Yesterday the Daily Universe published a letter to the editor I wrote in response to a disturbing letter published last week. It's my third letter to the editor in the DU. Another time I was quoted in an article about prop 8 and was referred to as a gay BYU student in the article. I was also heavily quoted in a front page Salt Lake Tribune article about BYU gays.
In each of these cases, my mailbox was fairly full after the editorials and articles ran. It's always been a combination of support mail and hate mail, and so I was expecting it this time. I've received 15 messages so far. I have to say, though, that this time the messages are different. Significantly different.
For starters, only one message was negative. An anonymous coward told me I should keep my personal issues to myself and called me a faggot. The remaining 14 messages were all thank you's. While that's a refreshing change, it's not what really caught my attention. The most significant thing about these messages is that most of them have come from other BYU students who have told me they are also gay. Facebook reveals that in most cases we don't have mutual friends, or if we have one or two, they are random straight people.
That's huge! For the longest time, I've believed that BYU has multiple social circles of gay students. I know roughly my circle. I have tons of gay friends here. 60 according to facebook. 60 BYU gays. That's a lot, but I knew it couldn't be everyone. It's enough to legitimate the rumors of an "underground" community, but it's not everyone. With these strangers seemingly comfortable enough to call themselves gay, I can say with increased certainty that BYU has a much bigger gay community than most would think.
I'm guessing that BYU is home to three or four hundred people who consider themselves gay, and probably more than twice that number who experience same sex attractions. 1,000 gays at a school of 30,000. Is that too conservative? To liberal? It sounds about right to me.
The prospects make my imagination go wild. What could happen if we could all organize ourselves as a group. Even if we only got 200, that's a formidable force. I bet that's more numbers than the Black Student Union. (last year only 158 out of 30,426 students were black). What if 200 people suddenly refused to be silent? What if we all came out of the closet together and made a public pronouncement that we are gay? The honor code wouldn't be broken. It's ok to self identify as gay. Imagine the impact that would have on this campus if people knew that there were so many gay friends and acquaintances among them.
What if it some of them were more gutsy and demanded equal treatment. What if 50 or 60 or 80 or 100 said, "We want to have the same rules apply to us that apply to heterosexuals."? Could they change the honor code? Remove that ridiculous, impossible to define "advocacy" ban. Permit gay people to date, even, provided they abstain from sexual contact. What if instead of trying to change the honor code they just tried to change attitudes. What if they said enough is enough? No more hate. No more lies. No more persecution. No more fear. No more suicides. No more emotional abuse. No more fear.
Think about the changes we could make on campus if we were allowed to group together and assemble. BYU keeps its power by making us and others believe that we don't exist. That we're small in number. That has to stop. How can we be self aware as a group? How can we assemble or organize? What will it take?