BA Graphic Design ('15)
When I returned to BYU after my mission, I had no interest in dating. I was tired of convincing myself that I liked women. I needed a fresh start to distract me from what my next move in life would be. I decided instead to focus on friendships, school, and church, which kept me busy enough to put the next decision on hold. My mission acted as a convenient break to postpone addressing my recently-acknowledged gay feelings. But by the end of it, I realized nothing had changed over those two years. Returning to BYU felt like a new chapter had started for me. I knew my sexuality wouldn’t change, so I felt okay letting the wind take me. Guilt had shrouded me every day of my mission to the point that I felt eternally flawed, so I finally decided to let go and be myself.
I soon met a boy named Rikky. After a few weeks of realizing that I started having feelings for him, we both accidentally integrated into a group of closeted gay men. Nobody really acknowledged our blossoming romance, but we knew that they knew. We were always together, hanging out, sleeping over. We never told anyone, and nobody asked.
Conversation came easy. We quickly opened up and began to confide in each other about our feelings, concerns, and hopes for the future. We naively framed our “friendship” as a godsend to stay on the straight and narrow. It was important to stay temple worthy, so we made it a goal to attend together regularly. In the Celestial Room, I would find myself looking at him, praying to God asking if I could ever be with someone like him, and I felt undeniable peace. Those moments reassured me that I could trust myself. If I could be true to myself, then God would be true to me.
Rikky and I became inseparable. Our talks became late night drives through the canyon. Our lunch dates turned to dinner dates. Our brief hugs became longer. I never had these feelings with a woman. Tension was building between us, but it was important to respect each other’s feelings about what was appropriate. I prayed every night. I was serious about my spirituality, but my relationship with Rikky became equally important. My feelings never distanced me from God, I actually felt more in tune than ever.
The first time we kissed, everything became so real. We wanted more. The Honor Code bred an environment of secrecy, dishonesty, and fear. You never knew if a roommate would suddenly feel uncomfortable and report you, a fate that would cost you your degree. We knew that everything had to be explored under the radar. Every night ended with a covert drive up the canyon to make out, or just to have safe conversation for a few hours. We quickly learned that all gay students had their secret hideouts to explore intimacy. Unfortunately, survival was vital and this became a way of living.
The first time that reality checked me happened during our first formal date at a restaurant in North Provo. We were confident that if we acted like friends we wouldn’t attract any negative attention, but all eyes were on us. It was obvious, and we sadly realized that it wasn’t safe to date in public. Provo was, and still is, a very small world, so chances were high that we’d run into someone eventually.
After two years of a hidden relationship at BYU, I broke and couldn't keep up the facade anymore. I had to leave. I couldn’t keep lying about my personal life. I was isolating myself out of fear and I had to get out.
Regardless of having just been accepted into a competitive, limited-enrollment program, I decided to settle on graduating with a less distinguished degree. I feel like I disappointed my teachers and mentors, but I couldn’t explain my decision to them. Regrettably, I had to lie in order to leave without being penalized for who I am.
BYU changed my life. I learned who I was, unfortunately through a crucible of pain. I was constantly reminded that I was flawed, unwelcome, and damned. I had to be secretive, and dishonest. But on the other hand, it’s where I found my conscience and where I started to understand and trust myself. It’s where I fell in love for the first time, where I learned empathy, where to draw the line, and what really mattered to me.
Rikky and I have been together since 2013.
Posted April 2018