On February 26, the Deseret News posted an opinion piece written by former BYU student and Cosmo the Cougar, Charlie Bird. In the article, Bird described his struggle as a gay man in the BYU community, saying, “The same community that made me feel like a superstar often simultaneously made me feel broken, unloved and defective.”
In a world that grows generally more open to LGBTQ+, there are those in the LGBTQ+ community who feel increasingly isolated in BYU and member communities.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we know and recognize the importance of following God’s plan and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yes, God’s plan emphasizes on the creation of eternal families, which begins with marriage between a man and a woman.
We at the Scroll also believe in following the commandments which Christ gave as the basis for all laws, one of which includes, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39).
Nor does Christ say to love only your member neighbors, your same-raced neighbors or even your straight neighbors. When it comes to God’s love for His children, there are no modifiers or exclusions.
Heavenly Father’s love for his children is so much vaster than we can understand. We have been commanded to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, which still does not match the love He has for us and each and every one of his children.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in the October 2009 General Conference, “We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us.”
Bird felt that he hid behind not only the mask of Cosmo, but behind a mask of being a “normal member” in order to avoid isolation at BYU. While people in the community he represented idolized Cosmo, his peers insensitively and unknowingly criticized the man that brought Cosmo to life because of his sexual orientation.
We grow up with countless Sunday School lessons on the importance of loving our neighbors, our enemies, our families and our friends. In a community where most people are like you though, it can be easy to get in the habit of generalizing groups with differing lifestyles and beliefs, excluding them from receiving the love we’re taught to give freely.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “In so many relationships and circumstances in life, we must live with differences. Where vital, our side of these differences should not be denied or abandoned, but as followers of Christ we should live peacefully with others who do not share our values or accept the teachings upon which they are based.”
We can continue to be faithful members of the church while extending friendship to those on different paths in this life.
Through his experiences, Bird began working with student groups and BYU faculty to change the conversation on campus in an effort to make the second most LGBTQ-Unfriendly campus a more inclusive place for all in attendance.
Bird’s article comes nearly one month after Richard Ostler’s seminar at the Romance Theater, Listen Learn Love – Being LDS & Supporting God’s LGBTQ Children.
At BYU-I, it may seem like the number of our Brothers and Sisters that are members of the LGBTQ+ community are few and far between. Conversations like the one started by Ostler play a vital role in making those living behind a mask in our own community feel welcome and important.
We have to remember the importance of a loving environment for all of God’s children. Bird perhaps said it best:
“By actively showing love and acceptance, we can create a space in which people can remove their masks, no longer subject to the isolation and hopelessness that comes with feeling obliged to hide who they really are.”