I've become involved in an LGBT-Mormon alliance group known as "The Hearth", which meets monthly, usually in Menlo Park, CA. Last week, Stephenie Larsen, the founder of Encircle, spoke to us. Encircle is an LGBTQ+ family and youth resource center based in Provo, Utah that serves the purpose of giving LGBTQ+ youth and their families a safe space where they can feel comfortable being their authentic selves.
The stories that Larsen shared were both heartwarming and heartbreaking. One story that stood out is the story of a young man whose parents didn't want him around his younger siblings because they were fearful that he would have a bad influence on them because he is gay. The young man started coming to Encircle and became known as the kid who would bake cookies for everyone else. Despite being shunned from his family, the young man did his best to maintain a positive attitude and express love for those around him. Eventually, his family softened as a result of Encircle. Larsen recalls walking into Encircle one day to find the young man baking cookies with his dad.
What makes Encircle so amazing is that there is something there for everyone. Whether you yourself identify as LGBTQ+ or if you are a parent searching for answers, there is something for you. Even more amazing is the fact that the Encircle house is located in downtown Provo, Utah, the heart of Mormon culture, which has often failed to love LGBTQ+ people for who they are.
The reason I'm sharing this post is that I figured others might want to be aware of both Encircle and The Hearth as a possible resource either for themselves or people that they know. What got me involved is a friend of mine who is gay spoke at one of The Hearth meetings and I decided to go to show him support. I felt a really strong spirit there and have gone back ever since. As one who is straight, I feel it is important to build bridges with those who identify as LGBTQ+ and let them know that they are fine just as they are. If anyone has any comments or questions, feel free to comment below.