famous gay BYU students
The following recently circulated on some Mormon email lists. I’m posting it here with the author’s permission.
Back in January 1996, I submitted the following article for publication in the Student Review (BYU’s off-campus weekly magazine). The Student Review staff decided not to publish the article, so, after more than a year, I am posting it here. The intended audience for this piece is the BYU student body, but others might enjoy it as well.
The article is a compilation of profiles of Gay BYU alumni. The motivation behind putting together this piece is a desire to put a face on same-sex orientation for BYU students — during my time at BYU it would have helped greatly to know that I was not the only Gay student to have attended the university. The pain of isolation and the misrepresentation of Gay people needs to end.
* * * * * PROFILES OF GAY BYU ALUMNI * * * * *
During a BYU course in 1989 that touched on human sexuality, my classmates and I were asked to write down our questions on the subject of same-sex orientation and submit them for class discussion. I excitedly wrote, "What are the names of prominent world figures who are homosexual?" When my scrap of paper was finally read aloud by one of the two professors teaching the class, both look at each other, paused for a moment, and responded that there were no leaders or other world figures who are homosexual. Ouch. As a same-sex oriented individual who was looking for answers and stability, it hurt not to hear any names. I respected and admired both of my professors, and they are in good company – most people at BYU are not aware of any prominent homosexuals. (Note: A little research on my own revealed long lists of leaders, both past and present, who are homosexual.) At that time, I was as ignorant of homosexual people as my professors were: I thought I was the only one at BYU. Not so. Since graduation from BYU, I have met scores of Gay and Lesbian BYU alumni. Presented below are a few of our stories so that you, unlike me, can say that you are aware of recently-graduated Gay BYU students. (I do apologize that most of the people profiled here are in the D.C. area – that is were I currently live and it was easiest to gather information locally. Also, due to various reasons, my Lesbian BYU alumni friends were unable to submit information, despite their desire to participate.)
Graduation: April 1991
Degree: BS, Zoology
Activity: Spencer W. Kimball Scholar
Mission: Italy Catania
Occupation: Pediatric Resident
Current Location: New Mexico
After graduating from the Y in ’91, I moved to St. Louis to attend medical school. It was during my second year that I finally started to reconcile being Gay and LDS. While continuing to live a prototypical active Mormon life, I started to meet other Gay men for the first time. I especially enjoyed a social group for guys in their 20’s which met at a local church…basically a Gay Family Home Evening group. They even joked about running on "Gay Standard Time." I fit right in.
Recently, I have been amazed to learn how many old friends, roommates, mission companions, etc., are also Gay. I kick myself now for not having come out sooner. It would have been great to have dated a nice returned missionary (they’re few and far between out here in the mission field).
The last three years have been an exhilarating period of personal growth and deep joy. Dating and building successful relationships have helped me become a better, more whole person.. Currently, I’m keeping busy examining the ears of screaming toddlers in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Graduation: April 1990, cum laude
Degree: BS, Chemistry
Activity: Student Advisory Council Chairperson
Mission: Paraguay Asuncion
Occupation: Environmental Consultant
Current Location: Washington D.C. area
Howdy BYU! Congratulations on getting to wear shorts. I did my share of shorts donning after graduation — I went to work on an island 800 miles southwest of Hawaii in an environmental monitoring laboratory. They were burning chemical weapons there, so it was good that we were monitoring. The best perk of the job was receiving a two-week paid vacation every two months – I visited ten foreign countries. There even was an LDS branch on island, complete with a patriarch.
After the island life, I did graduate school at Harvard, receiving an MS in Environmental Science. I now work for an environmental consulting firm and get to do a variety of risk assessment projects for the Environmental Protection Agency and other clients.
So, how do I handle being Gay and Mormon? Well, while at BYU it helped me to do a couple of reports on the subject. One was a book report on Carol Lynn Pearson’s Good-bye, I Love You. Her story of being married to a Gay LDS man is powerful, compassionate, and insightful. The second report was on Gay fathers. These two reports, prayer, and plenty of pondering helped me arrive at honesty with myself, my family, and those around me. Last year I was given the opportunity to deliver a Sacrament meeting talk on same-sex orientation to my ward in Boston. The message was simply to love and serve everyone regardless of perceived differences.
BYU gave me the safe space to grow and be honest. I wish the same to all students at BYU today.
Graduation: August 1983, cum laude, college valedictorian
Degree: BA, International Relations
Activity: Mission Training Center teacher
Mission: Argentina Cordoba
Occupation: Foreign assistance to developing countries
Current Location: Washington D.C.
In 1983 I came to Washington D.C. to participate in BYU’s Washington Seminar Program. After a great internship at the National Association of Arab Americans, I stayed in D.C. to establish myself professionally. For nearly eleven fulfilling years I’ve been with the same firm working in my field.
Spare time activities are varied and include singing with a renowned 50-voice all male choir, conducting sensitivity training on Gay and Lesbian issues for D.C. police, and, since 1984, ushering at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Throw in white water rafting, in line skating, great friends and more, and I can say D.C. was a good move for me!
My absolute favorite thing at BYU was the International Cinema. I don’t know if it’s still there, but it brought to me new ideas, new human experiences, and it kept me sane! My other favorite thing was actually a person. I rented a room in Thelma Weight’s house at 833 N. University Avenue, and we became good friends. After I left BYU, we would have lunch during my Utah visits, and whenever she came to D.C. to visit her sister, Esther Peterson, Thelma and I would sightsee and talk about books and politics. In her 90’s she was still astounded at life’s surprises (and reading Camila Paglia!). A few years ago Thelma died and I miss her.
My advice to BYU students is the advice I give any student – study hard, prepare, and do one or two internships while you are in school. Most of all, to thine own self be true. Not a new concept, but each time it is exercised it is new again.
Graduation: December 1989
Degree: BS, Accounting and Master of Accountancy
Activity: BYU Pep Squad
Mission: California Ventura
Occupation: Information Systems Consultant
Current Location: Washington D.C. area
I have lived and worked in the D.C. area for the last five-and-a-half years and was recently promoted to manager. I’m involved with Affirmation, a Gay and Lesbian Mormon support group, and also volunteer at a local food bank to distribute groceries to people with AIDS.
I grew up on a farm in a small Idaho town. The Church and the gospel were always very important to me. I was very active in the Church and held the positions that many LDS young men hold. In high school, I served as president of the National Honor Society, was a straight A student, and attended BYU on academic and music scholarships.
I loved and thoroughly enjoyed my years at BYU. I was proud of the contributions that BYU made to the world and wanted to make sure that I, too, made a contribution. However, my years at BYU were also times of deep personal struggle. I was frustrated by my lack of interest in women and refused to acknowledge my attraction to men. My culture made it difficult to accept that I was Gay. It taught me that I was evil.
When I left BYU I was troubled. I didn’t know what lay ahead for me. However, over the last five years I have progressed and accepted my sexual orientation and realized that being Gay is not evil nor wrong. While I am Gay, being Gay is only a part of what I am. I can be Gay and also be spiritual, compassionate, and honest.
Graduation: August 1986/August 1987
Degree: BA, Education and Masters of Education
Activity: HBLL cataloger, window washer
Mission: Belgium Antwerp
Occupation: Arts Program Manager
Current Location: Washington D.C. area
I love being Gay! It took me a long time to be able to honestly and cheerfully say those four words. I didn’t "come out" and accept my same-sex orientation until the age of 32. Some of us come out at 16, some at 22, and some at 60! There is no right time to come out. I knew when the time was right for me and I’m glad I followed my heart.
It has not been easy to overcome all of the negative messages I have received about the very core of my being (as a homosexual man) within the Mormon Church. I did my best to do what I was told was "right" for me. I served a mission, graduated from BYU, and married in the temple. Ending my marriage was the hardest thing I have ever done. Although I wouldn’t give anything to replace the wonderful years I spent with my ex-wife, I would give everything if I could take away the pain I caused her by accepting my same-sex orientation and deciding, with her, to end our marriage.
I know that God lives and that Jesus Christ is His Son. I know that I am redeemed through the Plan of Salvation and that I have a place in eternity. I don’t know what the future holds but I am optimistic about the wonderful opportunities ahead of me. God bless us all as we learn and grow together!
Graduation: April 1988
Degree: BA, Theatre Arts, magna cum laude
Occupation: M.D., Psychiatrist
Current Location: Baltimore area
I may have gone to medical school so that I would have an excuse not to go on dates with women. I successfully convinced myself that I was too busy to date. Such rationalization only lasted until July, 1994, when at the age of 30 I realized a few things: (1) my homosexual feelings were not going to go away, (2) they shouldn’t have to go away, (3) if I didn’t start living, I would be doubly lonely the rest of my life — and maybe beyond. I use the term "doubly lonely" because not only will I be living alone and going to church alone, but also I will not be able to tell people the true reason why. Perhaps the most astonishing discovery over the past 18 months – since my emergence from the closet – is that I have not turned into the "deviant" that I used to believe all homosexuals were. To tell the truth, I have yet to meet the stereotypical homosexual we were all warned about in Family Home Evening (just when I thought I found one, I dared talk to her and discovered that she’s just as unique an individual as any heterosexual).
Graduation: August 1993
Degree: BA, French and European Studies
Activity: Varsity Theater projectionist
Mission: Switzerland Geneva
Occupation: Office Assistant (Marine Biologist aspirations)
Current Location: Washington D.C. area
Since early adolescence, I felt an attraction to the same gender. I thought that with time these feelings would dissipate. To the contrary, they intensified over the years. After I graduated from BYU and moved to the Washington D.C. area, I began to seriously analyze my feelings. I didn’t want to admit that I was Gay. I didn’t want to be Gay. I finally confessed my frustrations to my Bishop. He was very understanding, but he encouraged me to try to change. Through various counseling techniques, however, I came to understand that I am Gay.
The Church has always played an important role in my life, so I don’t see why being Gay should interfere with a continued, active role in the Church. I am still an active member with Church responsibilities. By remaining active and "out," I hope to promote the cause of Lesbians and Gays within the Church. It’s my desire that Church leaders will see my actions, and those of others like me, and begin to rethink the Church’s policy on homosexuality.
I am certainly happier now than I have ever been before. Accepting that I am Gay has alleviated the stress and depression I experienced as I tried to convince myself that I was otherwise. I hope that I’ve taken the first few steps on a path that will lead to great happiness and fulfillment for me. I sincerely believe that I have.