For over five years, I was an editor for New Moon magazine, a feminist publication for and by girls ages 8 – 14. New Moon takes a unique stance on the issue of sexual orientation — one that no other children’s magazine has taken, as far as I know. And that is to acknowledge that sexual and gender diversity exist, to provide honest answers to questions girls have about the issues, and to refuse to print anything that could be interpreted as hate speech — which included opinions that sexual and gender minorities weren’t entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals or that there was something inherently ‘wrong’ with them.
As you might expect, we get a lot of flak for our editorial policy regarding sexual and gender orientation. Most of the protestations come from adults who feel homosexuality is immoral, and as such, shouldn’t be discussed in a publication for youth.
At New Moon, we don’t make decisions that might cost us readers lightly. But when people called to complain against our editorial policies regarding sexual and gender orientation, I told them that GLBTQ youth are 2 – 3 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers, and that 1 in 5 GLBTQ youth have attempted suicide. As an organization that cares about girls, we’re deeply concerned about the safety of girls who identify as a sexual or gender minority. And we believe that the first step in changing these troubling statistics is for these kids to start hearing supportive voices. We can’t control what girls hear at school, home, or in their religious communities, but we can strive to make New Moon a safe place for all girls. And providing that safe place is more important than selling subscriptions.
One of my closest friends was raised by lesbian mothers, so she’s dealt with homophobia long before she came out herself. When I explained New Moon’s editorial policy to her — and what we tell people who complain about it — she said, “Wow. What a great way to handle it. It’s hard to argue with kids dying.”
Some people may think this is a sensationalized response — to which I answer, I wish it were sensationalism. But these statistics are real. Homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are real. The pain these communities feel is real. The loss of GLBTQ youth before they reach adulthood is real.
I understand where religious condemnation of homosexuality comes from; I’ve read the Bible, I’ve heard the passages interpreted numerous ways and I know it’s not a simple issue. I also truly believe that many people do think they’re doing a loving thing by encouraging people with same-sex attractions to bury those attractions or to seek to change them. But regardless of how good the motive is, I can guarantee you that to a sexual or gender minority, this does not feel like love. It feels like rejection, not just of what they may or may not do, but of who they are. When you believe even your faith community is rejecting you, well, it’s hard to know where to go from there, isn’t it?
I don’t have a direct line to God. Although I don’t think I am, I can acknowledge that I could be wrong. But I believe GLBTQ individuals do a lot more good being in this world than out of it. If I’m wrong, that’s a risk I’m willing to take to keep God’s children from leaving this world prematurely, and to love in the way I believe God made me to love.