BYU Student Life hosts LGBTQ and SSA forum

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More than 600 students filled two auditorium classrooms for an LGBTQ and same sex attraction forum. According to the event page, this is the first event related to LGBTQ issues to be hosted by a division of Brigham Young University.

Panel members answered questions from the audience as well as previously submitted questions. The panel consisted of LGBTQ BYU students and staff.

Questions covered topics like the panel members’ experiences of coming out and transitioning, what BYU and its community can do to better support the LGBTQ and SSA community, and how they reconcile their experiences with LDS doctrine on marriage and gender.

Student panel member Gabriel, last name withdrawn from this story at his request, explained his experience as a transgender man at BYU as “frustrating.”

“I started transitioning a year and a half ago, and I’m a way happier person now. But people treat me like I’m invisible,” Gabriel said. “I have a professor who knew me throughout the transition and now completely ignores me. I will raise my hand in class, but there’s nothing I can do to get (him) to acknowledge me.”

Gabriel did not name the professor, so that individual has not had a chance to respond.

Brynn Adams, a leader in BYU’s Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA) club, said Gabriel’s experience is far too common and there is much that the university can do for the LGBTQ and SSA community.

“We need an LGBTQ center with specialized resources, with its own counselors who specialize in gender and sexual identity, and with 24/7 support because people get suicidal during off hours, too,” Adams said.

Gabriel agreed, pointing to the University of Utah as an example of what BYU could do for its students.

“I remember the first time I heard that the U. had a center for trans health. It blew my mind,” Gabriel said. “But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it should be an obvious support resource. People need a place where they aren’t scared to go.”

Ben Schilaty, who teaches Spanish at BYU, highlighted what he thought friends and family of LGBTQ can do in support.

“Don’t preach to them. They already know the doctrine; they don’t need more of it,” Shilaty said. “And even if they leave the church, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. What you can do is decide whether or not to stay in their lives.”

Gabriel added that LGBTQ people need love, not merely toleration. “We need some celebration, some love, some happiness, because so many people are breaking inside.”

Sarah Langford, another panelist, explained how she deals with the “sticky subjects” around sexuality and the gospel. “I just take it 10 minutes at a time,” she said, adding that if she and her husband try to take the longer, broader view of life, it can become too overwhelming to function.

Gabriel agreed, especially when it comes to considering doctrine on gender as outlined in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

“Ten minutes at a time,” he said. “I’ve been suicidal. I’ve had suicidal friends. I hate looking in their eyes and seeing them not want to be here anymore. But we have to remember that we see through a glass darkly and don’t understand everything.”