One year ago, a group of more than 300 self-described “active” and “faithful” Mormons made big news by marching in the Salt Lake City Pride parade to show its love and support for LDS people. With the 2013 Salt Lake City Pride Parade scheduled for Sunday, June 2, RD spoke with Mormons Building Bridges organizer Erika Munson to get an update on the group’s activities.
What’s happened with Mormons Building Bridges since your inaugural 2012 Pride Parade appearance?
The march last year was an amazing catalytic spiritual experience for people there and watching from the route and from afar. And the parade is still a wonderful symbolic thing. And this year, it will again be a spiritual experience for the Mormons Building Bridges participants. But we’ve realized that there is so much more we can do. We’ve been looking for opportunities to help devout Mormons show love and support for LGBT people. For example, we’ve connected with the Family Acceptance Project and supported their events in the Salt Lake City area. But I think the most important thing that we’re doing is starting heart-to-heart conversations with individuals.
We have created a program called “Community Conversations” which happens once a month on the same night in public libraries along the Wasatch front, from Logan to Provo, Utah. We want people from all sides of an issue to come talk. Recently, our subject was, “Can I support my LGBT child and feel connected to my faith?” We had a Mormon mom whose son came out to her about four years ago and she is not able to attend church right now. There’s still a ton of anger, and it’s very difficult for her. We had another mom whose son came out five weeks ago, and she was very optimistic, saying that she didn’t see any conflict between her LDS faith and supporting her son in his path. We hope Mormons Building Bridges can be a model for civil conversation. In these conversations, we have strict ground rules: you may only ask a question or respond to a question. We want people to come seeking to understand and share personal experiences, but it’s not a time to lecture. And conservative Mormons need to have a safe place to talk without having people jump down their throats. To create safe places for those conversations is important to MBB.
We also helped launch a program called “Safe and Sound” run out of OUTreach in Ogden providing foster families for homeless LDS kids. We know that LGBT kids are overly represented in homeless population. The first family to be trained and vetted is a Mormons Building Bridges family who has a transgender child. We are also involved in suicide prevention and awareness efforts, because we now LGBT and LDS kids are overrepresented in suicides.
Clearly, Mormons Building Bridges has grown into something much more than a parade delegation.
Exactly. The parade is a fun thing, a great thing. And so many people who saw us last year said, “If I’d have known, I’d have been there.” We do look forward to welcoming them this year. [More details are here.] This is an electrifying opportunity. We are also very glad that Mormons for Equality will have its own delegation in the parade. Mormons who want to participate have a choice to decide how they will identify.
For Mormons Building Bridges, our theme this year is “Family Reunion.” We are asking people to march in family groups and make a sign with their family name. We feel like family reunions are great Mormon events but they are often very fraught for gay people, who might ask themselves, “Can I come? Can I bring my partner?” Or they may be out to grandma but not to their aunt. Our theme focuses on inclusivity. We want everyone to come to the family reunion.