Portrait by Spencer Ruiz

Portrait by Spencer Ruiz



BA Communications; Advertising Emphasis ('11)

Describe your BYU experience:

My BYU experience was complicated — much like life. I had the greatest group of friends, a major I loved, and countless memories "studying" on the 5th floor of the library. At the same time I lived in fear and denial. I was terrified of accepting who I was and what that would mean for my life. I had always done everything I could to do the right thing. I got good grades, didn't date until I was 16 (not so hard when you're a closeted gay mormon in Texas!), and went on a mission just like I was supposed to. At BYU I buried myself in schoolwork, the advertising program, and theatre in a desperate attempt to ignore the reality that I was gay. I was terrified of what that meant for me as a good Mormon boy and spent many nights trying to convince myself this was all just a confusing phase. The shining light in my time at BYU was my time in the theatre department. In addition to studying advertising, I threw myself into theatre courses – a passion I had always had. It was in the hallowed halls of the HFAC that I felt I wasn't an outsider. I had incredible professors who quietly supported a group of students who clearly didn't fit the BYU mold. While the school kept them from outwardly championing LGBT students (even pushing out the ones who did), their love and acceptance was unique. It was in those halls that I knew my life would be OK. They may never know how important they were to me, but they created a loving refuge in a BYU that was hostile to anyone who dared to question.

Describe your experiences post-BYU:

After BYU I moved to New York to pursue my dream of working at a big advertising agency and making it in the city. This was the best thing I ever did! In New York I quickly began to see the world in a different light. I suddenly couldn't hide from myself anymore. One day I woke up and couldn't eat, sleep, or focus. All at once I realized it was time to accept myself. After a profound spiritual experience I discovered for the first time that I was exactly who I was meant to be. I finally had the courage to accept myself and slowly let the world in on it. Seven years post-graduation I am more happy than I could have ever imagined. Four years ago I met my person. Together we've traveled the world, lived in Australia for two years, and now are back in New York continuing to dream about the lives we're building together. He's an actor and I'm still making ads.

I love where I came from, the rocky journey I've had to get here, and I love where I'm going.

What advice would you give to current students? 

It gets better! I know the world at BYU can be hard for LGBTQ+ students, but there is a world of people who will love you for who you are. The sooner you learn to love yourself, the sooner your friends, family, and world can truly learn to love and accept you just as you are.

Posted May 2018