Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds waved the LGBT Pride flag at his band’s concert Saturday during the Lollapalooza Brazil Festival at São Paulo’s Interlagos Racetrack. This is just one small gesture the 30-year-old singer-songwriter has made when it comes to his advocating for LGBT rights in recent years. So how did this Mormon rock star become one of the music industry’s loudest LGBT allies?
Raised in a Mormon family in Las Vegas, Reynolds says he’s a Mormon and supports the orthodox community, “but I believe we all can be educated on the matter to create positive change.”
As a young adult Reynolds served the church for two years as a missionary in Omaha, where he “knocked [on] thousands of doors” and told people that being gay was a sin. “The doctrine is, if you are gay and acting upon it, that is sinful,” he said.
At the June 19 TrevorLIVE benefit, a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, Reynolds confessed, “I wish I could re-knock [on] all those doors and tell them that I was wrong.”
“To be gay is beautiful and right and perfect. To tell someone they need to change their inner-most being is setting up someone for an unhealthy life and unhealthy foundation,” he said when accepting The Trevor Project’s 2017 Hero Award.
“I know a lot of Mormon youth who are gay and hide it because they feel as though God hates them or God is judging them,” he said while onstage. “In Utah, the number one reason for death among teenagers is suicide.”
The new documentary Believer (the trailer for which is below) profiles his journey from young missionary to rock star to LGBT ally and advocate. The moving doc, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, follows Reynolds as he tries to reconcile his deep Mormon faith with the church’s policies against the LGBT community.
In the documentary, Dan Reynolds and Neon Trees lead singer Tyler Glenn, an openly gay former Mormon, navigate their way through the issues of queerness and Mormnism, ultimately creating LoveLoud, a music and spoken-word festival designed to start a dialogue between the Mormon Church and the LGBT community.
“Dan’s idea to help raise awareness for this issue was to put on a concert in Orem, Utah, a very conservative and very Mormon community,” director Don Argott writes in the film’s press notes.
“The atmosphere at the LoveLoud Festival was electric. For me, it was overwhelmingly emotional, as I had gotten to know many of the people who shared their stories for the film, and many were extremely heartbreaking,” Artgott says. “It was pretty incredible that this event provided them a little light from some intensely dark moments.”
“It’s a terrible challenge to go into this intersection of LGBTQ individuals and communities of faith, which requires sensitivity on both sides and a lot of nuance, and that is not an easy spot to be when you’re someone like Dan,” says Reynolds’ brother, Robert, in a clip from the doc that will premiere later this year on HBO.
But Dan Reynolds’ activism continues despite the challenges he may have to overcome. Just last week he took to Twitter to urge fans in Las Vegas to support transgender students, writing, “Our LGBTQ youth need you. They need us to adopt policies that protect their well being and health. We must step up.”
He has also been a vocal supporter of LGBT organizations like GLAAD, the Trevor Project and the anti-bullying group Stand4kind. He even used his acceptance speech at the 2017 American Music Awards to help empower LGBTQ youth.
“This is the country I know, which is of powerful women, talking about our women, talking about empowering our LGBTQ youth,” Reynolds says. “May we continue to progress as a nation as one of love and equality. No divide. There’s been way too much of that this last year.”