of LGBT individuals.
For some religions, being LGBT is essentially a non-issue, said Bri Adamson, a junior studying public health and advocacy who identifies as bisexual. Adamson said that as someone who practices Reform Judaism — a religion that “does not take everything in the Torah literally” — her sexuality has always been completely embraced.
“As a pretty religious person, I think it’s extremely important that my sexuality is embraced and not shunned by my religion,” she said.
Because of her religion, Adamson was able to join Hillel and participate in many Jewish traditions without facing any obstacles or prejudice.
Yet not all religious LGBT individuals have been met with the same openness, resulting in an aversion to joining campus prayer or Bible study groups. For them, the LGBT Center offers Religious In(queer)y, a group that meets bi-weekly to discuss religion and its impact on LGBT topics.
It might be difficult or even frightening to find a church or religious group that is openly welcoming to LGBT people, especially when students head off to college, said Hannah Dunn, creator of the group and a senior studying education and advocacy.
“My faith is very important to me, as is my identity as a queer woman,” Dunn said. “To hear the church saying over and over again that these two aspects of myself couldn’t coincide hurts. I started this group because I know too many other LGBT people who have been hurt by the church. I wanted to create a place where anyone could come and talk about religion, faith and doubts.”
Though LGBT individuals say some churches might make it difficult for them to be open and come “out” to the congregations, Athens has several churches that invite LGBT people to be a part of their congregation.
Five years ago, United Campus Ministry went through a process to become a welcoming and affirming church for LGBT people. The process included education about sexualities and gender identities, discussions, and ultimately, an almost unanimous vote to accept those in the LGBT community with open arms, said Evan Young, campus minister for UCM.
The “lifestyle guidelines” set by churches and religions are often what prohibits them from accepting different sexualities and are often what drives some of the hatred in other congregations, Young said.
“I think religions are deeply concerned with ethics and relationships,” he said. “I think religion tends to establish principal rules and standards for that kind of behavior based on lots of different things, and I think because religions are full of people that bear the flaws and fingerprints that come with being … human, institutions reflect fears and biases and misconceptions.”
Despite the challenges, Young encourages LGBT individuals who would like to peruse a spiritual faith to try to find a church that is right for them.
“Do your homework, ask questions and be prepared to encounter a lot of different opinions,” Young said. “Don’t back down from spirituality. Finding ways to express spirituality is one of the things that enables us to be fully human and reach our full potential.”