Questions to Ask (or Not Ask) LGBTQ Youth in Your Ministry

Jun 2, 2020 9:00:00 AM / by Ross Murray

Dan Levy, the creator of the hit television show Schitt’s Creek, has spoken at length about creating a town in which homophobia does not exist. The residents of his town are quirky, and some are annoying (I’m looking at you, Roland), but Levy’s pansexual character, David, never faces hostility or opposition from anyone in the universe of Schitt’s Creek.

What David does face are well-meaning-but-awkward conversations. David is approached by a teacher, asking if he’ll talk to one of her new students about fitting in. When asked what David should say to this student, she answers, “Maybe you could tell him ‘it gets better.’” She assumes that her student and David will “have a lot in common.” She never says “gay” or “queer” or “pansexual,” but her coded message is that they have something in common: that they are queer.

If you’ve watched the episode, you know that David and the student don’t get along at all. The student doesn’t appreciate the intervention. He’s happy and comfortable with himself, and he reads David for filth, proclaiming that he doesn’t need advice from an adult on accepting himself or trying to appease others.

Well-meaning people make assumptions about who LGBTQ people are, and what challenges we face, which then informs the awkward questions they ask. When the media presents an incomplete or inaccurate picture of the LGBTQ community, people who strive to be our allies don’t know any better. What they may be concerned about is miles away from the realities of our lives.

Answering questions from friends and family is both a blessing and a curse. When I was coming out, talking things out in front of people I trusted and who cared about me helped me to process my thoughts and feelings, even as I was figuring them out.

However, because I was processing my thoughts and feelings, I didn’t have all the answers. No LGBTQ person is an inherent authority on being LGBTQ, especially youth, who are still in the process of discovering their identity. We all have to learn this stuff and see how any of it applies to our lives.

If you do ask youth questions, ask them what’s going on in their lives, what they may be wrestling with, or what support they might need. Then, you need to sit back to really listen to the answers, no matter how winding and rambling they might be. Or sometimes, the best answer—from you or from them—may be an honest, “I don’t know.”

Even if youth haven’t figured out what they are thinking or feeling, knowing that a caring adult is listening to and supporting them will help tremendously. Knowing that they are a fearfully and wonderfully made Child of God will ground them as they ask themselves probing questions, and fend of the awkward questions of others.

Sparkhouse is publishing this blog post during Pride month in anticipation of the publication of Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens, edited by Leigh Finke.

Topics: Youth Ministry, pride month, lgbtq

Ross Murray

Written by Ross Murray

Ross Murray is the founding director of The Naming Project, a Christian ministry for LGBTQ+ youth, as well as the senior director of the GLAAD Media Institute. He is a deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a calling to LGBTQ+ advocacy and ministry between the LGBTQ+ and faith communities.


Subscribe to Email Updates

Find us on social media

Recent Posts