While there are conflicting reports regarding numerous suicides involving LGBT Mormon youth, there’s no question that there’s been an increase of suicidal teens and twenty-somethings following the Church’s new anti-gay policy. Instituted in November, the new rules label any Mormon in a same-sex marriage as an “apostate,” which could include excommunication from the church, and bars children of all same-sex couples from being baptized. Reaction to the new rules was swift, with thousands severing ties from the Church of Latter-Day Saints in response. Three months on, the mental effect on Mormon youth is becoming clearer. “Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported recently. “Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.”
But many say the repercussions from November are much more serious. Mama Dragons, a supportive group of Mormon women with LGBT children, say nearly three dozen queer and questioning youth have taken their lives since the new rules went into effect. Co-founder Wendy Montgomery says she’s been told that 32 young Mormons have committed suicide recently, reports the Deseret News. Montgomery’s husband reported on Facebook that all the families had reached out to Mama Dragons to share the news, and that 27 of the deaths were young men, three were young women, and two were trans youth (it’s not clear how they identified).
“This information was never solicited,” Thomas Montgomery wrote. “There were no surveys or research. No one thought to collect this information as a tool to attack the LDS Church. As early as November, relatives of suicide victims began reaching out in grief to various Mama Dragons. At first it was one. Then it was two. And then it was five. And then it was a dozen. And then it was so many that the question was finally raised, ‘How many has it been?’ So they just started gathering all the names together.”
Verifying suicides are complicated by the fact that many Mormon families are ashamed to admit their children or relatives are LGBT, according to Thomas Montgomery.
Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Health says only 25 young people have died in the state since November, with 10 suicides, two undetermined cases, 11 accidents, one death by natural causes, and one homicide. It’s not clear if the 32 suicides that Mama Dragons is reporting include youth outside of Utah; there are Mormons throughout the country, with heavy representation in Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, California, and Hawaii.