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An “I’m A Mormon” Campaign You’re Not Likely To See On Television

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2012

It’s an “It Gets Better” video, featuring several Brigham Young University students who proclaim “I’m a Mormon” and “I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual.” But as you can see, it was only after a great deal of struggle and shame before they could come to that place of being able to accept themselves.

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If you’re a BYU student, you can find out more about the campus gay-straight alliance here.

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Shofixti
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

It takes eight weird minutes before getting to the “it gets better part”

Jay Jonson
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

This is a very disturbing video–disturbing because these kids have obviously been subjected to spiritual terrorism. It is also disturbing that the Mormon Church seems to have been able to highjack the It Gets Better movement. The point of the It Gets Better movement was to reassure young people that once you leave the oppressive atmosphere of your family or school where you are bullied, things will get better. This video in effect counsels people to remain in an oppressive atmosphere and assures us that Mormons are not really hateful. It is disgraceful that this is allowed on the It Gets Better channel. I suspect it will contribute to more suicides than it will prevent. See the blog on this at glbtq.com.

palerobber
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

first, the video wasn’t produced by the LDS church, it was produced by a recently out former professor named Kendall Wilcox.

it’s unbelievable that people would criticize this video for “doing it wrong”. i’m an atheist myself, but guess what? most people aren’t. and if you tell them they can’t keep their faith and also be a self-accepting gay, then you’re the one making things harder on them.

what Wilcox and these students are very smartly and honorably doing is publicly claiming the ground the LDS church ceded a few years back when they reworded BYU’s honor code. by coming out but staying in the faith (almost unheard of in the past), they will force a huge change in the attitudes of their straight fellow students, and by extension in the church as a whole.

this is a potentially game changing movement within the ranks of one of the most effective anti-marriage groups in the US, and all people can say about it is “weird” and “disturbing”? really?

Reed
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

“Understanding Same Gender Attraction?” Hooo-boy! Except, it would seem, the only “understanding” is: “don’t do that nasty thing or be who you are” (screw “authenticity”), but we will “love” you (poor lesser things) despite your failure to breed.

Utter mind-bogglery at work (and I cleaned up this entry).

Point to note: this specious item appears on the “BYU It Gets Better” channel – not the original and authentic IGB.

Timothy Kincaid
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

The point of It Gets Better is not to send a message that gay youth should conform to a pre-determined Right And Proper Way To Be Gay. Rather, the point is to say, “Hey kid, I know it feels hopeless. I felt that feeling. But know this, you won’t feel that way forever. It gets better.”

And being openly gay at BYU without being subjected to abuse, believing that Heavenly Father still loves you, and finding a community of people like you IS BETTER. It isn’t proselytizing, it isn’t an ad for Mormonism, it isn’t preaching. It’s telling kids who are going through what they went through to keep going.

You may want to sneer or dismiss this message. These pathetic Mormons are no where near as fabulous as Fabulous You!! They should listen to your fabulous It Gets Better message (once your fabulous schedule lets you make a fabulous video) and learn to be fabulously anti-Mormon. Once they see Fabulous You they will want to change immediately and emulate you.

But let me let you in on a little secret. They’ve seen you. They do NOT want to be you.

They already know that they can leave for the coast and give up their faith and their family and their friends and everything they know and love and become just like you. They would rather die.

What they want is to be good Mormon kids who believe what they’ve been taught and who live the communities they were raised in and who go to the church where they know all the people and are valued.

They want all this AND to have attractions that are natural and authentic. The message they’ve received is that they can’t – they have to change. Ya know, just like the message you want to send them.

This message is devastating and destructive.

But the BYU It Gets Better message tells them, “Yes you can. You can be gay AND be Mormon. It is possible. It isn’t horrible. My life is okay and yours can be too.”

Personally, I would never want to be like the kids in this video. It would be a step backwards for me. But maybe some day they too will reconsider their faith, or maybe some day they will be instrumental in changing their community. But for today, the message is “keep going.”

That’s the message of hope they need.

And any insistence that the message only cater to the views of anti-Mormon gays is every bit as selfish and destructive as those coming from anti-gay Mormons.

Jaime
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

Thank you TK for your perfect response. It was fabulous!

Palmer
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

Mr. Kincaid, it would be rather nice if, when you accuse others of sneering, that you not sneer as well. “Fabulous You”? What is that phrase meant to convey if not a smug, self-superior attitude on your behalf? And, may I ask you, is there not a SINGLE religious pretension you are not willing to be an apologist for? I’ve met so many damaged kids coming out of BYU and the Mormon Church that I lost count years ago. Are you aware that the campus police of BYU have state-wide powers and can arrest ordinary citizens? They function as an almost Gestapo, meant to be a secret police, cruising gay bars, checking license, hitting any place, public or private, looking for BYU students. And if you cruise them they’ll do their damnedest to find a pretext to arrest you, student or not. I guarantee you this video was cleared by the hierarchy of the church and that nothing got through that was not approved by them. You may assume that the message is that one can be gay and a good Mormon, but it sure as hell is not the real message the Council wants delivered. The helplessness that so many of us FABULOUS people see is actually, really there! And THAT is a major, almost subliminal, part of the message the Church wants gays (of ALL ages) to get.

StraightGrandmother
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

Palmer, what do you have against paragraph breaks?

Palmer
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

Didn’t realize there was more than one paragraph to what I wrote, sorry if it bothered you.

cowboy
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

I want to thank Mr. Kincaid for a well reasoned comment.

I’ve been advised to leave the “Zion Curtain” (an euphemism for most of Utah) but there are costs not associated with moving expenses that have to be factored in. Plus, I’m not the type of person who feels I have to move from where I want to live because there is some gay utopia out there somewhere. Granted, I’m tempted to move to Santa Barbara (or somewhere along the coast of Central California) but it would mean leaving family and friends.

I’m ambivalent about some aspects of these videos. If you can’t associate with gays (as per instructions from LDS Church Elder Dallin Oaks at BYU Rexburg, Idaho), you can’t show any approval of the “gay lifestyle”, and you must stay celibate and certainly never ever dare hold hands while on campus…then why come ‘out’? Is it just to show there are others like you? You are not going to be or behave any differently than if you stayed in the closet.

I hardly doubt there will ever be a sanctioned gay party or dance or fireside on campus.

That being said, BYU has certainly changed. Not long ago BYU authorities would have had those LGBT persons in a grueling Church Court and their future at the university in serious doubt.

Ben
April 9th, 2012 | LINK

The video is part of a PR propaganda campaign that LDS is using to influence the upcoming presidential election and get Romney in office. One of their primary goals is to ensure glbt couples are stripped of the most basic rights and even forcibly divorced. I can’t believe gay people want to participate in that ‘re-branding’ in order to achieve the LDS’s real goals (yes, the ones they are spending MILLION$ on).

Andrew
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

I thought this video was amazing. Just because some of us do not understand the traditions of faith, especially those in conservative dogmas does not invalidate them, or lessen their importance to LGBT people. No one should have to choose between their integrity and their faith community (especially in tightly knit communities like LDS). I see this as a powerful step in the right direction – that the younger group of Mormons are – not all of them – realizing that maybe there’s more than a simplistic response (that God hates gays). It was so powerful to hear people in the video who found self-acceptance through their vectors of faith, and by coming to the conclusion that just because there’s a difference between how you’ve been taught God thinks and the realities you know to be true for yourself doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just requires that cognitive leap to realize that maybe God made you – and likes you just fine – exactly as you are.

Jay Jonson
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

I had no idea that Timothy Kincaid was quite as contemptuous as gay people as he exhibits he is. The point is not about being fabulous, it is about not allowing oneself to be placed in positions where one is bullied to the point of suicide. The kid who talks about being in a psychiatric hospital is in grave danger. He needs help, and not the kind of help he will get at BYU. The It Gets Better project was not designed to say stay where you are, it was designed to reassure youth that when they are adults, they will discover environments where they can be themselves. Believe me, that environment is not the LDS church.

Priya Lynn
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

I think you’re right Jay. One can of course be a mormon and a self accepting LGBT but that person will have to do so while being rejected by the vast majority of the Mormon community. I think in the long run such LGBT people will reflect on the acceptance of non-mormons and the rejection of mormons and gradually and eventually completely reject their mormonism.

Reed
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

Ben:

You take my point. And you’re one step ahead of me.

Timothy Kincaid
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

Yes, yes I know, you want to fight the evil Mormons. Yes, yes I know its all a plot or a scheme or the secret hidden plan of the prophet.

But going back to the issue that I care about, what would be the message that Fabulous You would give to the gay Mormon youth who loves his church and believes its teachings?

I’m asking a question here. What is the message you think that a 15 year old Mormon lesbian who loves her family and her church and believes its teachings should hear?

Timothy Kincaid
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

Unless, of course, you have priorities other than the kids.

Priya Lynn
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

“I’m asking a question here. What is the message you think that a 15 year old Mormon lesbian who loves her family and her church and believes its teachings should hear?”

There is no evidence that any of this is true and very good reason to believe it isn’t. Don’t waste your life being a slave to myths, this is the only life you’ll ever have, don’t waste it mistakenly hoping there will be life after death, make the most of it and live your life for you.

Timothy Kincaid
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

This kid is in conflict between their faith and their sexuality. They want to have both but think they can’t. Your answer is to agree with their church that, indeed, they can’t have both.

I confronted Laurie Higgins a few years back about how her message encouraged suicide. She didn’t want kids to die, but her message was more important to her. She couldn’t put the kids first.

We cannot criticize Laurie Higgins for contributing to the culture of conflict that results in the death of children if we do the same.

Ask yourself, what is your priority? Is it more important that you encourage a kid to keep going, or is it more important that you condemn their church?

I’ve made my point. I’ll back out of the conversation and let you all respond however you like. The odds of any of those angry at me finding what I said to be influential is pretty much zero, but nevertheless I hope you consider it. It’s too important to let other agenda get in the way.

Priya Lynn
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

No Timothy, I don’t agree that she can’t have both, I think its abundantly clear that she can. I wouldn’t encourage that, but nor would I deny that it can be done as the vast majority of LGBTs have done so.

As to whether its more important to me to encourage a kid to keep going or to condemn their church, this isn’t an either/or situation, one can do both.

In thinking about how I normally behave in the real world if I were to encounter your postualted 15 year old Mormon lesbian and she was self-accepting I’d be unlikely to challenge her religious beliefs. The only time I’ve challenged anyone’s religous beliefs away from the internet is when a person has claimed their religion justifies condemning LGBTs. In my real life I generally avoid the topic of religion.

MattNYC
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

OMG, I finally watched this. That first guy had me wanting to look for a gun and I am happily out.

I agree with those who find this self-serving–this is more about them and the church (and pink-washing their anti-equality real agenda) than about the poor kids out there looking for voices of hope.

Nice production values–wanna bet that the BYU Media office produced this?

StraightGrandmother
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

I don’t know what to think but one part of the video I remember, is that BYU has 1,800 sexual minority students. I wonder where they got that figure from? That is an awful lot of young people, and don’t forget each one of them has a sphere of influence with their family and friends and at least some of them have to be on the kids side.

These are times of upheaval we are living in. I’m more inclined to wait it out and see what happens. Each one of those young people control their own destiny. The have what previous generations didn’t have, the internet and information, literally at their fingertips.

palerobber
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

Palmer, Ben, MattNYC:

as i’ve posted already, the video was produced by a private indivdual named Kendall Wilcox. maybe you should learn a little bit about him before you baselessly accuse him of being a PR shill for the church.

palerobber
April 10th, 2012 | LINK

much as it appears to gall most people on this board, these kids’ religious identity is as important to them, as much a part of “being themselves”, as their sexual identity.

thank you, cowboy, for pointing out that not too many years ago these kids could have faced expulsion and/or excommunication merely for appearing in a video like this. thank you, Palmer, for reminding us that not too many years ago the BYU campus police actively tried to entrap gay students. the fact that these things are no longer the case is cause for hope.

it’s true that the church has only opened the door a crack. gay students still can’t date the people of their choosing while enrolled (as for being celibate, that’s required of straight students too). but they did open the door, and these students are sticking their foot in. good for them.

cowboy
April 11th, 2012 | LINK

I’m impressed with the talent Kendall Wilcox has displayed when he produced this video. There are some very talented people at BYU. Some are very attuned to being media-savvy and know how important the message is presented with using the best technology and artistic talent.

I don’t think most people comprehend the all encompassing aspects it means to be a part of the Mormon community. Like someone else said, it’s tight.

Being a Mormon means almost every aspect of your life is someway connected to your religion’s dogma. It’s not a Church on just Sundays or on just major holidays. Worshiping each Sunday is mandatory but also there are family commitments on Mondays and a myriad of activities during the week (Temple ordinance work, for one). Then, once a month, you get a visit from two of your local parish members (neighbors) as a courtesy ‘checkup’ to see how you are doing.

When it comes to an emergency there is nothing better than the phone-tree system the local Mormons have in place. Really. Nothing. Can. Compare. I could give numerous first-hand examples of where a group can get activated and organized when a major crisis happens. It hardly got mentioned on the news but when we had a brush fire threaten a whole community in the south-west valley they had all their gear ready to evacuate and set up a emergency center the Red Cross would envy. Everyone did their assigned duties and since they have been told about preparedness since age 1 they had their most valuable items removed from the homes.

There is a sense of community but it comes with a whole lot of peer pressure too. Maybe that’s good or maybe not.

I think I know what Priya Lynn means when she says: “make the most of [your life] and live it for you.” I agree. I waited too long to grasp that concept. I think Mormons need to be more hedonistic and place a little more emphasis on self. Self needs should have a higher priority than community needs in some cases.

But the answers to Timothy’s question is not an easy one. There is no single answer when we are dealing with diversity of people and circumstances. The 15-year-old lesbian Mormon would need an answer far different than a 21-year-old college student struggling with coming to terms with reality and maybe emerging from a cloud of denial. The answer has to be suited to the individual and his/her circumstances.

I must say, palerobber, my jaw dropped when I saw this video talked about in the news. These ‘kids’ are really much more mature than what I first thought. I give them kudos for having the guts to do what they did. This change might have had the genesis back in 2008 when it was the Mormons on the firing line with Prop. 8. It took about four years but these kids finally saw their chance and just possibly made a monumental change in LDS history.

If we can see this kind of shift at BYU could California be far behind or for that matter is the general public shifting their attitudes too? (rhetorical question)

palerobber
April 11th, 2012 | LINK

my last comment, i promise.

i just saw where one of the students in the video, Bridey Jensen, was quoted in a CNN story on the subject saying, “It is very different to be gay and Mormon because it feels like neither community accepts you completely.”

bingo.

but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Luna
December 30th, 2012 | LINK

I’m a 15-year-old bisexual Mormon.
I can tell you personally that your sexuality has nothing to do with what religion you are. Mormons don’t hate LGBTQ people, they just don’t approve of their lifestyle. The rare LGBTQ Mormon is subject to extreme amounts of hate, both from the Mormon and homophobic community for being different, and from society in general for our religious beliefs. Unless you have been through this yourself, you have no idea how hard it is.
I have no plan at all to reject my Mormonism. I hold my religious beliefs in very high regard, I just have to be a little different than most Mormons.
If you’re not Mormon, you can’t pretend to understand Mormonism. If you’re not LGBTQ, you can’t pretend to understand the prejudice we go through, and the self-hate that comes along with it. Keep an open mind, PLEASE.
Just be yourself, and if people don’t accept it, it’s their problem.

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