SAFER TOGETHER: Margaret Martin is the facilitator of Affirming Faith.
SAFER TOGETHER: Margaret Martin is the facilitator of Affirming Faith. Kevin Farmer

Toowoomba woman starts group for LGBT+ people of faith

MARGARET Martin, raised an evangelical Christian, hopes that one day LGBT+ people will be allowed to live their lives in the same way others do.

"But at the moment that's not the reality in our churches and I'm wanting to show people of faith that they don't need to be scared and that LGBT+ people are just normal people like you and me," she said.

This year she started Affirming Faith, a support group that welcomes both LGBT+ people of faith, as well as people of faith who "have never thought of asking questions about homosexuality".

The group's purpose is simple.

"There was some research done in the US recently that said religious children who are LGBT+ are 38% more likely to attempt suicide than other LGBT+ people whose suicide rates are already high," she said.

"So to have a space that's affirming, it can't be underestimated how important that space is. Research has also suggested that if you have a person who affirms you, your suicide rate just goes down so dramatically.

"I'm disappointed that we need this space in Toowoomba because quite honestly our churches should be filling this space. We shouldn't need to have somewhere separate for LGBT+ Christians to go."

Mrs Martin has always taken her faith seriously.

But years ago, sitting in church, she realised that both herself and the people around her were not reflecting her understanding of Jesus very well.

She began deconstructing her beliefs, eventually arriving at a place where she was "affirming of LGBT+ people".

"And so about a year, eighteen months after my husband and I had been through this ... my son came out to us as LGBT+ and so for me ... in a way it was a miracle," she said.

When the Pulse Nightclub shooting happened in Orlando in 2016, Mrs Martin spoke to her son and they agreed she would begin speaking out about "the mistreatment of LGBT+ people in our churches".

"And what began to happen was that Christian LGBT+ people started coming out to me because there was nowhere else for them that understood their faith issue and what it meant to be an LGBT+ person," she said.

"And because I'd done all this research I was able to, I guess, give them some confidence that they didn't need to choose between their faith and their sexuality.

"I think that's one of the biggest myths - is that you have to choose. The truth is, you don't."

Mrs Martin started Affirming Faith after another conversation with her son about how to support people of faith "as they struggled and wrestled with what it means to love LGBT+ people".

She said the four main arguments she gets from evangelical Christians when they find out she affirms LGBT+ people are: "The Bible clearly says... What about sin? God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve; and God has designed marriage to be between a man and a woman".

"So in my group they're the four things that we really spend some time thinking about because they're the four main barriers for evangelical Christians that I come across," she said.

"For me as a person of faith who believes Jesus came to bring hope - to have a group of people that we are actively contributing to their harm, there's a cognitive dissonance there. Christianity is a religion of love."

For those wanting more information about Affirming Faith, please call 0478 134 147.

If this article has raised issues for you or someone you know please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.