Being gay, Deb Hutchins said, is like riding a bike on the road.
Bikers are constantly looking over their shoulder because they don’t know if drivers are watching out for them. Maybe some of the drivers have empathy for bikers because they’ve been bikers themselves, but maybe some of the drivers hate that the bikers are even there. Designated bike paths where they can be with other bikers are nice sometimes, but they don’t want to be on bike paths all the time.
Hutchins, a BYU LGBTQ outreach member and a gay member of the Church, shared this analogy during a BYU Women’s Conference session called “Understanding the LGBTQ and SSA Community: Included in Our Circle of Love” on May 3. She and Blake Fisher, who is the BYU LGBTQ and SSA outreach coordinator and a gay member of the Church, spoke about how Church members can show better love and understanding to their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
Hutchins said she and Fisher wanted to focus on having faith in Christ versus having faith in outcomes. They shared their various experiences with coming out, emphasizing how positive and loving reactions from family members, friends and church leaders helped them gain hope and confidence.
However, they’ve had their fair share of difficult experiences. Hutchins came home three months early from her mission in Guatemala for issues relating to her same-sex attraction, and Fisher said he remembers blowing out birthday candles as a child and wishing he’d finally have a crush on a girl. He also said he remembers praying at 3 a.m. to be changed and being afraid to go on a water skiing trip because he thought if he died in an accident, he would go to hell.
He said his sexuality has been compared to addiction, sickness, temptation and sin, and once he even heard someone say LGBTQ people should be loved just like murderers should be loved.
“I think you’d be surprised how often people compare the experience of sexuality with something that’s negative,” he said. “My rule is if you want to use a comparison, don’t.”
This is true of positively-intended comparisons as well, such as times when Fisher said he’s been given stories of homosexual people in successful heterosexual relationships. Fisher said the intent is “so good” but often leaves LGBTQ people feeling if their individual path doesn’t look like the stories they’ve been given, people will be disappointed in them.
“You can see how this is an outcome-based response,” he said.
Hutchins said it’s also not helpful when family and friends emphasize doctrine, particularly how everything will be made right in the next life. Rather, she said, it’s more helpful when people genuinely listen to and love them.
Fisher added when LGBT people are told they’ll be straight in the next life, that sometimes results in people who would rather be dead and straight than alive and gay.
He also said when students come to his office, he often sees one of four mindsets: denying their faith, denying their sexuality, obsessing over their faith or obsessing over their sexuality.
However, “the way to find peace and joy is not in abandoning, it’s not in obsessing, but it’s in holding both (your faith and sexuality),” he said. “That is not easy. That creates a lot of tension between the two. But in that tension, I have come to know Jesus Christ.”
Another helpful thing people can do for LGBTQ people, he said, is to listen and love sincerely. Hutchins added it helps when people are advocates, which means “speaking for someone who doesn’t have a voice.”
Fisher said the hardest part of choosing to stay true to his faith was “mourning the loss of the other choice. … And in that mourning, there are still things that come up to remind me of what I let go of.”
However, he also said he’s seen miracles, such as when a friend arranged for his family and friends to write him hundreds of encouraging notes.
Fisher also said people should focus on finding the light, righteousness and beauty in others’ lives.
“Be focused on them and not the outcome,” he said.