Spencer R

BFA Photography ('14)

Describe your BYU experience

My BYU experience was one of ambivalence. It was my goal to gain a good education at the university where my parents met. I already knew I was gay and that I would have to hide it at school. I planned to finish my freshman year and go on a mission. As I advanced in the school year I met a few other gay students. We were all scared of being caught by the Honor Code office for being openly gay with each other or for going out to clubs. It was a little scary, but mostly we were just happy to have a group of friends. I went on my mission in 2008 and left a lot of those friends at school during the time that Prop 8 came out in California and as gay students at BYU began to be called into the Honor Code office. There was a general sense of unease and vulnerability. I wasn't there to feel that unease. I wasn't there when many of my friends were put on probation or called in for disciplinary councils. Returning from my mission, I went to BYU knowing that I was still a happily gay man and that I had found my own love and understanding from God. I went back to BYU open with my sexuality, open with my spirituality, open with my mind, and I shared those feelings with friends and classmates. I feel like I was able to enjoy my experience at BYU. I got the education I desired and an internship in NYC. I met many people who are open minded and who have love in their lives for everyone.

Describe your post-BYU experience

Since leaving school, I have stopped attending the LDS Church. The November Policy that was passed in '16, detailing the rejection of children of LGBT couples for baptism until the child can denounce their gay parents, was the event that changed my thoughts on the church. After my mission I had the goal to at least raise my children in the church. Even if I was in a gay relationship, I wanted my kids to learn the principles of the Gospel and that they are children of God. With the passing of the November Policy, those goals were scattered to the wind and I was spiritually devastated. I felt like a fool for hoping that I could somehow reconcile my sexuality and the church I had grown up in. I was infuriated because of the unnecessary pressure on kids to denounce their gay parents. The day the policy was announced, I was shocked beyond words. My roommate, another BYU grad, came home and I told her the news and after a moment I began to sob and cry. I realized the church was not putting forward it's best options for gay people and they didn't have plans to do so anytime soon. 

Since then I have made a point to focus on myself and my own spirituality and being. I'm much happier. I have a wonderful boyfriend who makes me happy and who always wants to understand more about where I come from and who I am. I focus on making myself a better person.

What advice would you give a current LGBTQ+ BYU student?

As Shakespeare wrote, "To thine own self be true" and love yourself for who you are. Work on real character flaws, not unchangeable parts of your being. Recognize your strengths and your weaknesses and embrace both but always be willing to change to be better. 

Posted May 2018