A Trans Student's Experience with the Honor Code Change of 2020
[Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in blog articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USGA.]
[Trigger warning: this article contains references to suicide, please proceed with caution]
[This article contains 2 parts; one was written after the change but before the CES letter release, the other was written after the CES letter "clarification." The intended audience for this article was the HCO and CES, but L never heard back. Some formatting has been added for emphasis, with L's permission]
I'm a transgender woman, and I'm a current BYU student. I served a mission in a foreign country, and my whole life I tried as hard as I could to bury who I was because I "knew" that it—that I—was wrong. I was driven to panic attacks and suicidality over the paradox I was crushed into, unable to be who I am
Therapy and hesitant introspection gave me breathing room. A miserable, isolated first year at BYU gave way to a bearable second and happy third as I gained friends and community unlike any I'd ever had. Then the stability I found crumbled as the ground shifted beneath me. I wrote this in my journal shortly after the Leadership Handbook update and the first Honor Code change:
"I am not an entire human being.
I am trauma animating a malformed husk.
I'm an empty plastic bag floating 5000+ feet from solid ground.
I'm so many shards of nothing held in limbo for eternity before being allowed to wither away.
As I lay here shivering in the driver's seat of my parents' beat up old sedan in the parking lot of the Mount Timpanogos Temple at 4 AM on 2020-02-21, the temple workers arriving for their shifts don't even glance in my direction. I anxiously flit from worries about how my parents will react to the speeding ticket I got while driving home from Provo three hours ago, to dread about telling the cute boy I spent the night talking with that I'm not sure I'm ready for a relationship even though we're allowed to have one now, to pleading wordlessly with the temple spire as a proxy for God that I might receive some small grain of hope in the possibility of ever making it out of the impossibly dark pit of the damned and forsaken transgender Mormon alive and sane.
“I am not welcome. I am not wanted. I am not seen.
Yet I have no place else to go, so I stay.
I myself am insignificant and powerless, so I wait for a Savior I fear may never come.
May never come for me. Or what's left of me.
Should I skip the wait and find out what it's like on the other side?"
I had barely found my feet, believing that this was all that was coming, that I could find a way to push forward using the hopeful freedom to date as a counterbalance to the hopelessness of coming to terms with my new shackles, with the line I'd "crossed" that in reality had instead crossed me. Then the ground shook again as we were sent an email indicating that there had been some vague miscommunication inside an opaque chain of command, that we were all mistaken, that the same rules, now unwritten and unfindable by accrediting bodies, professional associations, and sports conferences that might otherwise think about severing ties over something so blatantly discriminatory, still applied.
The suicidality I'd beaten came back full bore. Within days I'd had two crisis sessions at CAPS. I was nearly checked into the hospital. I didn't trust myself to drive or sleep alone at night.
Others around me wore the same devastation on their faces and in their shoulders. Some felt baited out of hiding and into a false sense of security, finally being open with their friends and families about who they were, only to then be trapped by the switch back—make no mistake, this put some of us in the way of real, immediate, material harm. Some felt echoes of the witch hunts from earlier in the university's history; now that we were vulnerable, we could be expelled. Some felt that perhaps the reason the "clarification" took so long in coming was that higher ups just didn't give a damn about the wellbeing of the odd-colored problem sheep from someone else's fold.
There were protests. I'm sure you're aware. They were on the news.
Then, conveniently, COVID-19 hit and we were all sent home to quarantine. There was no resolution, no catharsis, we were just paused. Other social issues came to a violent head around the country, and a new BYU committee was formed around Race, Equity, and Belonging, and given all the resources it needed to look productive and quiet the concerns of the university's wealthy donors. Months passed, classes started again, and the whole time, we queer students heard nothing. Some heard in the silence the implication that we would only matter once we had money behind us—that anything, apparently, at this university could be bought with money.
I'm scared, now, to be on campus. I'm scared to attend my classes even over Zoom. I'm scared that someone might see me and hate me and decide to hurt me and feel justified by the policies and practices of what is supposed to be the Lord's University. I'm tired of looking over my shoulder. I'm tired because I can't sleep. I'm tired, so I have trouble keeping up with my coursework. I'm in pain from the rejection, the othering, and the disgust in my peers and my professors. I didn't choose any of this.
I want you to note that I don't even trust you enough to put my name on this. I want you to imagine how that feels for me, to be so terrified that I can't get myself to talk honestly without a veil of anonymity. I want you to empathize with me. And I want you to do better.
Please own up to what you've done to us.