Gay-supportive group meeting at BYU

A group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally students and friends meeting at Brigham Young University has become so large that they are looking for a larger space to gather. Currently, the Understanding Same Gender Attraction group is meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursdays at the Talmage Math Sciences/Computer Building, Rm. 111, but they have outgrown the space.

A January meeting had 72 attendees and group leaders believe that number will only grow.

The group, formed in July 2010, is not officially part of BYU, though sociology instructors use the group as extra credit in their classes. Its stated purpose is, “USGA is an unofficial group of Brigham Young University students, faculty and friends who wish to strengthen families and the BYU community by providing a place for open, respectful discussions on the topic of same-gender attraction. USGA is not an appropriate forum for angry, vulgar, or profane remarks of any kind, nor for expressions of antagonism against any person or organization. In order to foster an environment of respect and understanding, we ask all participants to be respectful of BYU, the Church, and the beliefs and experiences of others.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, BYU security would travel to Salt Lake City gay bars and record license plate numbers of suspected students and bring them up on honor code violations or subject them to electroshock aversion therapy experiments.

But recent changes to the honor code may have paved the way for a gay-affirmative group to meet on campus. The changes to code now target only gay behavior rather than feelings.

Currect code reads: “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 … One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue.”

Some students wonder aloud what behavior would trigger a violation.

“I am wondering where the lines really are drawn. It’s still so fuzzy,” wrote the author of Dumbledore’s Dilemma (who asked for anonymity) in a blog posting. “The honor code follows the church’s law of chastity. This, in so many words, states that you can’t have sex outside of the bonds of marriage. So where do I fit in? Can I hold hands? Can I kiss? Can I date? What can I do?”

This, the blogger says, makes him feel uncomfortable to speak freely in the group, especially while non-gay students are recording their answers for class.

Recent group activities, however, encourage discussions like this. January meetings included a spirituality panel, a discussion on bisexuality and a “1 Girl, 5 Gays” Question Night activity, similar to the LOGO-TV show by the same name. The group also recorded footage for a forthcoming “It Gets Better Project” video.

February meetings will discuss such topics as, “What got me through the hard times,” asexuality and a night to Skype with parents.

Organizer Bridey Jensen told Affirmation.org that the group helps educate the campus community about gay-related issues and provides a safe space where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students can overcome the sense of despair and isolation they often experience.

“We have all sorts of different people,” Jensen said. “We even have people that really don’t have anything to do with being gay, but feel that we are different and accepting. And we have all different levels of people being out all over the spectrum of LGBTQ, and a lot of straight allies too — more than we really expected at first.”

“You’re not alone,” Jensen said. “We are here. I’ve been there, I’ve been alone, and I don’t want anyone else to go through that.”

More information on the group can be found at tinyurl.com/usga-byu

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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