A panel of BYU LGBTQ students answered questions regarding sexual identity, mental health issues and resources during the LGBTQ Mental Health Forum at the Varsity Theater on April 7.
BYU students Addison Jenkins, Aubree Lyman, Liza Holdaway and JD Goates spoke on the panel and shared their personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ community.
BYU counseling center director Steven Smith welcomed the audience to the forum and expressed his gratitude to be able to work with LGBTQ people on campus.
“We are grateful that we are having this discussion on campus, as I think that it is extraordinarily important to do so,” Smith said.
BYU psychology student and Understanding Same Gender Attraction Vice President JD Goates said he was scared the auditorium would be empty because there were no visible changes showing support for LGBTQ students, and he thought no one cared. He said he was surprised to see so many people show up.
“When I came, we were handing out fliers to make sure that people came to this, and one person said it was too political, and our reaction was ‘It’s about mental health and about peoples’ well being,’ and that really saddened me,” Goates said.
Goates said students on the BYU campus can help LGBTQ students feel welcomed by speaking up and watching what they say around others. Goates said it is important to show unconditional love.
“Love is not conditional. Whenever you tell someone ‘I love you,’ do not include the statement ‘But I don’t agree with you,'” Goates said. “That will never show love to them — doesn’t matter if it’s true. Don’t say it, because they probably already know.”
Goates said his personal experience with being loved unconditionally, no matter his sexual orientation, showed others cared about him. He said he would like to see physical resources on campus and would like to see Understanding Same Gender Attraction back on campus. The club is currently meeting at the Provo Library.
“There needs to be a physical resource that any LGBTQ student can access, whether that is USGA or something else on campus,” Goates said.
Goates said USGA was the reason why he went on a mission.
“It was a place where I had the ability to feel comfortable figuring out a different aspect of my life where I didn’t have to constantly worry about my sexuality and being different from other people,” Goates said.
BYU theater student Aubree Lyman said she struggled with mental health as a LGBTQ person and wanted to share her experiences with the students on campus.
“I think people need to be willing to put themselves on the line for real dialogue to happen,” Lyman said.
Lyman said she wants to see more open resources on campus for LGBTQ students who deal with harassment or abuse regarding their sexual identity.
“I think BYU wants to have these discussions, and BYU as an university wants LGBTQ students to feel welcomed here,” Lyman said “I think there needs to be sort of public recognition of that consistently in order to have a cultural understanding so that students understand what BYU’s standards are regarding how they treat others.”
BYU sociology student Christine Rollins, who attended the forum, said she loved how the LGBTQ students were able to talk openly about their experiences, especially on the BYU campus.
“In traction with my friends, I have been pretty open, but it’s been really cool to see as a campus we are opening up and talking about issues,” Rollins said.
Chris Christensen attended the forum with her two young daughters.
“I think it is important for everyone to understand what these folks go through,” Christensen said. “I think we talk about being caring and loving people, but we don’t always demonstrate it. I think it is important for (my daughters) to know the issue and to understand how people feel.”
Christensen she wanted her daughters to be part of the dialogue and be more aware of the struggles LGBTQ people go through.