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LGBTQ at BYU: Dallin Chen

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BS Marketing (’17)

Describe your BYU experience

My BYU experience was up and down. I had always wanted to go to BYU ever since I joined the Church when I was 15. My mission president also encouraged me to attend one of the BYUs, so I did. I started BYU – Idaho and got my Associate’s degree before attending BYU – Provo. While at BYU – Idaho, I didn’t connect with any other LGBTQ+ students because I was afraid of getting kicked out. After obtaining my Associate’s, I moved to Riverside, Calif., for a job, and that’s when I started dating people and trying to come to terms with my identity as a gay man. A year later, I went back to school at BYU – Provo.

I was good at pretending to be straight, so I did that when I first arrived at BYU. My roommates had no idea that I was gay, especially when I talked about girls from our FHE group. At the same time, I was dying to meet with other LGBTQ+ students. I had always known about USGA, so I went to one of their meetings. People were really friendly, and I felt I finally found my kind of people. However, USGA also felt very disconnected from my “other” BYU experiences. It almost felt like my daily life — classes, interactions with roommates, friends, and school — were represented by one Dallin, while every Thursday night hanging out with USGA people was another version of me. Both Dallins were only partially real. The fact that I wasn’t out to everybody was one reason why it was so hard to be at BYU. I had to compartmentalize my life.

I would often hear friends and coworkers at BYU talk about gay people, not knowing that I was actually gay. It was hard not to take what they said personally. I thought, “these are some of my favorite people in life, and that’s what they would think of me if I came out to them?!” So I didn’t tell anybody! I came out to my first BYU (non-USGA) student one night. I was so sad that I just had to talk to someone. This guy was not really active in the church, and I have always found less-active Mormons easiest to come out to. He was very understanding, very supportive, and invited me to hang out the next day. His childhood friends were actually very strong members of the church but were very supportive and understanding, too. My experience at BYU took a turning point at that time.

These are people whom I call family today. We talked about girls for them and guys for me. When I didn’t have a car, they would let me use their car to go on dates. They invited me over for Christmas, and their parents were just as accepting and loving. My two Dallin experiences finally became one, and I was very much myself in front of them. They also gave me the courage to come out to more people. When the movie “Love, Simon” came out, we all went and saw it together. They were the ones who cried in the theater, not me.

My dating life was very limited at BYU. It was already difficult enough to date as a gay man at BYU, but me being brown added another layer of difficulty. In the gay community, it seems like only the white guys deserve a great love story, and BYU is no different. One of my gay friends put it this way: “To me, there are three main groups in Utah. The gays, the Mormons, and the ex-Mormons. All of them claim to be loving and all-accepting. But the Mormons hate ex-Mormons and gays; the ex-Mormons hate the Mormons, and the gays hate Mormons and men of color.” However, I did have a chance to date around, but most of the men I dated were still very religious and filled with guilt. If we were a straight couple, then every step we took would have been blessed by many different people. That lack of support is the biggest challenge for homosexual dating at BYU.

Describe your experiences post-BYU

I just graduated from BYU. It feels like I can finally breathe. I no longer have to hide things. My relationship with the LDS church is complicated. I don’t seem to believe in it as “the only true church” anymore since what they have been teaching about the LGBTQ+ community and me is drastically wrong.

I think the greatest thing to know is that, outside of the Mormon bubble, there are a lot of people who support us. It is weirder to be Mormon than it is to be gay, and it’s very important for me to realize what the church teaches about me does not define me.

Advice to current students

Consider different schools. BYU is a great place to get an education, but one should experience so much more than just getting a good education, and dating is part of it. That said, BYU is still a fantastic place, and many people love you for who you are. Not being able to date openly is sad, but there are other benefits.

Be strong and be brave. You are perfect the way you are!

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