Despite a call for a boycott of a Brigham Young University panel featuring openly-gay BYU students, the room was packed so full, attendees were waiting in the hall with an ear to the door to hear what was being said.
Sociology professor Charlie Morgan organized the forum, titled “Everything you wanted to know about being gay at BYU but were too afraid to ask.” The panel discussion was held with several sociology and psychology courses was not an approved public event.
Standard of Liberty, an organization run by Stephen Graham, claims that sexual orientation is a choice that one can and should change from. He claims that his son successfully eschewed being gay and is now a heterosexually-married man. There is no indication that Standard of Liberty is anything more than a web site run by Graham.
Blogger Chris Smith wrote that no boycott was in evidence and that even Graham showed up for the event. On his blog, Smith said seats were filled a half hour before the event started.
Shirley Grover of the school newspaper, The Student Review, live blogged during the event, which was supposed to be open only to BYU sociology and psychology students. She estimated 400–500 people in attendance.
Renata Forste, chair of the BYU Sociology Department, opened the discussion, saying, “We have all commited and signed the honor code. Unfortunately, people start to form groups and create boundaries that provided prejudice.”
She said the intent of the forum was to “build bridges of understanding between the majority groups.”
The first member of the panel was second-year law student Brandon Bastian, a gay man who is married to a woman and has a daughter. Saying he knew he had gay inclinations from the age of eight, he still decided to marry a woman, but he says that does not mean he’s “cured.” He said he told his wife before they were married that he is gay and left it up to her on whether she would marry him.
“We had connected on every other level except physical,” Bastian said. “We had a great foundation before we got married and that has been pivital in making our marriage work.”
“While I live my life in accordance with the gospel, I am still attracted to men,” he said. “I can tell when a girl is cute; but my wife and I both think Ryan Reynolds is really hot.”
Asked if he would change his sexual orientation if he could, he said no.
“I personally have learned so much from this, I wouldn’t give it up,” he said.
Bridey Jensen was the second panelist. She lived her childhood waiting to wake up one day to discover she liked boys. That never happened. In high school, she found that she was attracted to other girls.
“I hated myself and I felt like I had done something wrong. It was very scary for me,” she said.
She became depressed and considered suicide. She found a group of fellow gay students at BYU.
“I am slowly realizing that it gets better and that God loves me,” Jensen said.
The third panelist, Adam White, is another gay student who was raised Mormon. When he told his bishop, he was sent to a sexual addiction group where he met other gay men.
“When I finally came out, all the mental health issues washed away over night,” Adam said.
Nathan, a bisexual student, was the fourth panelist. While on a mission, he heard fellow missionaries tell others that attraction to members of the same sex would make you unworthy to hold the priesthood. He went to his mission president, told him he was bisexual, and was told that they were working with a “certain elder” through his homophobia. While he talks more freely about his sexual orientation, he still feels stigmatized.
Asked about their future plans, Bridey and Adam said they will likely have same-sex partners, yet they are uncertain where they would then fit in the church.
“When I think about the future, I imagine a woman. And I don’t know how I’m going to reconcile that with the Church,” Bridey said. “And I’m at peace with that.”
“I can’t bring myself to date women,” Adam said. “I see myself with a man in a very fulfilling spiritual relationship, active as I can be in the church. … I would still go to church, my children will still go to church, as well as my husband.”