Gay BYU students have created an “It Gets Better” video in order to promote conversation and understanding for those with same-sex attraction on campus.
The video was posted on March 29, and has been viewed more than 320,000 times, most of which have been since the past weekend. It has even caught the attention of national news organizations such as CNN, Time and Yahoo! News.
Kendall Wilcox, a former employee at BYUtv and member of Understanding Same-gender Attraction (USGA), volunteered to film and produce the video. Although both The Trevor Project, which focuses on preventing suicide in gay adolescents, and It Gets Better, a project whose mission is to show LGBT teens the potential for happiness in their lives, are mentioned in the video, it was made independently by BYU students who belong to USGA. The USGA chapter is not an official BYU-sanctioned club or organization.
Although the video has stirred conversation, it is not an Honor Code issue, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.
“There is not an obvious Honor Code violation,” she said. “Stating same same gender attraction is not against the Honor Code.”
The video release follows an April 4 on-campus discussion hosted by the BYU Department of Sociology. A standing room only crowd heard four panelists speak about their same-sex attraction, willingness to live by BYU’s Honor Code and testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As for the video release, Wilcox said, “The primary intent [of the video] was to just send a message of love, hope and community to LGBT Mormon youth who are at their most vulnerable, who may be questioning their self-worth and their status before God. . . We want this video to send the message that there is hope, they have a future, there is hope for love and happiness in the future.”
The video came about after multiple small discussions between members of USGA at the beginning of January. After many members agreed it was a good idea, they presented it to the whole group, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. For Derek Flora, a 24-year-old international relations major from Chino Hills, Calif., who came out last year, the USGA group on campus was the first where he felt accepted and so he said he wanted to share it with others who are struggling.
“I became very involved because I found a cause that was near and dear to my heart,” Flora said. “I finally found acceptance at BYU and it felt incredible to belong and not feel so different and awkward and alienated and judged and excluded.”
Flora said he grew up LDS, and said he’s heard many members speak harshly against gays, saying they are evil and cause problems in the world. He said after the video was released, he has been amazed by the positive responses he’s received.
“Me being honest with other people has also caused more people to respect me and other gays more and just be more kind toward other people, so I wanted to share my story and just be honest so that people can know that I’m a human being,” Flora said. “I’m not weird, I’m also not someone to be criticized because of how I feel.”
The video also features statistics which claim there are 1,800 gay students at BYU. Bridey Jensen, who acts as the unofficial head of BYU’s chapter of USGA, said in an interview with CNN that all the figures came from national averages, which conclude that 6 to 10 percent of people have homosexual feelings at some point throughout their life.
Adam White, a theater arts studies major from Ashburn, Va., said he and the rest of the group wanted to provide perspective for other gay LDS youth.
“It was a message that everyone in the group felt very passionately about and they wanted to be able to share their stories,” White said. “We’ve been able to reach a lot of people who have been waiting for a message like this or really needed to hear this at the moment they received it. It’s a message of hope and peace and encouragement.”
Although the majority of reactions have been positive, White said the few negative responses they’ve heard are from fringe anti-Mormon and anti-gay groups, saying one cannot be gay and Mormon. Others have been under the false impression that it was a publicity stunt done by the Church to spread positive feelings on LDS members.
“A lot of these criticisms have been from people who think we’re trying to pray away the gay,” White said. “In reality, it’s just us BYU students wanting to share a message, who want to create a space where we can talk about being gay and Mormon in more positive ways.”