My friends and I got there right at 6 p.m. Probably 15 minutes later, all seats were taken. The forum started 10 minutes early because "there's no sense in waiting for more people to get here." Bodies covered the floor, walls, and teemed in pools outside every entrance to the room, standing near enough so they could just hear what was being said.
|6:30 p.m. Half an hour before this thing was supposed to start.|
You can visit the BYU USGA (Understanding Same Gender Attraction) page here. For more information from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on homosexuality, you can read God Loveth His Children.
For now, I'll just give the Reader's Digest version of the panel:
Four students stood and shared their experiences grappling with homosexuality while remaining active in the LDS faith: 2 gay men, 1 gay woman, and 1 bisexual man. One was happily married (to a member of the opposite sex) and has a daughter. Two of them, stereotypically speaking, "looked the part," while I would never have assumed anything unusual about the sexual orientation of the other two based on physical appearance. All were Honor-Code abiding, full-time BYU students.
Some similar themes of their personal narratives included:
- experiences of confusion, frustration and honesty when trying to date members of the opposite sex in high school and college
- for men: the ability to serve an honorable full-time mission without any negative repercussions
- a period of time spent trying to "fix it" as if homosexual predispositions are connected to any lack of worthiness or righteousness; being hyper-diligent and faithful in all spiritual aspects as some kind of bargain for God to remove the burden of homosexuality (which never works)
- a deeper empathy and love for the human population and a stronger testimony of the Atonement and gospel of Jesus Christ
- these strong spiritual convictions (or testimonies) accompanied by an unclear view of the future; ambivalent about how they could reconcile their personal feelings with the doctrines and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a long-term solution
- a sense of isolation followed by a sense of connectivity when they found people who shared their struggles and experiences, usually via the internet (at least at first)
The anecdotes shared were a mix of the painful and the humorous.
All panelists agreed it is honest and appropriate to come out to people who you are dating, when it gets far enough. My favorite story came from the girl, who said:
"Once I had been dating a guy a few times and it was at the point where I wanted to tell him. So we were going out to dinner and I was nervous, which made him nervous- and it was like oh! the nervousness. So finally I told him... but he was so relieved! He said, “Oh! I was afraid you were going to tell me you were waiting on a missionary.”
(She was full of zingers.) When describing the good to the ugly about roommate relations, she said that some girls felt like she was shoving a liberal, gay agenda down their throats, no matter what she did.
“It’s not like I wake up and I’m like ‘Here’s my agenda... oh wait... Now I’m going to get my gay agenda.”
The team strongly encouraged asking questions to friends who come out, rather than getting your information from the internet. (As Mormons, it's something we all could relate to.) They also provided us with
Bad Questions to Ask
1. When did you choose to become gay? ("Why would anyone CHOOSE this? Especially at BYU?!")
2. So you're gay, but you're not gay gay, right? (Just because you aren't "flaming" does not mean you aren't gay.)
3. Do you think maybe you just haven't found the right girl yet? (or boy, if you're talking to a woman.)
4. Do you think I'm attractive? ("You don't want to know.")
and also, some Good Questions to Ask
1. How long have you known?
2. Has it been hard carrying this as a secret?
3. Have I ever offended you unknowingly?
4. Silence is an option here. You can always be a supportive listener.
A couple points to end on:
As a culture, we are 100x more accepting of gay men than gay women. Why that is, I don't know. But you don't see any lesbians get cast as the "quirky best friend" in movies, like gay men do. So major props to that girl for making the panel 25% female. Way to break down stigmas.
There was a big emphasis throughout the meeting on feelings v. actions. You can't control your feelings. You can control what feelings you act out on. Having homosexual feelings is in no way a sin.
*Literally, I have 8 pages of notes. If you comment with your email address, I will send them to you.