Sexuality and religion

Coming out as gay, bi or trans can be a scary thought at the best of times. But how do you handle it if you're from a very religious background?

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Having religious parents can make coming out harder.

Telling your religious parents you’re gay

It’s probably taken you a while to come to terms with your sexuality and now you’ve accepted who you are you feel it’s only right to be honest with your nearest and dearest. But regardless of whether you’re one of the millions of people who are lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT) – or you think you might be – the news might not go down so well with your family, especially if they’re deeply religious.


Everyone has their own interpretation of religion. Some believe their god treats everyone equally, other more traditionally religious people, however, claim that homosexuality is forbidden. So, if you’re coming out to a religious family or community, be aware that you might get some very negative reactions.

Repercussions of coming out

Think long and hard before you announce your news to your family. If it’s taken badly and you’re still living at home it could make life very uncomfortable for you.

Nadyne, 18, from a strong Muslim family in London, is living in a secret location after her family discovered her sexuality. “Last year my mum found pictures on my phone of me kissing a girl. She went mad. I had to leave in the middle of the night and stay with a friend in another city,” she says. “I’ve spoken to her briefly, but can’t tell her where I am because they’ve threatened to take me to Pakistan to get married.”

Obviously, you’re the only one who can judge whether now is the right time, but think deeply about your family’s reaction is the advice from Annie from Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports young LGBT people. “It might be safer to wait until you’ve left home or are more independent and secure before coming out,” she says.

Talk to someone

If, however, you’ve decided to bite the bullet, talk it over with a support group first. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to handle it. It’s also recommended you have somewhere safe to stay lined up in case it all goes horribly wrong.

“Unfortunately, we have a lot of calls from young people who have come out or been outed to their religious families and life can be very difficult for them,” says Fiona, a helpline volunteer at the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. “In extreme cases there can be violence or the threat of forced marriage to someone of the opposite sex,” she says.

Some gay people from religious backgrounds try to hide their sexuality forever. Others find the secrecy can become too much, opting to be themselves and have minimal contact with their family, rather than live a lie.

Will my religion accept my sexuality?

Many people struggle with coming out, but can find a way to be happy. Mike, now 24, used to be part of an Evangelical Christian Church and came out in his teens. The reaction from both his parents and the church was one of such strong disapproval he was forced back into the closet.

“When I came out to my mum aged 15 she told the Church and they were not happy with me; they told me that being gay was very wrong,” he says. “I came out to another Church youth leader three years later and this time was quickly linked up with someone who tried to ‘disciple me’ to stop being gay. They cut off my internet so I couldn’t use gay websites,” he says.

After a difficult couple of years, Mike cut off all ties with the Church, met his boyfriend James and is now working as a nurse. He is also back in contact with his family.

Nadine, however, has not been home for fear of being forced into marriage. She misses her family but has created a new life for herself studying and working in a new city. She also regularly goes to a gay youth group for support.

Join a gay faith group

Not all devout followers of religion dismiss different sexualities. There are gay religious people and groups that interpret religious books to give messages of equality for everyone. Gay faith groups, such as Al Faitha for LGBT Muslims, Young Lesbian and Gay Christian Group or the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group, not only allow you to practice your faith in a safe and protective environment, but also offer friendship and support when you need it most. They can also provide materials to help your family understand – and hopefully accept and love – you for who you are.

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By Claudia Cahalane

Updated on 29-Sep-2015