The Life-Changing Role of Queer Spaces at BYU
I am used to laying low; standing out puts me at risk of being found out. Growing up in a conservative area, I know what it is like to be scared due to my queerness. Having to watch how I speak or behave around others has become like second nature to me, and I did not expect BYU to be any different. From conversion therapy being conducted on campus until the 1980’s, to the Honor Code prohibiting students from coming out until 2007, many queer students at BYU have had to live in fear of being targeted or expelled due to their identities. This fear, however, has never prevented the queer community at BYU from creating spaces where our lives could be celebrated and cherished. I never thought I would feel such joy from my queer identity, but the need for a community at BYU has led to a sense of belonging that I did not think I would get to experience. I never knew how healing it would be to surround myself with other queer people who are proud of who they are. As defining as fear used to be in my life, the positive influence of being a part of such a close community has given me the strength to finally celebrate who I am.
There is a need for queer spaces at BYU, and I am very grateful to have found those spaces and meet the incredible people who keep them alive. These queer spaces at BYU provide opportunities to meet other queer people, but they also save lives. Being gay at BYU can be such an isolating experience. I used to feel very lonely; not being able to be my true self around anyone prevented me from forming any close relationships. It felt so liberating to finally share who I am, and to know that those around me would love every single aspect of my identity. I am grateful to all the organizations that have been created to fill the needs of the queer community, and to all those who dedicate their time and resources to let queer students know that they are loved and that they belong here. I am grateful to all my queer friends who have taught me how to be unapologetically myself, and who have given me the courage to come out of hiding. If it weren’t for these queer spaces, I never would have met my closest friends. My friends have given me a reason to keep on pushing despite all the fear I’ve experienced, and they have shown me how beautiful queer love can be. They have supported me through some very hard times, such as when coming out to my parents went wrong. I am also grateful for all the queer joy I have experienced with these people, such as going to Pride or listening to Taylor Swift together (yes, that is queer joy to me). I am also grateful to all the queer people who have come before us. Their stories continually inspire me to make BYU a safer, more loving place.