LGBTQ Agenda: New LGBTQ alliance to hold day of prayer for queer youth to end Pride Month

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday May 23, 2023
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Sabrina Hodak, left, and Sid High are the new co-leaders of the Beloved Arise Youth Alliance. Photos: Courtesy Beloved Arise<br>
Sabrina Hodak, left, and Sid High are the new co-leaders of the Beloved Arise Youth Alliance. Photos: Courtesy Beloved Arise

Two religious queer youth have been selected as the leaders of a new alliance for LGBTQIA+ young people.

Sid High, a 19-year-old trans man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Sabrina Hodak, a 20-year-old bisexual woman from Hollywood, Florida, spoke to the Bay Area Reporter about how they ended up as the first co-leaders of the Beloved Arise Youth Alliance, and the upcoming Queer Youth of Faith Day to be held June 30, the last day of Pride Month.

Hodak said it has been a rough time being queer in the Sunshine State. Just last week, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who's expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign this week, signed a slate of laws making it perhaps the most restrictive state for LGBTQ people in the nation — a license to discriminate in health care, criminal penalties for gender-affirming care for trans youth, a bathroom bill that requires people to use facilities in accordance with their sex assigned at birth, and expansion of the so-called Don't Say Gay law to eighth grade from third. (A new state Board of Education rule goes even further, banning discussion of homosexuality and gender identity through the 12th grade.)

"It's definitely very difficult seeing people being targeted, especially in my community when really, it is all a matter of educating people and spreading awareness of what the LGBT community really is," Hodak said. "A lot of it has been misinformed and pushed into a way that is very warped. That's what a lot of lawmakers are going off of and I think that the best thing people can do right now is continue to spread awareness, educate people, be open minded, and continue their activism. It's so easy to lose hope in times like these."

Hodak, who is modern Orthodox Jewish, said she "wasn't raised in a way that made me feel ashamed" of being queer, but that "when I had conversations with my religious mentors who were a part of the Jewish youth group, they would say certain things that were intolerant of the LGBTQ community."

"Eventually through research, online resources, and spaces online with queer Jews I was able to feel less alone even though I don't really have any people physically around me that are also religious, Jewish, and queer," Hodak said. "It really helped knowing there was actually a community out there somewhere."

High agreed on the importance of finding spaces where people can be unabashedly LGBTQ as well as religious. A non-denominational Christian, he said that "my faith is really important to me and a lot of queer Christians, but unfortunately church is not always a safe spot because it's hard to find affirming churches in the Midwest, or anywhere, really."

"For me it was hard at first, definitely, between the ages of when I first realized my queer identity — before I was out as a trans man — when I was 13. It was hard coming to terms with that, 'Is this OK? Is it wrong?' and I actually found out that in coming out as trans, I found myself being closer to God and that he's OK with who I am and in being able to be my authentic self."

High asked if this report could include a scripture passage that has helped him, from the first Epistle of John: "My dear friends, let us love one another, since love is from God and everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God."

"That verse feels very relevant to me in what we're talking about," High said.

Religious and LGBTQ

High said that there's a false dichotomy that people have to choose between a religious identity and a gender identity, or sexual orientation. One in five LGBTQ young people say their faith is important to them, according to a 2022 Trevor Project survey, and the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found in a 2018 survey that "lesbian/gay students who viewed religion as very important had greater odds for recent suicidal ideation and lifetime suicide attempt compared with heterosexual individuals."

Additionally, the Metropolitan Community Churches was formed by a gay man, the Reverend Troy Perry, back in 1968 specifically to provide safe worship space for LGBTQ congregants. In the years since then, the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have allowed same-sex marriages and openly LGBTQ clergy. Reform Judaism synagogues also ordain LGBTQ rabbis.

"A lot of people are struggling with coming to terms of being queer and being a Christian and saying 'I am a queer Christian with a really deep faith,'" High said.

High also started a book club and worked with a local library to start the first-ever Pride event in Marion, Iowa.

The youth alliance is under the umbrella of Beloved Arise, a Seattle-based nonprofit that seeks to empower religious LGBTQ youth from all faiths and denominations.

"LGBTQ+ youth are in our churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. They embody deep faith, resilience, and bold imagination. The Youth Alliance will bring these young people together and create opportunities for them to lead local projects," Jun Love Young, Ph.D., the founder of Beloved Arise, stated in a news release. "The Youth Alliance is free to join and how a person identifies is not a deciding factor. We encourage youth of various faith traditions and sexual orientations to join. Members of the Youth Alliance will have access to Beloved Arise mentors and resources, micro grants and more."

For the Queer Youth of Faith Day, people are asked to pray for the safety of LGBTQ youth. People can commit to praying on the Beloved Arise website. A few clicks away, youth can also sign up to join the alliance.

"It's going to be comprised of people coming together, sharing their faith, having a safe space to share what they feel, to feel love and that they're OK who they are, and that they can express their faith unconditionally and be loved and welcomed," High said.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

Due to the Memorial Day holiday, the column will return Tuesday, June 6.

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