Gay BYU students say ‘It Gets Better’ on Mormon campus

PROVO, Utah — For young people struggling to come to terms with being gay and Mormon, 22 Brigham Young University … Continued

PROVO, Utah — For young people struggling to come to terms with being gay and Mormon, 22 Brigham Young University students have a message: “It gets better.”

Lesbian, gay and bisexual students at BYU and some of their straight allies released a video on YouTube on Friday (April 6), adding to some 40,000 video messages that aim to prevent depression and suicide among gay teens as part of the It Gets Better project. Seattle writer Dan Savage and his partner, Terry Miller, launched the effort in September 2010 following a string of youth suicides.

At BYU, the video is just one more sign of changing attitudes toward being gay and Mormon. Two days before the video’s release, an estimated 600 BYU students crammed into a room that seated 260 to listen to four students discuss what it’s like to balance their faith, which teaches that same-sex sexual activity is sinful, with their sexual orientation. The speakers were part of an unofficial school club called Understanding Same Gender Attraction.

“We’re trying to live it and create new spaces for us to be gay and Mormon and be active in the church,” said Adam White, 21, who appeared both on the panel and in the YouTube video. “That in and of itself is an’it gets better’ message.”

In recent years, the LDS church-owned school has adjusted its Honor Code to allow students to identify as gay without facing sanctions so long as they avoid physical intimacy with members of the same sex. Chastity before marriage is expected of all students.

“Students who are upholding the Honor Code are welcome as full members of the BYU community,” school spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said. She declined to comment specifically on the new YouTube video, which was produced by former BYUtv broadcaster Kendall Wilcox. He’s currently working on an independent documentary called “Far Between” about being gay and Mormon.

White hopes the video not only lets young gay Mormons know they are loved but changes perceptions about BYU. As a student there, he insists it’s not as conservative or closed-minded as some people might think.

“I feel like there’s been a very negative light cast on Mormons when it comes to LGBT issues,” said White, a theater arts major from Washington, D.C. “You can declare your orientation and be OK with that, and you won’t get kicked out (of BYU). That recognition is a really big step for a lot of people. It’s given a lot of people hope.”

(Rosemary Winters writes for The Salt Lake Tribune.)

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  • tomsj

    Although this new “It Gets Better” video may be useful as a suicide prevention PSA, the attractive, articulate gay students in it are being used as part of the Mormon PR blitz promoting the false claim that the LDS church isn’t homophobic. They play up the university’s “tolerance” but they forget to mention they’re not allowed to have sex. Ever. Mandatory lifelong celibacy is not “tolerance.”

  • SixMom

    Oh come on…. Let these people speak their mind and define their own life and religious convictions as fits them best. Why are you raining on their parade? You’re chasing away their rainbow. Let them be.

  • lalicorne

    First, as a member of the LDS church, I would like to state that I don’t appreciate being grouped under a blanket stereotype. When you are referring to an entire population of 13 – 14 million people spread across the continents, you end up with a fairly diverse group which has equally diverse opinions. I personally have friends and relatives who are LGBT, and we have different opinions on various issues. But their being LGBT is a non-issue.

    Secondly, lifelong celibacy is the same situation for anyone who is not married; I myself fall into that category. If a relationship never works out for me to the point where I legally bind myself to someone else, I’ll be celibate my whole life as well.

    Third, practicing members of the LDS church have chosen their path–no one forces them to do one thing or another. When people choose to be practicing members of the LDS church, they do so feeling what they’re giving up (aka committing to lifelong celibacy, if they do not marry) because they feel that what they are getting in return is able to make up for what they are giving up.