Sunday, April 15, 2012

It gets better

When I was a student at the BYU, an emotionally charged and at times hateful exchange of letters was published over the course of a few weeks in the Opinion page of The Daily Universe. The topic was homosexuality, and one of the letter writers was expressing how hard it was to be gay and Mormon. He didn't meet with much understanding, at least not in the pages of that newspaper.

Some time later, someone wrote in to the Opinion page and gave readers the sad news that the gay man, Stuart  Matis, had committed suicide.

It was one of those things that we BYU students experienced together, and yet didn't really talk about. If there were follow-up letters to the editor about what had been a very public exchange of ideas on homosexuality, IF there were, I don't remember them being published. Looking back on my days in Provo, this event was one of the saddest things I experienced. As a 17/18-year-old college freshman, I wasn't sure what my exact views on homosexuality were, but I knew that the hate I saw coming through that Opinion page, directed toward Stuart Matis before his death, was wrong.

As a 30-year-old, I still am not sure what my exact views on homosexuality are, but I know that things like what this video describes are a huge step in the right direction.


If Stuart Matis wrote in to the Opinion page of The Daily Universe today, I'd like to think that there wouldn't be any hateful responses, or if there were, that they wouldn't be dignified by publication. Or if they were published, I'd like to think that there would be enough public love and support for Stuart from BYU students and others that he would never have felt it necessary to end his life.

9 comments:

Liz Johnson said...

I find this sad for a number of reasons - a big one being that I don't remember this AT ALL. How very sad. I seriously hope that things get way, way better.

Jen said...

Liz--I only THINK I remember it, because I learned about it years later. But I have no recollection of the event in real time--which, you're right, is sad.

My heart grew three sizes when I saw that video. I'm sad for my gay friends for whom it did not get better at BYU back in the day--and I have so much hope for their contemporaries who just might spend their college years feeling loved and needed as part of the BYU community.

Crys said...

Is it weird that I have no memory of this stuff happening in 2000...I'm pretty sure I've read more daily Universe in the last few years of reading your blog then I read while I was at school there. Anyway though I saw this video last week and it made me happy. I wish there would have been something like this I could have supported while I was at BYU.

Jill said...

I don't remember it either, which surprises me since I was a pretty faithful DU reader at the time. I feel like our generation can do a ton to turn this around.

Bridget said...

I've thought about this a lot over the years and I even searched the archives of the DU to try to find the letters a few months ago. I couldn't find them because I couldn't remember the guy's name. I thought maybe I had misremembered it. Then I did a little more creative googling and found the links above. However, I can't find the anti-gay letters to the editor on the DU site, even though Stuart Matis refers to them in his letter (which I also couldn't find on the DU site). So maybe the archives have been tinkered with. Or maybe I am not good at archive searches. I was glad to find the affirmation.org site about Stuart Matis to find out more about what happened because it really was so horrifying to me at the time that it happened.

Scotty P said...

I liked this video. I feel bad for gay students at BYU. The saddest thing for me about this video is that, while these students still seem to be full of hope and optimism at the moment, I'm afraid that may not last.

Kathy Haynie said...

Bridget, thank you for posting this. Soon after I joined the church in 1972 (I was 18), one of the YSA men in my student branch (in Calif) committed suicide. The whole thing was very hush-hush. No one talked about it, but I felt so bad for him. There wasn't a way--at least none that I knew--to talk about it at the time. I barely knew him and I was new to the church community, but I still mention him whenever I'm getting after my high school students for using the derogatory expression, "That's so gay." They don't think it's a big deal to say it, but I don't let them get away with it. Thank you again.

Jessie said...

If the archives have been tampered with, that would be VERY INTERESTING.

Shannon said...

I really appreciated that video too. I had a close friend at BYU who was gay--but I only discovered that years later (and all of the puzzle pieces in our odd relationship suddenly came together for me). I kind of wonder if knowing someone who struggles (or doesn't struggle) with homosexuality is what it takes to feel empathy for them. My parents never knew anyone who was openly gay, and I think that has a lot to do with their perceptions of homosexuals. For those who don't actually have gay friends, videos like this can go a long way toward building understanding. Thank goodness for these courageous students.

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