Link Between LGBT, Religion & Homelessness, Suicide

Link Between LGBT, Religion & Homelessness, Suicide August 1, 2019

Being gay or in any way sexually different can be a real challenge for people who live in religious communities, and it appears that the higher the religiosity, the more challenging this will be.

The BBC recently reported on the phenomenon of homelessness in the context of those who have come out as LGBT:

Nearly half of young LGBT people who are left homeless after coming out are from religious backgrounds.

That’s according to research by the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT), which supports young people who are at risk of homelessness.

The charity says three in four LGBT people are rejected by their families – and 45% of that number are from a faith background.

The Trust says the majority are from Muslim and Christian families.

For Dr Nazim Mahmood, the pain of not being accepted by his parents ended in the most devastating way.

Five years ago he took his own life when his family told him to “seek a cure” after coming out as gay, because they considered homosexuality a disease.

In reality, so-called “gay-cure” therapies have no scientific evidence to back them up.

In 2018, the government promised to take steps to get rid of the practice in the UK, as evidence shows it is harmful and ineffective.

Strict interpretations of religious texts, from the Bible to the Koran, have been used to argue that being LGBT is a sin.

“He said if his family ever found out that we’re together, they’d be praying on the doorstep until we break apart,” says his fiance Matt Mahmood-Ogston, who’s still dealing with the pain of Naz’s death.

24 Housing also reports this, adding:

Nearly half of young LGBT people who are left homeless after coming out are from religious backgrounds, according to new research by the Albert Kennedy Trust (AKT).

The charity, which supports young people who are at risk of homelessness, said that three in four LGBT people are rejected by their families, 45% coming from a faith background.

According to the Trust’s own research, of those figures, the majority of those rejected are from Muslim and Christian families.

The Naz and Matt Foundation was set up following the loss of Matt’s fiancé, Naz, who took his own life two days after his deeply religious family confronted him about his sexuality.

Established in 2014, the foundation exists to empower and support LGBT individuals, their friends, and their family to work toward resolving challenges linked to sexuality or gender identify, particularly where religion is a significant factor.

What you would need to know is whether those who are homeless and gay and from religious backgrounds are over-represented – i.e., that being from a religious background is causally efficacious in leading to homelessness after coming out.

I would posit that 45% of people do not, in the UK, come from meaningful religious backgrounds since nominal religion is so prevalent.

Recently, Prince William famously added his voice to the support of young people coming out as gay:

The BBC article is quite interesting in giving some anecdotal stories to flesh out the reality.

We know that there is also a pretty horrific link between suicide, religious backgrounds and being gay. As The HuffPost reported last year in “Chilling Study Sums Up Link Between Religion And Suicide For Queer Youth“:

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine last month, is a chilling revelation of the ties between suicide and theology that doesn’t affirm queer identity.

“Religious groups who stigmatize LGBT people should be aware of the potential damage they can do to an individual and families, and honestly the damage they do to themselves as an organization,” study co-author John R. Blosnich told HuffPost.

Blosnich, of West Virginia University’s Injury Control Research Center, said that for decades, studies have indicated that religion generally protects peopleagainst thoughts of suicide. But the research has also shown that religion specifically doesn’t have that impact on those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning.

In order to study religiosity and suicidal ideation among sexual minorities, Blosnich and his fellow researchers turned to data collected by the University of Texas at Austin’s Research Consortium. The consortium produces national, large-scale studies on the mental health of college students. Its latest 2011 study surveyed 21,247 students aged 18 to 30 years old.

Out of this group, about 2.3 percent identified as lesbian or gay, 3.3 percent identified as bisexual and 1.1 percent said they were questioning their sexuality. (About 0.2 percent identified as transgender, which was too small of a sample to analyze.)

The students were asked to rate how important their religious or spiritual beliefs were to their personal identity. They were also asked a number of questionsabout whether they had ever seriously considered or attempted suicide.

Analyzing this data, the research team found that while 3.7 percent of heterosexual young adults reported recent thoughts of suicide, the percentages were significantly higher among queer youth. Those questioning their sexuality had the highest rate of recent thoughts about suicide at 16.4 percent, followed by bisexual individuals (11.4 percent) and lesbian or gay individuals (6.5 percent).

Five percent of heterosexual youth reported attempting suicide in their lifetimes, compared to 20 percent of bisexual youth, 17 percent of questioning youth and 14 percent of gay or lesbian youth.

Notably, the study authors found that religion may have acted as a protective factor against suicide attempts among heterosexual youth. Each increase in the level of importance of religion among straight youth was associated with a 17 percent reduction in recent suicide attempts.

On the other hand, for lesbian and gay youth, increasing levels of religious importance were associated with increased odds of recent suicidal ideation. In fact, lesbian and gay youth who said that religion was important to them were 38 percent more likely to have had recent suicidal thoughts, compared to lesbian and gay youth who reported religion was less important. Religiosity among lesbians alone was linked to a 52 percent increased chance of recent suicidal ideation.

Questioning youth who said religion was important to them were nearly three times as likely to have attempted suicide recently, compared to questioning youth who reported religion was less important.

For bisexual individuals, the importance of religion was not significantly associated with suicidal ideation or suicide attempts.

Overall, sexual minorities were also more likely than straight youth to report that religion was not important to them.

Blosnich said that sexual minorities who have greater religious belief may experience conflict between their faith and their sexual identity.

“It can be very scary to be caught in a space where your religion tells you that you are a ‘sinner’ just for being who you are,” he told HuffPost. “Sexual minority people may feel abandoned, they may experience deep sadness and anger, and they may worry what this means for their families ― especially if their families are very religious too.”

Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth seriously contemplate or attempt suicide at higher rates than heterosexual youth.

It ain’t easy being gay and religious, that’s for sure.

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