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Friday, September 3, 2010

Alone in a Sea of People

I've been reading a bit about the BYU honor code lately. I live in an apartment where the honor code is not regarded as the will of God descending directly from his lips, so it's been a nice oasis from the BYU social world, where the word is law, and no one questions it.

I realize that students signed an agreement about the honor code. And I realize that the school is trying to maintain a wholesome environment. But for people like me, who have spent their whole lives feeling different, and who have finally admitted to themselves that they are gay, and who have no idea what to do with it all, the answer isn't so easy. In the end, the BYU atmosphere creates a very lonely place to figure out what to do about being a gay mormon.

I'm not saying that the school should change its policies so that gay guys can sleep with whomever, whenever. I'm saying that the university needs to actually address the needs that these students have. We feel like we're suffocating sometimes. And the reason that many of the gay students resort to sex is because they see no where else to go. They can't hold hands or kiss. They aren't allowed to go on dates or have relationships. They can't discuss it with others, because while being openly gay isn't grounds for expulsion, they will then be watched 24 hours a day, with the honor code office just waiting for them to slip up. But sex is quick. It's hidden. And it releases some of the constant pull that they feel all the time. Perhaps, if BYU were to simply try to offer counseling programs specifically for people like this, in order to safely and privately address the needs of the students, they could minimize the extreme violations of the honor code, keep a number of gay students in the church in the long run, and actually help these people. Any student at this university is not there to harm it or attack it. And that fact alone places a burden on the university to be what they claim to be: "the Lord's university", and actually make the lives of these people better. It's an odd thing when the church is merciful and forgiving, but the school is the one making life and death sentences.

I've read as well that BYU discriminates against heterosexual violations of the honor code just as much. However, there was a football player who was suspended for a semester (along with his girlfriend) for what, we can only image. Rumor is that they're getting married. But not only were they given leeway (because they're straight? a football player?) but the Daily Universe, the school paper, reported his "time off" and then proceeded to mention all of his great sporting achievements. They celebrated him, while announcing his suspension, though they never called it that. With research, I think it is clear that the same mercy is not extended to gay musicians.

But the fact of the matter is that many of the gay students at BYU are there because they have faith. They have a testimony. And they want a better relationship with God. They have different problems than others, of course. They have different choices to make. But that does not make them less of a good person, or less qualified to attend this university. And the sooner the university can stop feeling so personally attacked by such occurrences, the sooner they can actually be mature adults and help those who suffer in such silence.

I love the goodness of the people of BYU. I just hope they would continue to extend it to me if they knew I was gay.


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