107: Savannah Bears Her Testimony, “I’m Gay”

Savannah is a 12-year old young woman who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After several months of convincing her parents that she wanted the opportunity to bear her testimony in church about how she identifies as gay, she went ahead and spoke to her congregation at the beginning of May of this year. About two thirds of the way through, the microphone was turned off by the presiding leader and she was asked to sit down. In this interview, Natasha Helfer Parker offers Savannah the Mormon Mental Health Podcast microphone so that she can share her testimony without interruption. Savannah is delightful as she talks about her thoughts and feelings about this experience, as well as her concern for other teens and pre-teens who are in her position. Her story has been picked up by international media.

Courageous 12-Year-Old Mormon Girl Comes Out As Gay In Front Of Her Entire Church

12-year-old girl comes out to her Mormon congregation

Because this interview involves a minor, the audience should be aware that several precautions and safeguards have been put in place to offer protection and boundaries for Savannah’s sake. Some of these precautions are mentioned here.

Comments will be highly moderated and only those of support for Savannah’s journey will be allowed. If there are any concerns that commenters want to share with the host, you can reach her at mormonmentalhealth@gmail.com.

This interview will only be available in the future according to Savannah’s and her family’s discretion. At any point in her life, she will have the right to ask for it to be removed from the podcast archive.

Both Savannah and her mother have reviewed and approved this podcast before its publication.

Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith, runs Mormon Sex Info and is the current president for the Mormon Mental Health Association.

12 comments for “107: Savannah Bears Her Testimony, “I’m Gay”

  1. Kevin Rex
    June 20, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Thank you, Savannah. I am so filled with hope, as a gay man who came out very late in life, that the world is getting better and better because of courageous people like you! In listening to your interview, I am able to heal my mind from memories of when I had to hide at age 12. Thanks for being you!

    (And thanks to Natasha for the interview, too).

  2. Paula
    June 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    This podcast is exquisite! It was a privilege to listen to this beautiful young woman express herself so articulately. Thank you, Savannah! Thank you, Natasha, for sharing your your gifts and ability to provide a safe place for this to occur.

  3. Kevin Rex
    June 21, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Savannah and Verona, The Butterflies.

    A butterfly went fluttering by
    Nigh to level of my eye,
    Her wings were bluer than a summer sky,
    LGBT and Peleides’ name
    Were, for her, too much technical fame.
    She didn’t fret or strut upon the stage,
    But smoothly and steadily she did change
    A single heart, and a hand, and a mind,
    This butterfly effect forever time will bind.
    Change again and again, little morpho blue,
    Colors of rainbow will morph the hue,
    Way up high, where I dreamed once in a lullaby,
    I had a puppy-love crush on a boy,
    Like a girl to lure him by being coy,
    No Georgie Porgie was I,
    Trying to make them cry,
    I chased the girls to join with their laugh,
    My friends, my group, my tribe for sure,
    And I was them, like me they were.
    Verona and Savannah, what have they,
    To make my soul swing high and sway?
    They have the butterfly energy,
    That make false traditions flee.
    Savannah age twelve, Verona, five,
    Both born in the Ute’s Deseret hive,
    Your words are carried like a butterfly,
    Speak your heart’s truth; words will go so high.
    Here comes another fluttering by,
    “As I have loved you,” rising from my pew,
    I testify that Jesus said, “love is for you, too.”

  4. Chellae BarLev
    June 21, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Savannah, you what a lovely young person you are. I honor your testimony. You are a beautiful child of God. Wherever your path takes you know that God loves you and will never leave your side.

  5. Thomas Wenzel
    June 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

    I’m so proud of this 12 year old girl coming out in the Mormon Church. Her speech had wisdom beyond her years. What courage this young lady has. I’m not from the Gay community, I just love her moral fibre. Congratulations Savannah, you are an inspiration to many. Thomas from Canada.

  6. Michaela
    June 22, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Liebes ehrliches mutiges mädchen!!

    Als Mutter von 3 grossen Kindern möchte ich dir nur sagen wie stolz jeder auf dich sein sollte.du hast das Herz einer mutigen löwin.
    Du belügst weder dich selber noch deine Familie u freunde.
    Du bist in meinen Augen sehr aufrichtig und das ist glauben!!!!
    Der glauben an liebe und gott
    Und du bist sehr gläubig sonst hättest du nicht zu der Wahrheit gestanden.

    Liebe liebe grüsse

  7. Jane Lyon
    June 22, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Savannah,

    My girlfriend and I listened to this podcast last night.
    We were in tears by your testimony, I don’t think either of us have every heard anything so powerful.
    As a 20-something lesbian couple, my girlfriend to this day struggles with her mormon upbringing and her desire to be included in the church. She said to me last night, “that 12 year old girl in my hero.” We so wish that we could have been so brave like you growing up here in Salt Lake. We’ve been hiding from the world for a long enough time. We just want you to know that your story meant the world to us and even though we are much older than you, you have seriously warmed our hearts and inspired us to never ever forget how much god loves us. You have given us hope that more kids in the church can come out proudly and be loved. You are so brave, so blessed and insanely mature and self-aware Savannah.

    I happen to be a documentary film maker focused on what it is like to be a part of the LGBT youth community here in Utah. I would be so honored to sit down and get to know you if you ever have the desire to speak with us and add to our research bank.

    You keep on doing you girl, we will always be your lesbian cheerleaders!

    And Natasha, I also want to thank you so much for putting this together. Your interviewing skills are unparalleled and so respectful. I was in awe at the eloquence of your conversation with Savannah. Thank you so much for your kindness and compassion in sharing her story. It means so much to those of us who have left the church to live a more authentic *gay* life.

    xo, Jane and Aja

  8. Jess
    June 22, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I am in tears. Wow. I am so inspired by you Savannah. I felt the purity of your heart in your words. I pray that you never let anyone try and change you or shame you. You are perfect just as you are. And such a courageous bright light. What a powerful example you are to other kids who feel afraid to be who they are. Big big hug to you. You are so loved.

  9. BWM
    June 22, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Ironically, the sentence that Savannah was saying at the moment she was cut off and asked to sit down was “I ask [mic cut off] that you all pay close attention to what you say–you never know who is listening.”

  10. Mark Elijah
    June 22, 2017 at 5:12 pm

    It is people like Savannah who create change in this world and make it a better place
    for all of us. Her courage inspires.

  11. June 24, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Savannah, I hope you have a glimpse of the good you have done here. You may never know the impact you are having on the world Savannah (old, young, Mormon, non-Mormon, all genders, gay, and straight, etc.). I am so glad that you listened to what I call “the Spirit of God” telling you to move forward with your truth in this way. God knows the beginning and the end, and all the people around the world that needed to hear your story in order to find some healing and be inspired by it. We all have a story and we all have to listen to our God-given instincts to act on those promptings. It is not easy and we often do not act on them, because of fear, which is understandable, but in this moment, in this way, you and your parents did not let fear win. Thank you —
    Natasha, you were perfect in recognizing all the sensitivities of the situation. I appreciate how you honored Savannah’s story and her parents’ story, as well as how you honored Mormonism at the same time. It might have been easy to be upset and jaded for various reasons, but my favorite line was when you reminded listeners that Savannah did a very Mormon thing, reminding us of our simple slogan, “Do what is right, let the consequence follow,” and when you said “Mormons do hard things.” We all need to take our own situation into account and do the best hard thing in the best and least damaging way. Thank you for honoring Mormons, Savannah, the LGBT community, and sexuality in general. Much love to you and Savannah and all who were affected by this podcast. — Ruth 🙂

  12. Tom lewis
    July 13, 2017 at 9:48 am

    The response of the counselor in the bishopric was inappropriate when he turned the speaker system off. However, I question the appropriateness of using a Fast and Testimony Meeting to announce a totally personal matter. It has always been my view that the purpose of a Fast and Testimony Meeting is to bear testimony of one’s belief in Christ. There are too many people who use a Testimony Meeting or Sacrament Meeting to divulge personal matters. Savannah’s testimony was no more inappropriate than many other such testimonies, and she did not need to be singled out as the recipient of such a high degree of suppression.

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