Speaking up for what you believe in and standing up for yourself aren’t always easy. Especially when telling your truth can have negative impacts on your relationships, the choice to be honest or stay silent can be a difficult one to make. When this truth is about one’s sexuality, research has shown that many young people struggle to open up to people around them. The Human Rights Campaign – an LGBT advocacy group – has published statistics showing that a great number of young people who identify as LGBT do not believe that their communities are accepting of their identities. In addition to this, many feel more comfortable being themselves online than in real life.
However, some figures might suggest that things are getting better. British LGBT rights charity Stonewall surveyed 1,500 people and found that people are now coming out at a younger age. When people over the age of 60 were asked when they came out, the average age was 37. In contrast, respondents under the age of 30 had an average coming out age of 21 while those aged 18 to 24 had an average coming out age of 17. These brave young people have pushed past the fear of being rejected and been true to themselves anyway, which makes them pretty inspiring. One such inspiration came in form of a young girl from Utah who not only mustered the courage to come out as an incredibly young age, but did so in a very public way.
Savannah is a 12 year old girl who gave a powerful speech in which she came out to her local church. As a Mormon, this was a difficult feat to achieve as the church does not fully embrace LGBT issues. In particular, being gay is acknowledged and accepted but the religion maintains that gay adherents must not act on their feelings as the same-sex identity is seen as distinct from sexual acts. The former is accepted while the latter is still seen as a sin. For Savannah, these reservations were not enough to stop her from sharing her story.
Her mother Heather told Huffington Post that Savannah had wanted to share her story in front of the church since January 2017. She had come out in June of the previous year, having noticed that she “felt alone in her thoughts, that the other girls all had crushes on boys, but she didn’t, she liked the girls”. This lonely feeling inspired Savannah’s desire to speak up in church as she wanted other closeted members to know that they were not alone. Sadly, she was cut off by a church official during her speech and was asked her to sit down, which prevented her from finishing her statement. Before she was interrupted, here is some of what Savannah had to say.
“God loves me just this way, because I believe that he loves all his creations… I do believe he made me this way on purpose. No part of me is a mistake. I do not choose to be this way, and it is not a fad. I cannot make someone else gay and being around me won’t make anyone else this way. I believe that God wants us to treat each other with kindness, even if people are different.”
Heather has commented on her daughter’s bravery, calling Savannah “brave and courageous”. She has also called on the church to listen to kids like Savannah and understand that they “deserve life long love” and “‘tough love’ won’t take the gay away”. Savannah herself has expressed mixed feelings, describing herself as feeling “sad and happy”.
“I was sad because I wanted to finish it, and I felt like what I was saying should’ve been heard by everybody else. I was happy because I could finally get out to everyone, and show that gays aren’t weirdos.”
Though Savannah couldn’t finish her speech in church, she shared her notes with the “I Like To Look For Rainbows!” podcast – a platform for queer Mormons. In an interview granted to the podcast, she explains that she has received a lot of support but also seen many haters but remains glad that she has spoken up about her feelings. You can read Savannah’s brave speech below.
What a brave little girl Savannah is! Many never muster the courage to speak their truth; not only has she done this but she did so in a spectacular public fashion in a particularly conservative environment. Her desire to not only be honest, but to help others through sharing her story, makes Savannah an amazing role model for us all.