Gay Mormon Students Discuss Struggles With Suicide in 'It Gets Better' Video

PHOTO: Students at Brigham Young University released a video about their experiences as homosexuals in a religious community that prohibits gay sex and marriage.
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Students at Mormon college Brigham Young University have released a video about their experiences as homosexuals in a religious community that prohibits gay sex and marriage.

The video, called "It Gets Better at Brigham Young University," is part of the "It Gets Better" project, founded by columnist Dan Savage to prevent suicide among LGBT youth.

Erikka Beam, a recent BYU graduate in psychology, said that when she realized she was gay, she became depressed, started cutting classes, and was told by her bishop that she wasn't worthy to take the sacrament.

"I just felt, 'I'm not worthy. God clearly doesn't love me because he does not love gay people,'" she said in the video.

Beam also talked about her struggle with suicide.

"I just thought that I needed to just kill myself because the heartbreak of me dying would be less than the heartbreak my parents would experience if I came out to them," Beam said.

According to the video, 74 percent of LGBT students at BYU in Provo, Utah, have contemplated suicide, and 24 percent have attempted suicide.

"I thought that eventually maybe it would be better if I died," one male student said, "so I did everything I could to really be that perfect Mormon. I thought that was going to cure myself."

There were other personal stories. "When I was a little kid, I was that kid that would make you smile because he was so darn gay," Adam White, a sophomore at BYU, said with a smile.

But his smile faded in the video when he spoke about realizing he was gay within the Mormon community.

"I was so scared because I thought I was broken," White said, adding that he would feel "empty" inside when his friends would talk about liking girls.

The students in the video said that at one point, they felt like there was no one in the Mormon community to whom they could turn.

White noted that there is an active gay Mormon blog community, and advised gay Mormons to use the blogosphere as an outlet.

God, 'Will You Please Take This [Homosexuality] Away From Me'

The video noted that increased personal righteousness is reported by LGBT Mormons as the most common yet least effective method of attempting to change sexual orientation, and several students talked about trying to change their orientation because they were raised to believe it is wrong.

"I would ask God if I read my scriptures every day, and I pray every day and I do everything I can, will you please take this away from me. And it never went away," a female statistics major at BYU said in the video.

Another female student in the video, speaking of realizing she was a lesbian, said, "It scared me. It absolutely terrified me, naturally, because I truly believed in this church, and these feelings did not coincide with that church."

BYU Ranked One of the Most Unfriendly Campuses for LGBT Students

BYU, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day saints, is consistently ranked as one of the most unfriendly campuses for LGBT students in the country, according to the Princeton Review. There are about 1,800 LGBT students at BYU, according to the video.

Despite the restrictions, homosexual Mormons are reluctant to leave the church because Mormonism plays a significant role in the formation of a person's identity, said Kendall Wilcox, the former BYU student and faculty member who produced the video.

"Your Mormon identity comes first and then all the other categories like nationality or even sexual orientation," Wilcox told ABC News. "So by the time a homosexual Mormon comes into their sexual maturity, they have already 'found themselves' comfortably within the Mormon identity. So to then consider giving up that identity and faith, even though the principles of that faith may seem diabolically against you and cause you to severely question your self-worth and status before God, it can be equally traumatizing to consider oneself outside the Mormon identity and experience."

Until 2007, BYU students could risk expulsion for discussing their sexual orientation, under the school's honor code. In 2007, the honor code was changed to, "One's stated sexual orientation is not an Honor Code issue."

All BYU students are prohibited from having premarital sex, but heterosexual students can show affection in public. Homosexual students cannot.

The BYU 2011 Honor Code states, "Brigham Young University will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards."

In 2010, a gay-straight alliance group called Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA) was founded on the BYU campus. On its Facebook page, the group clarified, "Please note that USGA meets outside of any sponsorship, endorsement, or support by BYU."

The students interviewed in the video, who are members of the USGA, hope to make other gay Mormons realize that they are not alone.

One student who identified himself as Mark said, "I know what it's like when your father condemns you. I know what it's like when people won't talk to you or tell you not to come around, and it hurts.

"A couple years ago, my sister told me she would never let a gay man watch her children because she said they were deviant, and more likely to molest them," Mark said in the video. "Today she's my strongest advocate and I know she loves me, and she tells me it gets better."

If you are considering suicide or need help, call the Trevor Project at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386).

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