An Indiana UCC minister's initiative to compile and share videos which support and affirm LGBT youth is really taking off. The Rev. Marie Siroky, who collaborated with other Indiana LGBT advocates to create the "You Have a Purpose Project" on Facebook to post positive messages that support LGBT youth, has already seen almost 1,000 likes on the page in less than a week.
I take pastoral authority and responsibility seriously," Siroky said. "As a minister, I want our LGBTQ youth to know that people of faith support them, that God loves them as they are and they are created in the divine image."
The "You Have a Purpose Project" is a combined effort of LGBT advocates in the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination, Indiana Equality Acton, Indiana PFLAG and FairTalk. Siroky, president of ICON in Indiana, created the Facebook page on Friday, Feb. 15. The project is a response to comments made by Diana Medley, a teacher in Sullivan, Ind. who told a local news station she believes being gay is a choice, and that gays have no purpose in life. She made those remarks after a meeting for a "traditional" school prom that would ban LGBT students.
Siroky thought about distributing a press release from ICON in response, but she wondered and worried about the way those words would make kids feel about themselves. "We have had many suicides from bullying, and I respected that she was speaking on her own time," Siroky said, "but as a teacher she has a responsibility to her students."
When Michelle Dyar, a soon-to-be ordained UCC minister, sent Siroky a message and offered to help, the focus was on creating an effective response. As an advocate for LGBT rights, Siroky said she was at first focused on a message for the school board, but decided it should be directed to LGBT youth and teens and reassuring them that they "do matter."
She wrote an open letter on Facebook, and after speaking with Annette Gross, Indiana PFLAG coordinator; Jean Capler, Fair Talk president; and Rick Sutton, Indiana Equality Action president, asked about creating a group video. The organizations were working together to start new projects in the days after celebrating the Indiana state legislature’s announcement that it would delay a vote on a same-gender constitutional ban.
"I made the Facebook page, and we all took off with ideas," Siroky says. "Annette is great with PR, and as the only one of us with a gay son, she knows full well the harm that can be done. Jean also made contacts. Indiana Equality Action has been instrumental in collaborating and including ICON and faith leaders."
With media outlets reporting and reacting to Medley’s comments, ICON knew it needed to act quickly, so Siroky recorded the video wearing her liturgical robe and stole and posted the same day. She said she wanted a visual message so LGBT youth can watch and see a person and hear their voice telling them, "you have a purpose, and you matter."
"I can remember, actually remember in my body, when those in authority have told me I matter – as a gay woman, as a wife, and as an ordained minister," Siroky said. "This is not to dismiss all the others in my life who affirm me, but society as a whole has created an atmosphere of hate and intolerance. It takes years to crack through this. If the videos that are on our page and the affirmations from the world over can reach one youth, it has served its purpose."
View Siroky's video here.