Winning and Losing: One Kid’s Best Shot at BYU
by Sam Clayton
This article was the winning submission in the 2002 Affirmation Writing Contest. This article was pulled from internet archives and was originally published in 2002. Some edits and updates have been made to the original text. It’s possible information this article treats as current is out-of-date and readers are encouraged to verify with more recent sources. If you believe an update should be made to this text, please let us know.
It is not without reservation that I begin this story, a story I have attempted to write several times but always abandoned in either confusion or depression. It’s the account of one of the experiences I had as a student at BYU, when I was vigorously (and somewhat obnoxiously) crusading for greater awareness and acceptance for gays and lesbians at the school and in the Church.
The names and details of some of the characters have been altered, except in the cases of my own and those of BYU administrators, whose names I have left very deservingly unchanged. I have done my best to recreate the situations and conversations by memory and from notes I took at the time in order to take as little creative license as possible. However, I admit that my memory is not perfect, and as always, there is more than one side to any story. This account is only the honest recollection of an experience that helped shape a young man’s course of action in life.
It was 1997, the spring of my junior year, and I was not yet 23 years old. At this point in my “career” as a gay activist on campus I was beginning to consider myself quite a hotshot. I suppose I thought that if I could actually get away with something like being gay, I could do whatever I wanted. I’d stroll around with my too-long hair, 70’s collar shirts, ripped vintage jeans, and canvas military bag with “queer” scrawled on the side, hoping someone would confront me.
I had been meeting with the Dean of Students, Janet Scharman, and BYU Vice President of Student Life, Alton Wade, for several months as the leader of a small organization made up of students and faculty whose mission was to expand awareness of gay people on campus. Through these meetings, the help of a campus-wide survey, and a whole lot of press, we had successfully instigated a process that resulted in BYU making public statements confirming that gay and lesbian students could attend the university if they abided by the honor code.
As a result, it seemed gay life at BYU was more open than ever. More and more students were emerging from their secret lives of chat rooms and reparative therapists’ offices to make an attempt at integration – the scary but apparently new and possible prospect of being wholly themselves, both gay and Mormon. I had been openly gay for over a year and had successfully defended myself against questionings from the honor code office, warnings from nervous bishops, and reactions from students that ranged from bodily threats to the steely cold shoulders that, despite the uncaring image I tried to project, I never quite grew accustomed to. My strategy was to act like I was invincible. Somehow it seemed to work. At least it fooled me.
My other strategy was the honor code itself. In a miraculous, inverted twist of fate, the honor code had gone from being the tool that BYU used to root out people like me, to my shield that protected me from BYU. The honor code didn’t know what to do with a definition of gay that had to do with identity rather than gay sex. As long as I kept the honor code (meaning no pre-marital sexual relations, which every other single student at BYU had to abide by) I was free to be as unapologetic as I felt.
One day when I was at work at my research position in the sociology department I received a phone call from the Abraham Smoot Building (ASB), BYU’s main administration building. A friendly male voice identified itself nonchalantly as Ryan, odd for such a mature-sounding voice at BYU. Usually it would be “Brother Snow” or “Dr. Benson.” He said he wanted to talk to me in his office but repeatedly resisted telling me over the phone what it was about. I guessed initially because it was coming from the administration building that it had something to do with the work I was doing with President Wade and Dean Scharman, but was somewhat unnerved by the growing firmness in his tone and his secrecy.
Those types of calls (firm and secretive) usually came from the Kimball Tower, which housed the ominous Honor Code Office. They called me on a fairly regular basis with some new lame accusation, which they could never back up with any evidence.
“We’ve heard reports that you’re gay.”
I would look at them brazenly.
“Um, yeah I am. Can I go now? Do you have anything else? Please don’t call me in unless you have something on me that is actually against the honor code. Thank you.”
I actually looked forward to them calling me in. It gave me an outlet for my rage. In that vein, I finally agreed to an appointment with Ryan and hung up.
I entered his office in the ASB, which was your basic nondescript BYU office, and met Ryan Beuhring (his last name a clue from his door), who himself was rather basic and nondescript. He was wearing the white shirt and tie, was moderately attractive and of middle age. I was certain that he was probably a bishop somewhere in Provo with a normal wife and 4 or 5 kids. He was friendly and shook my hand and asked me to be seated. After a brief chat about casual, trust-building topics, he paused. A strange expression came over his face, one that combined intimacy, awkwardness, and a slightly raised eyebrow (as if we were old friends and he had to bring up something difficult and maybe a little embarrassing). He began to explain why I had been called in. Apparently a confessing gay male student had provided the honor code office with a detailed list of other gay students – and my name was on the list.
I stopped him immediately, partly because aggression had become my new best friend, and partly because I was trying to give myself a little time to decide who this student could be, and what he could have said.
“Why would my name be on a list if this student was confessing something about himself? Is he saying something about my behavior that violated the honor code?”
I wasn’t prepared for the sudden edge in his reply.
“Well, he’s saying that he went with you to a gay bar, an establishment called ‘the Sun’ in Salt Lake, which I would say is against the honor code, wouldn’t you?”
He looked as though he felt he got a little ahead of himself with that reactive response after all the trust building, and seemed a little confused that I didn’t appear nervous or afraid. He didn’t know this kind of questioning was routine for me.
“Well actually no, I don’t know of anywhere in the honor code that says we can’t go to gay bars, or associate with gay people, or go to bars at all. It says that we can’t drink alcohol, or engage in pre-marital sexual relations. I don’t see how going to this ‘establishment called the Sun’ verifies involvement in either of these activities. I’m open about the fact that I’m gay, and I’m not intimidated by anyone knowing it.”
He looked at me for a moment with his hands behind his head, as if contemplating what exactly he was dealing with. I stared back with my practiced expression of righteous indignation and smug condescension, still thinking that this situation had something to do with me directly and wondering if this could actually be another vague report with nothing to back it up. I still couldn’t figure out why this situation was being handled in the administration building and not in the honor code office. It had apparently started over there, with a routine confession, but had made its way somehow to the third floor of the ASB.
My experience with the ASB up to this point was limited to begging for financial aid grants and picking up my campus-job paychecks. It was a little hard to take this very serious-acting person seriously in the building we all referred to merrily as the 70’s Swimming Pool. With its aqua-tiled walls, high lobby ceiling, swirling spiral staircase, and crowds of slow-moving, smiling students, it gave one the impression of either swimming through a disco deep end or participating in a frighteningly hypnotic Esther Williams number.
At any rate, I was very shortly going to learn what the significance was, and that it had very little to do with me at all.
“Actually, I just need you to verify a conversation you had with this student named Todd if you don’t mind, and then you can go.”
That statement struck me as odd. Why had he just delivered a thinly veiled threat about me breaking the honor code if he only wanted me to verify something?
“What is it?” I asked.
He pulled out a piece of paper and read a paragraph that described a setting and characters, the setting being the parking lot of the Sun after a night of patronizing and the characters being me and Todd. He then began reading off lines like out of a script:
Sam: Hey Todd, do you know a Dr. McKellen?
Todd: Yes, he’s one of the professors in my department.
Sam: I just met him inside.
Todd: Is he gay?
Sam: Yes, he’s gay. He comes up here.
We sat there in silence while I, slightly in shock, collected my thoughts. The experience of someone actually reading a verbatim transcript of a conversation that I had allegedly had, was a bit unnerving (and oddly flattering). I did, however, know who the student was, and was going to get the rest of the story very soon. Todd was a boy from the mid-west, recently returned from a European mission, who alternated constantly between being confidently, zealously gay and shamefully, pathetically repentant.
“All I need you to do is confirm the conversation,” he repeated. He read the transcript over again and paused at the end.
It dawned on me suddenly (in Orwellian horror) what this was about. This wasn’t about me at all; they were after a professor. Beuhring was collecting evidence to be used in some sort of trial to get rid of a gay professor. That’s why this was being handled by another branch of the administration than the honor code office.
I had heard rumors before that the honor code office would threaten confessing students that if they didn’t provide them with a list of names of all their partners in crime then their fate would be far worse, but I didn’t think they could do that anymore. Not after the ’50s in any case. I could imagine their excitement, however, after the exhausted and bewildered student had slid the pen and paper back across the desk, when they discovered that a faculty member was on the list – or at least the promise of one. Todd had not technically been an eye-witness, but could provide them with one, me.
The look in Brother Beuhring’s eye betrayed a strange combination of self-satisfaction, righteous conviction, and morbid routine. There was also just a touch of embarrassment, like he was at least partially aware that there was something not altogether respectable about his line of work. He was also very alert, watching intently for any reaction from me, certain that any response would provide him with valuable information. He was good at his job.
His casual confidence made me think suddenly of a very long line of terrified, confused students that this man must have dealt with in the past, all convinced that they would be kicked out if they didn’t cooperate, and equally terrified that their parents and friends would find out their terrible secrets or misdeeds. They were willing to do anything to stop that from happening, which BYU counted on. I sat there thinking very quickly, trying to find a way that I could avoid being manipulated into cooperating but also find a way that I didn’t have to lie, which could then be used against me as an infraction in itself.
I remember strategically laughing, which is an action I’m still very proud of. Smugly I re-stated his expectation back to him to make sure I understood him (a skill I was trained in on my mission that actually is quite handy), and then proceeded to explain to him that I had absolutely no intention of cooperating.
“I’m not going to confirm nor deny this conversation, and want to go on record as saying that I will not participate in this investigation at all and that it is bigoted and unethical. Nothing on that piece of paper is against the honor code in any way, and the fact that you are trying to get me to confirm it makes me think that you are trying to find out if he is gay or not, which you obviously believe to be grounds for discipline or termination, which by the way is plain discrimination. If you want to find out if this professor frequents gay bars or is gay why don’t you just ask him directly? It’s an honor code. That means you let things be on people’s honor.”
I was getting very preachy and continued on for quite some time, going into a somewhat long and impassioned speech about the Salem witch hunts and McCarthyism (which he seemed familiar with but not overly happy about the comparison), and then on to a scare-tactic strategy of how I was not a student to be intimidated very easily. I outlined my connections with Dean Scharman and Alton Wade and told him that our goal was to actually stop things like this from happening.
He looked a little shocked but still very composed. He voiced (not in a very convincing tone) disapproval of the fact that I dared criticize any method of investigation that had been apparently deemed appropriate by church leaders. I was a bit too experienced to follow him down that road, the one that inevitably led to the entire issue somehow being turned into a matter of me “questioning the brethren.” Instead, I just looked at him.
We sat in silence for a while until I realized suddenly that there was really nothing more he could do. I decided to make my exit while I was still the victor so I thanked him smugly and excused myself. I giggled as I walked down the hall of the ASB, passing portraits of previous BYU presidents and church leaders. I was ecstatic really; I was floating. I replayed the scene over and over in my mind, relishing the moments of his paralysis and my perceived dominance.
I was scared though, too. What was going to happen? Would they let it go at that? Was it smart of me to have highlighted my connection to the other members of the administration? Would he talk to them and would that damage our progress?
I wasn’t sure, but I did know the situation was somehow very exciting. First thing, though, was to find Todd and find out the whole story. It wasn’t two days before I and my friend Kris (a heterosexual fellow sociology major also on the outs with mainstream BYU, in her case for being a feminist) were driving down 7th East in her Bronco and saw Todd on foot. We swerved right in front of him, blocking his escape, and spoke in our most intimidating manner.
“Get in Todd. We want to talk to you”
“No! They told me I couldn’t talk to you anymore!”
“Todd. Calm down. Get in.”
“I’m going to get kicked out! They told me if they catch me talking to or associating with anyone gay then they would kick me out!”
“Give us a break Todd. Just get in and tell us.”
Todd climbed in trembling, traces of the recently removed fingernail polish that he’d been so proud of, still visible on his nails as he climbed in the back seat. He told us a story that would have been shocking if it was not so routine. Todd had done nothing actually “wrong” like have pre-marital sex, but finally felt so guilty about his new gay identity and activities like hanging out with gay people, holding hands with a boy, and going to the Sun, that he confessed to his bishop. His bishop promptly and “loyally” turned him over to the honor code, who explained to him that he was in serious trouble and would be expelled from BYU immediately unless he stopped all these activities, including contact with anyone gay. They didn’t stop there, though. They told Todd that unless he provided them with a list of all the gay people he knew, he would be considered unrepentant and expelled.
“I had to. They were going to kick me out and tell my parents.”
“I know, Todd”
Privately I was disgusted by students who continued to allow themselves to be victimized by administrators who counted on their victim mentality and shame. So many were still so unsure of themselves and willing to believe the bigoted threats they were told. In my book, that spelled vulnerability, which meant getting hurt. They were never going to do that to me, I was sure of that.
“Todd, how did you get to Ryan Beuhring? Did you put Dr. McKellen’s name on the list?”
“Yes, and then he called me in and I told him how you were the one who saw him, not me.”
“Well, he called me in too and read me an actual transcript of what was said.”
I recounted the conversation for him.
“How did he know all that exactly?” I asked him.
“He had me write it down. Listen, all I said is that you were the one who saw him and that you told me he was in there. That’s it. I’m sorry.”
Things were quiet for a couple of weeks, and I was beginning to think that the whole thing had blown over. Then I got another phone call. Ryan Beuhring wanted me to confirm the conversation over the phone. He read me the transcript again. I told him he was wasting his time, that I was not even considering participating, and that nothing that he was talking about was against the honor code anyway. He told me that he was going to check with his supervisor, but thought I was bound by the honor code to cooperate. “Yeah right,” I laughed and hung up.
A couple of days later, he called me again. This time he told me that he’d been directed to inform me that I needed to come in again and cooperate. If I didn’t, there was a chance of serious disciplinary action.
The next day I was sitting in his office. He was giving a rather long-winded speech about the sacredness of the honor code, which he pointed out I had signed, and was explaining how it included participating in this investigation.
“Show me,” I said.
“Excuse me?” He seemed genuinely surprised by my interruption.
“Show me. Show me exactly in the honor code where it says I have to testify about the behavior of others.”
He looked at me for a moment with an odd look of confusion and offense, as if I was asking him to drag out the Dead Sea Scrolls and use them to challenge the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible. Suddenly he swiveled around in his black chair to his computer, talking to me with his back turned.
“Alright. Just a minute.”
He located a copy of the honor code on his computer and from where I sat I could see him scrolling recklessly through the document, trying to find something that fit. Of course, I knew it wasn’t there, I’d read it a hundred times, but I began to wonder if he actually believed it was there, and I was dumbfounded that he’d been threatening me so confidently without even doing a bit of research.
“Here it is.” He said, and he read me a portion that said, “Help others fulfill their responsibilities under the Honor Code.”
“Nice try,” I laughed and even made him print it out for me so I could use it as evidence in the future if I needed to.
“Nowhere does it say I am breaking the honor code if I refuse to participate in investigations, especially one that I think is unethical.”
He swiveled back around to me and stopped. He looked like he was frustrated. I smiled to myself, thinking that I was beating him at something he was not used to being beaten at. I liked that feeling. It made me feel important and exhilarated after feeling so powerless and ashamed for so long. Finally, his patience ran out.
“Listen. The fact of the matter is, if you do not begin cooperating in this investigation right now, there will be disciplinary action taken against you that could very well result in you being expelled from the university.”
Inwardly I was stunned by the change in his tone and realized he was dead serious. I got a bit panicked. I was suddenly aware of the possibility that maybe I had far less power than I’d believed, that understanding the proclaimed rules and staying technically inside them was not as much protection as I had thought. I realized that I had to make a choice, one that would require me to either compromise everything I believed to be fair and right, or to risk expulsion from the university, something that meant defeat to me in my quest to graduate from BYU openly gay.
Instead, I resorted to threats. I very adamantly stated my case one last time, and threatened that I was willing to make the case very public if I was forced to. He didn’t seem to be budging either, and so I began to think of strategies that would convince him that I was serious, which I was.
“Let me see that transcript.”
I’d never actually gotten to see it and was hoping for a chance to get a copy if I was going to have to defend myself more formally. Reluctantly, after repeated requests, he opened his notebook and let me look although he said his supervisor had not authorized him to give out a copy. I read through the short conversation and was surprised to notice that it continued on just one sentence further than where Ryan always stopped. My breath stopped, however, when I actually got to the sentence. There, just after I was supposed to have said “Yes, he’s gay. He comes up here,” I read in what felt like slow motion, one final comment.
Sam: Be careful, he’s been known to come on to students.
I just stared at it at first, feeling bewildered and astonished, reading it over and over, wondering if maybe I was reading the wrong document. I was mystified at why such a significant piece of “evidence” had been withheld from me, especially if I was supposed to confirm it. It was such an unusual sentence too, with such an alarming twist. It gave the whole conversation an absolutely different color. Incidentally, it was also the only line in the entire conversation that wasn’t true.
At that moment all the pieces snapped together, and I grew incredibly enraged. Not enraged as a strategy, but an authentic rage that also masked a very deep and puzzling hurt. I looked up at Ryan Beuhring, who at this point was very close to me because he was nervously keeping one hand on his notebook.
“Why didn’t you include this last statement when reading me this transcript all those times?”
He just looked at me. My words were slow and harsh.
“Why were you asking me to confirm a conversation without including a very serious part, in fact, the most serious part of the entire alleged conversation?
Again, he just looked at me.
“This is unbelievable!” I yelled. “You wanted me to confirm seeing a professor at a gay bar when there was a chance that he was engaging in predatorial behavior with students? Why did you leave that out? That’s the only part that could justify serious disciplinary action! Why didn’t you ask me about that?”
For a moment I wasn’t sure how to continue. I was suddenly aware that maybe they were trying to get me to angrily admit to the first part of the conversation while trying to deny the untrue part. I continued, still angry, but cautious.
“You were going to expand my confirmation of a seemingly benign gay-bar sighting to an accusation that this professor preys sexually on his students.” I accused. “You don’t even care about playing fair, do you? You’re just trying to get rid of him.”
We had both known from the beginning that the conversation with Todd had obviously taken place. That is why we talked around it so calmly and why I didn’t haughtily deny from the outset. The transcript was actually remarkably accurate, at least the portion of it that had been read to me. I had indeed met this professor, Dr. McKellen, at the Sun. I remember him as very nice and older. He seemed a bit shy and unconfident, perhaps because he was worried about being recognized. I had mentioned it to Todd in the parking lot, the way that I always mentioned people to each other, in my ongoing attempt to convince us all that there was a whole lot of us, that we were safe.
And that was it. I had absolutely no information about Dr. McKellen being a predator, and had definitely never made any comments to anyone otherwise. I was flabbergasted that I was witnessing such underhanded tactics being used by BYU. It was obvious that they didn’t have any solid evidence on this professor, like students coming forward claiming molestation, or they wouldn’t have had to even bother with me. It was too much of a coincidence that the only part of the transcript that I knew wasn’t accurate, was the only part Ryan was leaving out when trying to get me to confirm it.
“I can tell you one thing Ryan, and you can consider this participation in your investigation. I will go on record as saying that never, ever, on any occasion, have I made the comment that this professor has engaged in sexually predatorial behavior with his students. Is that clear?”
He paused and then nodded.
“And that’s all. I’m still refusing to comment on anything else, especially now. I can’t believe that you let me sit here, time after time, and tell you that nothing on that paper was against the honor code, when you knew that the something that was very much against the honor code, in fact the very one thing that was, was written at the bottom of the page.”
Again he said nothing. Now it was his turn to neither confirm nor deny. Finally, I got up.
“Who is this person that is directing your activities?” I asked. “You’re obviously just collecting information for someone.”
He looked confused, but quite docile at this point.
“The office of Academic Affairs.”
“Who is that? Who is this supervisor you keep referring to?”
“Well from now on I’m going to be dealing directly with him. I don’t ever want you to bother me with this issue again, is that clear?”
I marched out of the office, too angry and hurt to really appreciate how dramatic I was being. I never saw Ryan Beuhring again, just left him sitting there in his swivel chair holding on to his notebook. I decided that since I was still in the swimming pool, I may as well look up James Gordon right then.
At that point, I had never heard of James Gordon. I had no idea that he was the same Jim Gordon that had been the driving force behind the Gail Houston investigations, and many others like it. Gail Houston was the feminist professor who had recently not been granted continuing faculty status (BYU’s version of tenure) due to comments and behaviors that challenged the church’s positions on gender. It was the notoriety of that case that had brought the national AAUP (American Association of University Professors) to BYU for its own investigation, an investigation that resulted in BYU being censured publicly for academic freedom violations. Dr. McKellen was up for his continuing faculty status as well, and, apparently, evidence was being compiled to deny it to him too.
I located Jim Gordon’s office in the ASB, identified myself to his secretary, and told her I was here to see him and that it was very important. I waited for a very short period of time before being ushered in. Ryan Beuhring from down the hall must have given him a quick call of warning.
Jim Gordon was a very tall, thin man, with impossibly large glasses that covered impossibly magnified, half-closed, eyes. He had greased-back Mormon-professional hair, very large hands, and a slow, sloth-like manner when he moved. I felt as though I had interrupted his afternoon nap.
He motioned me, in slow motion, to a chair in front of his desk and then sat there blinking at me. Again, I had no idea really who I was speaking with and was still very energized from my experience with Ryan Beuhring, so I just launched into the story.
“I’ve just come from Ryan Beuhring’s office, who says he works for you, and where I’ve been being harassed for weeks about a case that I’ve repeatedly said is discriminatory.”
I went through the entire story, sparing him no detail, trying to impress upon him my level of intellect, memory, and anger as I did so. To be honest I wanted him to feel like I had them all in a corner. I wanted him to be scared, like all my friends had been scared when they sat in the honor code office believing that a powerful, truthful judge was threatening them. I told him I was appalled and disgusted at their actions and strategies. I told him I wanted him to feel like the hypocrite he was, proclaiming righteously the immorality of gay people while using the tricks of dirty cops to coerce confessions out of suspects.
He just sat there with his impassive mask, blinking at me. He didn’t deny anything. He didn’t argue with me. He just listened, slowly blinking. I continued.
“I want you to know that I will be watching this situation very closely, and if for any reason Dr. McKellen is fired from his job, I will make everything I know public. I am fully aware of how sensitive a time it is for BYU in terms of how faculty are being treated, and am not afraid to identify myself and everyone else here.”
Again he really was not that responsive. He was perfectly calm for the most part, except for a few very subtle raises of his eyebrow that I hoped indicated at least a mild level of alarm or stress. He only uttered a few short sentences throughout the entire meeting actually, mainly to clarify a detail or fact. Despite this lack of even the hint of enthusiasm, I definitely got the impression that we understood each other. Much of what he seemed to be clarifying was how much I knew, and whether I was going to talk about it. I noted that even when I asked him direct questions, he never defended himself. Like Ryan Beuhring, he just sat in silence.
I left Jim Gordon’s office that day with a feeling of almost uncontainable exhilaration. I felt incredibly powerful and heroic. I felt like I had won a very exciting game and gotten sweet revenge in the process. But there was also an undercurrent, a feeling of subtle but gnawing dread. It was a feeling that would slowly, without my conscious knowledge at first, continue to grow.
I watched the situation with Dr. McKellen carefully after that, making good on my threat, and wondering if my efforts would actually do some good. I even called Dr. McKellen (against Ryan Beuhring’s direct threats of expulsion) and explained everything that happened so he would have honest information when he was questioned instead of their possible tricks. Nothing ever happened to him I was proud to discover, not at least for the next year and a half that I was there. His contract, with what kind of continuing status I do not know, was continued. I did call BYU recently when deciding to write this story, and discovered that he’s been gone from BYU for at least two years. I couldn’t tell from the tone in the department secretary’s voice if there was anything unusual about the circumstances of his leaving. I wish him well.
As for me, I continued in my quest at BYU, never hearing from the “Academic Affairs” branch of the administration again. The experience did affect me though, and what idealistic faith I had left. I couldn’t help but feel like BYU was meaner and harsher than I had believed possible, and that that meanness extended through the entire church. I’d known that I was dealing with people who were much more conservative than myself, and so tried to not take their views personally. Suddenly, it felt very personal. I had been choosing to believe that BYU actually wanted gay people at the school, and was even working with us to make that possible. Of course I’d heard story after story of double-standard judgements toward gay students by the honor code office and weird cases of entrapment, but still I’d persisted in having faith in the possibility of a level playing field.
However, here was a situation that confronted me with something I could not deny. While one arm of the administration was meeting with and assuring hopeful students and faculty that a place was being made for them, another was simultaneously being dishonest and vicious, actually making stuff up, to eliminate them. The stark confrontation with what felt finally like BYU’s true colors, began to fill me with an immense lack of hope that the work I was doing at BYU was going to make any significant difference.
Even so, at that point, I could not bear the thought of actually feeling the loss of my community and spiritual beliefs. In spite of the tough image I continued to show to others and to myself, both were far, far too dear to me. Instead, I continued to work diligently on my quest. I worked until the gnawing dread finally caught up with me.
Eventually, I had a critical experience with Dean Scharman, my one perceived ally in the administration, where she threatened me directly with expulsion if I continued advocating for the church to change its policies like it had done with black people and the priesthood. That was halfway through my senior year, and I had finally had enough. If it had been even a year earlier, her threat wouldn’t have bothered me as much. But I was overwhelmed, and what she was saying seemed to pop my last shred of hope that the church was going to change, that I would be somehow accepted back in. I fell into a deep and painful depression. I graduated that April an infinitely more educated and weary soul than when I arrived at BYU six years before as a bright-eyed, hopeful, 18-year-old.
Life since BYU has been an experience, to say the least. The depression lasted for much longer than I care to admit, and I have spent the last few years in a process of growth that is only now beginning to feel like a foundation. I’ve had to learn that acceptance and awareness come from inside myself and not from others or even from a religion. Thankfully, I have a growing capacity to understand and show more parts of myself – not just strong and confrontational, but vulnerable, hurt, and scared as well. Oh, and I’ve discovered one more thing. I again have some hope.