Gay BYU students say, ‘It gets better’

Updated

I am not a Mormon, so when I saw the video above, I needed to do some research. On the official Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) website, lds.org, inside its Youth section, there is a subsection entitled “Sexual Purity.” Before I’d read past the title, I thought of Nation blogger and Feministing founder Jessica Valenti’s book “The Purity Myth.” Both Valenti’s book and the new documentary based off it explore the abstinence movement, and the manner in which it and other societal and poltiical mechanisms tie a woman’s self-worth to her sexuality.

There’s quite a bit in that thinking in this LDS “Sexual Purity” section, but if I may play devil’s advocate (ahem), at least there’s room to work with – be chaste, get married, and then go forth with God. But what if you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, and can’t get married in the Mormon church? What does “Sexual Purity” say to young, gay Mormons? This:

Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.

That’s why the “It Gets Better” video above – the latest in the series originated by Seattle columnist Dan Savage – is so newsworthy. Released recently by 22 Brigham Young University students, the video – which is now going viral – offers a look at what it’s like actually being young, gay and Mormon, most notably the incredible struggles required to reconcile one’s sexuality with one’s faith:

In the video, several BYU students confess that they considered suicide because they didn’t think they could be Mormon and gay.

“In our religion, there is a lot of misunderstanding and ugliness about homosexuality,” said Kendall Wilcox, a former BYU faculty member who produced the video and serves as an adviser to the school’s unofficial gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender support group. “We wanted to send this message that God loves you just as you are.”

Keep in mind: at BYU, a Mormon university, openly stating one’s sexual orientation was grounds for expulsion under the University’s strict honor code as recently as 2007. Three years later, in 2010, BYU lifted its ban on the “advocacy of homosexuality.” But don’t get it twisted: not only is the video not without its Mormon critics outside the university, it’s a brave act because while BYU is still extremely conservative by modern standards.

Gay students are allowed to be gay at BYU, but not to behave as such. The updated honor code states: “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.” It needs to get even better, plainly.

On a related note, Melissa – who has LDS heritage of her own – had a discussion on yesterday’s “MHP” about how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney struggles to connect with voters – and what role his reluctance to discuss his Mormon faith might be playing. (You view the video here and embedded at right.)

Other things on our radar this Monday morning:

Gay BYU students say, 'It gets better'

Updated