A heartbreaking story is unfolding in the community of former Jehovah’s Witnesses on Reddit: “A friend tried to kill himself last night (currently in critical condition and on life support). He is gay and was recently disfellowshipped.”
LGBT teens and young adults have one of the highest rates of suicide attempts. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim not to be homophobic. But in reality, they foster an atmosphere of discrimination and hate. What we see among Jehovah’s Witnesses is institutionalized homophobia, one of the leading causes of suicide among LGBT youth.
Recently, a cartoon surfaced in which JW.org teaches children that homosexuals can change and homosexuality is compared to dangerous luggage you cannot take on a plane (implying God won’t let homosexuals into paradise).
In their latest Awake! magazine entitled How to harness your habits, they reinforce their stance on homosexuality, condemning it and calling it a behavioral trait like aggression. A Jehovah’s Witness who might be gay would have to change his sexual orientation or at least not act on it:
Christians learn to bring such desires under control, not dwelling on them to the point of acting on them. […] A person who has homosexual leanings can control what he allows his mind to dwell on, just as he would control any other wrong desire, including leanings toward anger, adultery, and greed.
This kind of policy hurts people and tears families apart. In another moving story in the EXJW subreddit, a former Jehovah’s Witness writes about the time he came out to his Jehovah’s Witness parents:
I couldn’t continue to pretend to be a person that I’m not and didn’t want to “fake” being straight just to make everyone happy but myself. I love my parents, but if they can’t accept me for who I am, their boy, than that’s just fine. So I told my mom everything in an email of how I felt from being a kid up till I felt at that present moment. I ended up getting several emails back full of hate. How disgusting I am. How ashamed they are of me. How I will die at armageddon. How much I’ve hurt them and won’t be able to fix it. How much Jehovah hates me right now. Basically every possible thing you could say, she named it. I’m not going to lie… this killed me and still does, but I had to tell the truth for once.
A direct consequence of the institutionalized homophobia among Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not an environment in which a person can thrive who does not perfectly fit into the expectations of a Cult. Little wonder that some crumble under the pressure. One Redditor quotes David Foster Wallace to illustrate this point:
“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.” ― David Foster Wallace