BS Exercise Science (’11)
Describe your BYU experience:
It was the last day of my mission in Brazil, and my mission president said, “Elder, there are three things you need to do when you return home. You will need to get a job. You will need to get an education. And you will need to find a wife.” The first two were easy, but that last one caused a lot of anxiety. I went on a mission with the intent to be “cured” or to “overcome” my sexuality. I knew I was gay, but I could not tell anyone about this because of the consequences. I had attended BYU before my mission, and I was so excited to go back. The friends that I had made freshman year had returned, I was ready to continue my education and be the social butterfly again.
Everyone who goes to BYU knows that the discussion of marriage is a very popular topic. As you get into the older wards, it is like the topic of discussion at least once every Sunday. When I got home from my mission, I started dating almost immediately on my journey to find “a wife.” It was fine at first because I had pretended for so long, plus between class, clubs, social events, and church callings, I became really good at suppressing my feelings. My mind began to change about the church when I had heard about Prop 8. I was living south of campus, and there was a flyer on my car. It was to announce a meeting with California residents about Proposition 8. I looked up what Proposition 8 was, and I asked people who attended the meeting what had happened. It was obvious before and after the meeting that the church was not in support of marriage equality. Keep in mind that as a black, very tall student at BYU, I had dealt with microaggressions (purposeful or not) from several students. No, I didn’t play any sports (besides intramurals), and yes, I was there for academics. This, combined with the church’s opinion on Prop 8, started making things a little harder for me. I remember feeling like I was alone and that no one would understand where I was coming from. I also had a testimony of the church, and so I continued to have this cognitive dissonance. I was in several leadership callings, including Elder’s Quorum President, and I just continued to feel the weight of my sexuality coming down on me. I still dated women, but that also presented feelings of guilt.
One day after organic chemistry class, a friend and I were walking home from class. He was dating someone at the time, so I asked him about his girlfriend. That was what guys asked me all the time, so I figured that was the thing to do. When we got to my house, he came out to me. A calm and peaceful feeling came over me. I thought to myself, “Finally, someone like me!” However, I didn’t want to tell him right then that I was gay too because this was his moment to shine. This was his moment to tell me his secret. I didn’t get much sleep that night because I stayed up thinking about what this meant for me. I had so many questions in my head, but a week later, I finally got the courage to tell him. In that conversation, I told him that I would remain active because I still had a testimony. I didn’t know what to do next. I realized that I didn’t have to. I had to take it a day at a time. I read “In Quiet Desperation” and other books but still didn’t know what to do. There was a very small group of us (probably around six or seven) called USGA who met in a classroom together in the Talmage Building every week. This helped me out a lot. It mainly gave me the strength to realize that if there is a God, he loves me for who I am. I had several semesters left at BYU, and so I wanted to make sure that I was following the rules and didn’t get in any trouble. I remember that I would cringe during some of the religion classes. Marriage Prep was one of the most uncomfortable classes that I had taken in a long time. I remember feeling awkward about some of the topics of discussion. The relationship between husband and wife, the role of the Priesthood in that relationship, etc. It just didn’t feel right to me.
Overall, I have no regrets about my time at BYU. I have made lifelong friends, and I found myself. I grew up to be the man that I am today because of my time at BYU. My journey was my own. Everyone’s journey is different and deserves complete validation. Though I’m not active in the church, the culture is forever within me. Memories of the football games and camping out for the basketball games (Jimmer Fredette) are unforgettable. Though I may not agree with the decisions that they (BYU and the church) make, I will always be tied to BYU, and I’m ok with that.
Describe your post-BYU experience:
I got a job as an Academic Advisor at Utah Valley University two months after I graduated. I was planning on attending medical school but decided to work to take a break from school. I later decided to get a Master’s from the University of Utah in Educational Psychology with an Emphasis in Instructional Design and Educational Technology. That has also motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. I’m currently living in Washington, DC, pursuing my Ph.D. in School Psychology from Howard University. Dating men has been super funny and interesting. I have several awkward (more comical) stories about guys that I have dated over the years. My family is very supportive of me and is excited that I’m closer to home.
Advice to a current LGBTQ+ Student:
Hang in there! It is hard being a BYU student and part of the LGBTQ+ community, but remember that there is an end in sight. Get connected with organizations that not only support you as a person but also your beliefs. Remember, you are not alone. No matter how cliché that may sound, there are people at BYU who are there to support you. Lastly, LOVE YOURSELF! You are perfect just the way you are, and YOU have to believe that.