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Gay, transgender teens ‘matter to Jesus’

Honest, open conversations about sexual identity are needed everywhere — even ‘in my tribe,’ says Sally Gary, who grew up in Churches of Christ and shares her struggles with same-sex attraction.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — From “Glee” to “Modern Family,” in the past decade “we’ve watched as the media has led the conversation on sexuality,” Sally Gary said.

TV shows with gay characters are ubiquitous, she said, and many teens “don’t remember a time before Ellen (DeGeneres) came out on TV.”
Gary directs CenterPeace, a Texas-based nonprofit that provides “a safe place for men and women who experience same-sex attraction” and helps churches, schools and families have conversations about homosexuality. She details her own struggles in a memoir, “Loves God Likes Girls .”
At the “Tough Topics of Youth Ministry” conference, she told fellow Church of Christ members that the need for open, honest conversations about sexual identity “comes home to us in my tribe.” 
Recently, a Church of Christ in Ohio made national headlines after one of its teens died by suicide. The teen was transgender, and posted to social media that family members didn’t understand why the teen wore dresses and went by the name Leelah. 
“If we think that we in Churches of Christ have escaped … no,” Gary said. 
“The whole issue of being transgender is different from being gay,” she added. “We’ve got to begin to talk about this in different ways — because Leelah matters to Jesus.” 
As she counsels youths, Gary said she often has to resist the urge to “get my sermonette in.” 
She remembers her own struggles with same-sex attraction. “I’m thankful that the people I genuinely opened up to realized that I didn’t need to hear what Romans 1 says (about homosexuality), because I already knew.”
Listening is vitally important, she told the church members, urging them to keep the conversation going. 
“When you’re dealing with a kid in your youth group who is struggling with this … look as sweetly as you can into her eyes and say, ‘Tell me what this has been like for you.’”
Related Coverage:  Sexual identity, sin and silence: Churches must become safe places for those experiencing same-sex attraction, transgender issues, say experts at youth ministry conference.

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