Gay and lesbian students struggle
By Satenik Sargysan
December 5, 2008 | Despite the fact that society's
attitudes towards homosexuals have become more accepting
in recent years, sexual prejudice remains widespread
in the United States.
Kolby Kent Nelson, a former USU student and a current
graduate student at Penn State University, is openly
gay. When he came out, his older sister told him that
if he were to choose "that lifestyle," she
did not want her son to know he existed.
Bailey Bell, a USU psychology major, had to withdraw
from her former university when her roommates told the
university headquarters she was lesbian.
USU business student Moudi Sbeity's mother sent him
to a psychologist "to cure him from his illness"
as soon as she found out that her son was homosexual.
For Earnest Cooper, the president of L.I.F.E. Liaison,
admitting that he was gay turned into excommunication
from his church.
Maure Smith was asked not to be around her sisters
when she told her parents she was lesbian.
The results of a survey of 191 employees by National
Survey of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Physicians reveals
that 27 percent would refuse to hire and 26 percent
would refuse to promote a person they perceived to be
lesbian, gay or bisexual. The fear of being judged based
on sexual preference makes it hard for homosexuals to
"It's never easy being gay," says Kolby. "You never
know how people are going to react around you for who
you are. It's painful at times to see people draw away
Kolby recalls his internal struggle when he realized
he was gay. For four years, he and his mother had the
same goal of "trying to make him straight."
"The hardest part of coming out wasn't that I had
to come out to my family," he says. "It was that I had
to come out to myself. I had to admit to myself that
I was gay."
Moudi, on the other hand, points out the struggles
of his mother as the most challenging part of coming
"She kept on crying for two months every single day,
blaming herself for what I've become and the fact that
I grew up without a dad," he says. "She started hating
life because her son was gay."
When Smith was told that she couldn't hang around
her sister much, her concept of family collapsed.
"It almost killed me," she says. "Being
raised LDS, I was taught that families are forever."
Smith is now the program coordinator of Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual and Transgender Association at USU. The organization
helps students "to come out" or overcome the
issues that GLBT youth experience. She underlines that
homophobia (defined as "irrational fear of, aversion
to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals"
in Merriam-Webster dictionary) has not faded with time.
Instead, she says, the term has evolved to mean "discrimination
and harassment, fear and hatred."
"Some of the stories I hear from my GLBT youth and
co-workers are physically violent," she says. "One of
the students that we are working with now, has been
attacked by baseball bats twice."
Logan community is not a gay-friendly place, Cooper
"I had people who told their kids who I work with
not to be around me because they would get raped by
me," he says.
On the other hand, despite the fact that "cat-calls
and dirty looks " have always been prevalent on campus,
USU students have mostly been tolerant of gay people.
Things changed drastically with the last election
and Prop 8 when homophobia started showing its "ugly
"The biggest challenge we have faced so far has been
Prop 8, " says Smith. It's hard for everyone. It makes
people say hateful things to each other."
Moudi says that passing Prop 8 made him feel discriminated
on a national level.
"We don't want to get married to show people that
we can. We want to get married because we love each
other and we want an institution to support us so we
can make it real," Moudi says. "If our political and
social institutions do not see us as real couples, how
can we see us as real? If you don't believe in God,
how can God be real?"
Many people received numerous hate emails before the
election. In one of the emails Cooper was told that
he would be prohibited to going to any weddings because
he supported gay marriage.
LDS church's contributed banning gay marriages in
California. Kolby calls LDS church's actions regarding
Prop 8 "one more slap in the face to years of not answering
his questions; years of not giving the proper guidance
to their members who have same-sex attraction."
Prop 8 has been an incentive for people to express
their feelings about homosexuality more openly.
Jen Stevenson is a Journalism student at USU. She
doesn't have any close gay friends. She says that she
doesn't agree with "homosexual lifestyle"
but she wouldn't treat somebody differently just because
they were gay.
Maure strongly disagrees with the term "homosexual
"I don't like the word 'homosexual' because it emphasized
sex," she says. "It's unfortunate because that is not
all I am about. There is not one way to be gay. Just
like there is not only one way of being heterosexual.
Saying 'gay lifestyle' implies that every gay person
lives the same way. That can't possibly be right."
Lia Inoa is Moudi's friend. She doesn't recall when
she learnt that Moudi was gay. In her words, it never
mattered to her what Moudi's sexual preference was.
She characterized Moudi as "a passionate and a very
honest person, one who can talk about any topic and
stand out for what he believes in."
"When people find out that someone is gay, they usually
tend to define personality and don't allow themselves
to look beyond that," she says. "All other traits of
the person are framed under the 'gay tag.' Instead of
seeing the friend or the student, it becomes the gay
friend or the gay student.
Moudi finds it offensive that when most people hear
the term "gay, " they think about sex.
"They don't think about emotions or people's personal
characteristics," Moudi says. "It has come to be a sexual
term. It does refer to a person's sexual preference
but it shouldn't limit people's perception of gays."
In areas with one dominant religion, the majority
of people holds a commonly accepted opinion about controversial
issues, particularly about gay rights.
Codi Richardson is an LDS student at Lyon College
"I don't approve of the lifestyle," she says. "But
all the homosexuals I've known are wonderful people
so I like the people and not their choices."
In Maure's words, saying that they hate the sin, not
the sinner, people discount a large part of who she
"I am not talking about whether I choose to be sexually
active or not. I am talking about who I choose to love
and how I choose to create my life."
Even though the American Psychiatric Association dropped
homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis in 1973, some
people still claim homosexuality a psychological disorder
or a 'temptation.'
USU Journalism student Shannon Ballard knew a couple
of people in high school who identified themselves as
homosexual. She has always thought of gay love as a
"I don't think that gay love is natural love," she
says. "Having gay feelings is a temptation that people
must overcome just like overcoming the temptations to
cheat, steal, or look at porn. It's a trial that many
people have to deal with but should strive to overcome."
Because of their backgrounds and religious beliefs
many people choose not to come out. GLBTA encourages
students to do what they feel is right. The stories
of gays in heterosexual marriages remain untold.
"I am personally in complete favor of anyone who follows
what they believe," says Kolby. "And what he and I believe
is right and wrong may be different, but that's what
is so great about this life. We all get to make our
own decisions, and in turn, we all pay our own consequences."
Fortunately, after long years of difficult conversations
families of Kolby, Moudi, Maure, Bailey and Cooper were
able to accept them the way they are: gay and lesbian.
Moudi's last relationship failed because his former
partner was LDS. With hatred surrounding him as a gay,
he chose not to come out.
"We still love each other," he says. "Why
should we be stripped of our love just because people
don't accept us as gays?"
Since July 1999, the Army has regulated 'Don't Ask,
Don't Tell' policy, justifying that "the presence of
individuals in the armed forces who engage in homosexual
acts creates an unacceptable risk to unit cohesion and
standards of morale, good order and discipline.' A feeling
that brings joy to people was censored.
"People say God hates fags. That breaks my heart because
I believe in God," says Moudi. "I pray to him every
night. What makes me so different from heterosexuals?
I have a heart. I eat, I sleep. I shower. And I love,
just like them. The only difference is the person I
love happens to be a man."