She was raised Mormon, then fell
for a girl
By Leah Lopshire
December 12, 2008 | Her senior year in high school
Bailey Bell fell in love. But, unlike previous crushes,
she was in love with another girl.
Bell, a senior in psychology at Utah State, is the
first person on the panel to introduce herself and describe
her coming out process to the scattered 30-some-odd
people in the vast auditorium. With only one or two
people in each row, the room looks bare. It's Diversity
Week on campus, but the attendance suggests a lack of
interest in diversity. Each panel member tells his/her
story of how and when they came out.
Bailey, like many of the members of the GLBTA (Gay,
Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Allies) was brought up LDS.
After realizing she is a lesbian she did not confess
to her parents. However, when she was pulled out of
school without warning, and sat down by her parents
she quickly learned she had been discovered.
"They quickly gave me Ensign (an LDS monthly
magazine) articles and put me into what I call 'emergency
therapy.' Basically they just called my therapist for
an appointment that night to help me try to fight this."
Although same sex attraction is becoming more open
and accepted in our country, many individuals still
have a hard time "coming out" to family members (in
particular) and friends. In a LDS family and community,
it is even harder.
Maure Smith, GLBTA's program coordinator, grew up
LDS and, while she was at Utah State, fell in love with
a woman. "I was kind of surprised by this, and when
it happened I decided I wasn't going to act on these
feelings or tell my parents, but I kept hearing my mom's
voice from when I was growing up, 'Smiths don't lie,
Smiths don't lie.' So I knew that I couldn't hide it,
and be true to myself like they always wanted their
children to be."
Unlike Bell's parents, they did not put Smith in therapy,
but there were other repercussions. "They told me that
I was their daughter and they loved me, but they didn't
want me to talk to my sisters for a while and cut me
Smith's and Bell's experiences are typical reactions
from LDS parents. Going against the tide of many churches
and religions in the country, the LDs church has stood
firm in it's beliefs on same-sex attraction. It is wrong,
and church leaders do not endorse it. Therefore, when
LDS parents hear their child say they are gay, they
either withdraw their support or they try to sure their
Although Bell's parents wanted her to get over her
"temptation," they did not send her to a therapist who
advocated LDS beliefs. "They wanted me to talk to someone
to help me with this so I could get back on the right
path." The Bells plan ended up backfiring. "Therapy
actually really helped me to be able to talk to someone
about what was going on openly, without being worried,"
Initially when Smith came out she was angry at her
parents' reaction. Looking back, Smith realizes her
parents weren't scared that she would infect her sisters;
they didn't want them to be influenced while "I was
going through my 'Queer Bounce.'" The post-coming-out
phase when they experiment and do many things that are
out of character, and taboo for them while growing up,
and then they eventually bounce back to their previous
character. This phase is also sometimes called a second
When Smith came out, the climate on campus was pretty
good. She recalled, "At that time there was only the
Pride Alliance, but I didn't feel like I was in any
real danger here." In 1998 the climate changed. "After
Matt Shepard's death in Wyoming, the climate on campus
got tense for a while." Shepard was a gay man who was
tortured, then left to die tied to a fence post. The
murder brought a nationwide attention to discrimination
against the gay community, and the trial of the murder
led to new legislation against hate crimes.
Pride Alliance members and allies on campus made signs
with Matt Shepard's face and a quote from the Bible
underneath about "loving they neighbor." The next day
someone put new fliers over the old ones with the same
picture but with a different quote from the Bible. "It
had something dealing with ' when a man lies with another
man he is condemned.'" That was not where it stopped.
"Awful things happened that year." Days later gay and
lesbian students were presented with slurs written in
chalk along campus sidewalks. "They wrote things like
' Aids is God's way of eliminating fags,' things like
Asked about the campus climate now, Nicole Paul, a
student who has lived in Logan the longest, said things
have improved a lot since her arrival. "When I started
school, I didn't feel comfortable, or that I belonged."
Paul was beaten twice in Logan by a group of guys who
jumped her from a truck while she was walking. "If you
held hands on campus, people would scream things at
you. When we had a Pride event in Logan canyon people
shot guns at us. It was difficult." She ended saying
that things have gotten a lot better on campus in the
Another panel member, Constatine Leoussis, agreed,
"I feel safer here than I would at home (New York City)."
According to Bell, recent passing of Proposition 8,
which banned gay marriage in California, has re-surfaced
Mormon beliefs (acting on same-sex attractions is a
sin), stirring up a hornets' nest on both sides.
For homecoming week Utah State organizations made
banners and pictures to represent themselves. "Someone
took red paint and painted over the same-sex couples
holding hands, Bell said. Although it may not be as
bad as it used to be, parallelisms to before make same-sex
couples more on edge and feel less comfortable holding
hands on campus. "These feelings of on edge are what
my students have to go through everyday," Smith said.
In recent years more support groups have been added
to Utah States campus. In addition to Pride Alliance,
there is L.I.F.E (Love is for everyone), and Allies,
and organization of GLBTA supporters. The motto of GLBTA
is "you don't have to come out to come in."
"When I first came to Logan, I didn't go out much
so other than my partner I felt very alone, until I
got the job as Maure's assistant," Bell said. Working
in the GLBTA office has allowed Bell to become more
involved in the community, helping her feel safe and
comfortable with herself.
The groups on campus provide support, create awareness
and answer questions. "I'm always happy to help those
students in the gay community, but I also really enjoy
it when straight students or faculty come in to get
questions answered about things they don't understand,"
In the office, on the third floor in the TSC building,
there are not only individuals to talk to but literature,
movies and pamphlets to help students better understand
themselves, or a family member, or how to handle certain
situations. For many students the office is a safe haven.
The GLBTA gives students a chance to meet others in
similar situations and helps create a sense of family.
"After I came out and my parents became distant, it
was nice to meet people and have a second family out
here that gives me the support I need," Bell said.
With LDS beliefs being so strong against same-sex
attraction many parents, like Bell's and Smith's, have
a period of estrangement from their child. The GLBTA
substitutes for parents who have been estranged, making
it so important to those students in Utah, where the
majority of the population is LDS.
"It took me a year to start talking to my family again
after I came out," Smith recalls. "It's been 12 years
and it's been a hard road with lots of talks. Some of
the talks were shouting, some involved tears, but through
it all we kept the belief that families are forever,
so we are working to make it work, and it's gotten better.
Son after coming out, Bell left for school at BYU.
"It was the only school I applied for." Growing up,
Bell's mother was her best friend. "It was hard at first
talking to my mom. It was like avoiding the huge pink
elephant in the room." Since then Bell and her family
have grown closer. "My mom and I finally talked about
our feelings on Proposition 8 the other day. It felt
Because of her age, Smith's parents have had time
to become more understanding of their daughter. To recent
demonstrations and protests Smith's mothers has accompanied
her daughter. When she was interviewed by the press,
Smith decided to not mention the presence of her mother.
She didn't want to make her uncomfortable. But then
her mother leaned over and said, "And she is especially
excited her mom's with her today."