By Adam White (speech given at rally for anti-discrimination law at State Capitol Mar. 12, 2013)
Before the beginning of Fall Semester 2012 at BYU, I was looking for a place to live. My roommate Nathan, who is here today, was living in an apartment where several of his roommates were moving out. He suggested that I and one of my other friends move in with him. Nathan is openly bisexual, I’m openly gay, and my other friend is also openly gay. I couldn’t imagine this causing any issues at these apartments; being openly gay is not something disciplined in the Honor Code at BYU, and it shouldn’t have been a problem.However, problems ensued when one of Nathan’s current roommates joked with one of his friends that he thought Nathan and I and the people we associated with might be gay. Perhaps the joke wouldn’t have mattered, but they were talking loudly in the apartment offices. The manager overheard and promptly called in Nathan to her office. Without giving him a reason, she told him that the contract he had already signed for the upcoming Fall semester ‘was just not going to work out.’ When Nathan asked why, she evaded giving an answer, but his persistence eventually paid off: the manager told Nathan what she overheard and insinuated that this would be a problem. Nathan, my friend, and I had already signed contracts with the apartment complex and there wasn’t even a month before school started. Nathan refused to leave the contract, because we simply didn’t have time to find another apartment. Although Nathan, my friend and I had originally been given an apartment together, when we checked on our room assignments, we had been separated into different apartments. The manager said that that just couldn’t be fixed.
You can imagine how helpless my friends and I felt during this fiasco. Who could we tell? When it comes to housing disputes and conflict resolution, the BYU administration almost always takes the side of the apartment complex. And while my friends and I can be openly gay at BYU, we are constantly suspected to be rule-breakers, sex addicts, or apostates. That may sound harsh, but why else would that manager see fit to separate an openly gay apartment? You see, while I can openly state my sexual orientation in Provo, people who control where I live, what and how I learn, and where I work can dismiss me by mere hearsay. Who can stand up for me? My friends and I have had more than a couple of fiascoes with Conflict Resolution at BYU to know that BYU won’t help us. We try to help ourselves; another friend of mine who is also openly gay found an apartment for Nathan, my friend and I. But it’s so unfortunate that we had to make that journey.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we read, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind.” As sons and daughters of God, these gifts are ours to have. With my Heavenly Parents’ love I can be empowered, know my intrinsic worth and access my potential as a son of God with calm assurance. But how easy it is for a brother or sister in Christ to instill the spirit of fear in a sibling. Fear stunts us. It cages us. It tells our gay sisters and brothers in the Church that they are not good enough, that they are living a life ‘lesser than’ and because of this they can be cast out for nothing more than being the divine, beautiful beings our Heavenly Parents made.
In one of my favorite talks, Elder Uchtdorf counseled us that, “creating and being compassionate are two attributes that contribute to our Heavenly Father’s perfect happiness. Creating and being compassionate are two activities that we as His spirit children can and should emulate.” It is interesting to me that he connects these two actions. Love and creation, imagination and vulnerability, relationships and potentiality. Our Heavenly Parents create because they love, and they love to create. What a blessed eternal cycle that has given us form and given us this mortal experience. With these gifts so freely given, is it our place to discriminate? Is it our place to deny our brothers and sisters the access to the means and conditions required to love and to create? Especially to those who, maybe, experience life, maybe, from the outside looking in? What my gay sisters and brothers have to offer, what I have to offer, is a divine heritage of creating good things and a growing capacity to love. There is resilience, there is a powerful and abiding faith in truth seeking, there is testimony, and there is love. This growth, this mortal experience, this heritage of creation and loving is what we treasure as Latter-day Saints. I am embarrassed when my state’s laws still do not protect my LGBTQ sisters and brothers. It’s embarrassing to know that the opportunities I treasure are not guaranteed to my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in my own community. In fact, it makes me afraid.
1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” May we love all our brothers and sisters. May we protect them from fear, may we offer them the security of inclusion. I testify that we can only say, ‘I love you’ truthfully when we protect and include one another, and Zion will then be closer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Adam White is a junior in Theatre Arts Studies at Brigham Young University. He serves as President for USGA, an unofficial group of BYU students who seek for open, respectful discussion regarding Mormonism and LGBTQ experience. He also serves as member of the Trevor Projects Youth Advisory Council and a co-chair for Campus Pride in Faith.