LGBT student athlete at Mormon university risks expulsion to be out
A student athlete at Brigham Young University (BYU), owned by the Mormon church, is risking expulsion by being openly bisexual in an institution where “homosexual behaviour” is against the rules.
The word “Mormon” is commonly used to refer to the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Emma Gee, a 21-year-old is a senior track and cross country runner, came out to staff and her teammates last year, making her the only out LGBT+ division one athlete in the university’s 143-year history, according to USA Today.
But BYU’s honour code prohibits “homosexual behaviour,” and if Gee were found to be in violation of the code she could be expelled.
Gee told USA Today: “Everyone deserves to look and say someone is like them and feel a sense of normalcy. I looked for that, just for one person, for a long time. When I couldn’t find that, I said, ‘Why not me?’”
BYU honour code: “Homosexual behaviour is inappropriate”
The BYU honour code states: “One’s stated same-gender attraction is not an Honour Code issue. However, the Honor Code requires all members of the university community to manifest a strict commitment to the law of chastity.
“Homosexual behaviour is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code.
“Homosexual behaviour includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.”
The consequences of breaking the code, which also includes rules such as abstaining from tea and coffee and using clean language, can be extreme.
The code continues: “Students are required to be in good Honor Code standing to be admitted to, continue enrolment at, and graduate from BYU.
“Students who are not in good Honor Code standing must discontinue enrolment.
“Also, they are not eligible for graduation, even if they have otherwise completed all necessary coursework.”
Gee said she knows of students who have remained closeted to avoid expulsion, or because they fear the anti-LGBT+ abuse which the athlete has experienced herself.
She recalled a bishop comparing her sexuality to robbing a bank or murder, and was also told: “If I were you, I’d try both before you decide.”
Gay BYU student: “I feared the honour code office more than anything I have ever feared in my life”
An Instagram account with almost 40,000 followers has been dedicated to the anonymous horror stories of BYU students’ experiences with the university’s honour code.
One student said of a same-sex relationship he had at BYU: “I experienced a love so deep that I understood what my straight peers feel… Our relationship was completely innocent yet it all had to be kept secret because I was a BYU student.
“The constant fear of getting caught and reported to The Honour Code Office weighed on me. Every. Single. Day.
“I feared the HCO more than anything I have ever feared in my life. My future was entirely in their hands.
“The paranoia that developed within me was too much and I began having panic attacks. My depression overwhelmed me… Being caught would mean losing everything.”