Portrait by Spencer Ruiz

Portrait by Spencer Ruiz


BA English ('89)

Describe your BYU experience

I went to BYU after serving a mission to Hong Kong. I wanted to stay close to other returned missionaries and I enjoyed teaching at the MTC. My biggest surprise was how much I loved pursuing an English B.A., especially working on my poems with Leslie Norris and Darrell Spencer, both of whom offered necessary support to me as a queer writer. The day I graduated from BYU was the day I came out, no longer concerned with BYU Standards hauling me in, asking me to name names, or start proceedings to freeze my academic transcripts and expelling me.

Describe your post-BYU experiences

Since committing to lifelong celibacy as a Gay Mormon seemed a non-option, I began a long journey on how to create a new spiritual structure for my life, one that would include a community that could affirm and embrace my many identities, queer and all else, encouraging me to live with dignity and courage. My earliest books of poems documented much of this transition in the first decade after 1989.

What advice would you give current students

Ask yourself, "Is our purpose in life to live and love fully?" If so, does the God you worship support you in this most basic of necessities? Orthodoxy can offer such limited forms when it comes to legitimate needs. To revise or invent a Plan of Salvation (in the truest sense of saving your own life from a life of sad infamy) requires such a heroic workout of your own imagination in deep conversation with your Highest Self. I found such a resolution slow going but ultimately soul-making.

Any other experiences you'd like to share?

At the Y, I felt suicidal. I'm so glad I said "No" to aversion therapy and said "Yes" to a non-LDS therapist of Native American origins who had the capacity to listen without judgement or any misguided agenda. I pray that all Mormons who suffer because they don’t fit some morally narrow cookie cutter can find the support they need to survive and thrive as human beings capable of love in the here and now.

Posted April 2018