I have something to say about the BYU “It Gets Better” video. What I have to say about the video will be, if you really know me, completely expected. Not only do I support my gay friends and family members, but I encourage them with the same message of the “It Gets Better” videos which were started by the amazingly brilliant and compassionate Dan Savage of Savage Love. The video, which can be seen here, is nearly ten minutes long with stories of BYU students who claim two things: 1) that they are devotedly Mormon and have pledged commitment to their Mormon university, and 2) that they are homosexual or bisexual. It’s a love song to their beliefs and how they’ve converged to find what is right for them. I begrudge them nothing and just hope that they are living the authentic life we’re all entitled to on this earth.
Savage’s “It Gets Better” website has a pledge about support:
THE PLEDGE: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I’ll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I’ll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that “It Gets Better.
Brigham Young University also has a sort of pledge on their college website about their Honor Code which can be seen here as well as after the jump:
Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards. Members of the university community can remain in good Honor Code standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with gospel principles and the Honor Code.
One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity. Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings. (Source)
The last time I recall BYU being in national news was when Brandon Davies, a basketball player, was suspended for the season for admitting to having pre-marital sex with his girlfriend. It was a story that made the news because his absence from the team would have been noticed had they not addressed it publicly. It doesn’t matter how his story got out there, but it did and it provided a lot of fodder for the news. Some of it, as I’ve even seen recently, asked whether he would have been so severely punished if he weren’t a black student sleeping with a white student. Naturally, this is where my eye picked up an interesting debate.
It seems as if BYU has come a long way within the short scope of a year in that they are not condemning students for their homosexual affiliation, but I just can’t help but try to reconcile that with pre-marital sex. So, it’s okay to have gay tendencies, but don’t ever act on them? You may be attracted to someone of the same sex but you may never have sex with them? This does, however, line up with their treatment of students who actually engage in the act: if you do, you will be suspended or reprimanded. It’s an interestingly safe place for morals to rest. The “not acting on it” part seems to not be in question, but I wonder how those students are dealing with that. My brain got to chugging and I tried to decide if two boys holding hands on campus would be a scandal. Certainly, this would happen with a heterosexual couple as well, though. And what about if two girls are heavily flirting with one another in the library? How might their classmates react to this? The honor code seems to set guidelines for how their fellow Mormon students should accept them. I read over them with my boyfriend (we live together, unmarried, but we don’t subscribe to Mormonism or any other religion that would condemn this) and we debated the issues between the differences in the two cases of Davies and of their new code accepting gay students with gay feelings, but not gay behavior. I wasn’t so sure that BYU’s “blessing” of their feelings was all that noble and admirable to add to their conduct code. Their website went on to say that “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity.” How long, then, must a gay Mormon just be attracted to same sex individuals? If they ever passed a law on same sex marriages in Utah would they amend it again?
At this point in our discussion after I pushed on this morally compromised issue he said to me, “It seems as if they’re walking a thin line. The long, thin, gay line.” (To be honest, he kept saying it like they do from the movie The Green Mile. Walkin’ the line, walkin’ the line, walkin’ the looooong gay line. This just indicates to me why I love his sense of humor so much.) I guess that’s what doesn’t sit well with me. Have the feelings, but forever be chaste since, you know, it’s not allowed in this state. Suffer through what we consider inappropriate and a direct violation because, of course, you have to if you want to attend here. That’s what I imagine them saying even directly to students at BYU. What I don’t imagine they’ll mention is that they’re perfectly fine taking your money to attend school there.
I am heartened, though, to see them tackle the connection between students who are gay and the suicide rate. That is disturbing on every level. And what I honestly pray (yes, I pray shut up) for them is total acceptance and all that comes with it. Not the caveats of moral implications of what this does to their eternal life. You may do this, but not that. This will get you where our ancestors are waiting, this will not. Like many religious organizations, this is always a sticking point for me.
Maybe that is what’s not sitting well with me. The ability of the university to post such judgment while they gladly take checks from their students. Am I overthinking this? What do you think?
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