BA Russian ('15)
Describe your BYU experience
I enjoyed my time at BYU, though my acceptance of myself as queer and my relationship with God shifted drastically during my time there. I started as a 17-year-old freshman and went to three semesters of school before I could leave on my mission. During those three semesters, I convinced myself that a mission could be a "cure" for my homosexuality. I thought I could make a deal with God that if I stayed worthy and served honorably, that he would make me straight. Clearly, He had other plans. On my mission, my sexuality was never an issue - I only ever noticed those attractions peripherally. However, it didn't take long after returning home from my mission for me to realize that my sexuality remained unchanged. I tried to begin dating, but I felt so much guilt that it was largely unfruitful. The question I struggled over for months was simple to phrase, difficult to answer: why would God make me this way and then punish me for it? Finally, around the time I started my senior year, I found my answer. He wouldn't. So I started to come out of the closet, first to a few close friends, then to a couple professors. The response was overwhelmingly positive. One professor who was also my pre-law advisor, Kris Tina Carlston, even helped my craft my personal statement for law school applications around my experiences as a gay Mormon at BYU. My last semester at BYU, I finally came out publicly. While not everyone responded well, most people did. I had spent years fearing widespread rejection, and the actual response was quite the opposite. While not everyone has had experiences as positive as mine, I do believe that people tend to be more accepting, loving, and understanding than we give them credit for, particularly when we are looking through the lenses of religion and closeted sexuality.
Describe your post-BYU experience
Life since BYU has been amazing. I enrolled in Columbia Law School beginning the fall after I graduated from BYU. It didn't take long for me to walk into my identity as an out and proud gay man. I got involved with OutLaws, the LGBTQ+ group at the law school, and served in the presidency of the club my second year. I recently graduated from law school and began work at a start-up company. I am no longer active in the LDS church, but have maintained a good relationship with family and friends who are strong members, and I hold no ill will. Looking back, I wish I had realized sooner that God leads each of us on a different path, but when we do our best as we are, God blesses the path before us.
What advice or wisdom would you share with a current LGBTQ+ BYU student
Don't look elsewhere for your value or self-worth. You are who you were meant to be, and that is beautiful. What is right and good and true can only be discovered between yourself and the Lord; everything else is ancillary. Know that you have value and that you are deserving - of love, of life, of happiness, of it all. And if you don't believe that now, turn to your queer family who will be shouting it from the rooftops until you can believe it yourself. Stay strong and hold your head high, because you are powerful and beautiful beyond what you now know.
Are there any other thoughts or experiences you would like to share?
While I am no longer active in the LDS church, the religious teachings and spiritual experiences I had for the first 23 years of my life have stuck with me. People not infrequently ask me about balancing my spiritual beliefs and my sexual orientation. I always point them to two Bible verses: Matthew 11:28 and Mark 10:14. The first says "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." At times we all labor and are heavy laden, and the rest promised is for all, without qualification. The second verse says "...Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." While this verse may specifically have been in the context of young children, the principle I think applies to all of God's children. "Of such", or of us, is the kingdom of God, with all our diversities that cover the spectrums of race, gender and gender identities, sexual orientations, etc.
Posted June 2018