If I'm gay.

Warning. This is a heavy post.

I've worked at BYU as a curriculum designer. I'm a BYU graduate, twice. My license plate says BYU on it. My best friend attends BYU. But just today I learned about something that has given me cause for concern.

There's a line in the current CES Honor Code (the guiding document to which every BYU, BYU-I, BYU-H, and LDSBC student, faculty, and staff member promises adherence) that reads thus (pulled Aug 10 from https://policy.byu.edu/view/index.php?p=26 ):

"Homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code. Homosexual behavior includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."

Let's break this down.

"All forms of physical intimacy" means, literally, all forms of physical intimacy. Current definitions of physical intimacy encompass everything from prolonged eye contact to touch in every form, including hugs, handshakes, hand-holding, all the way up to sexual activity.

"That give expression to homosexual feelings" means anything that is motivated by, influenced by, or causes effect from attraction to the someone of the same sex.

This applies disparately based on whether I'm attracted to the same sex or not. In fact, there's a huge difference between the application to me (attracted to men) and the next guy (who probably isn't).

If I'm attracted to guys, then getting hugs, handshakes, and even high-fives from other men meets a deep physical need rooted in my attraction to men. Most men need physical touch from other guys, but I thrive when guys touch me, and my physicality with men is a huge part of my life. And while I can control how much contact I have with others, I can't change the fact that every kind of physical intimacy with men is different because I'm attracted to them (both specifically and in general).

Every single time I give a guy a hug, cuddle up with him on the couch while watching a movie, give him a shoulder to cry on, extend my hand to pick him up when he's fallen, arm wrestle with him, lay my hands on his head to give a blessing, or look deeply into his eyes, part of that action is motivated by my attraction to men. It has little to do if I'm attracted to the guy himself. Yes, being attracted to the specific guy is great, but sitting with any guy is wholly different than sitting with a girl.

If I'm not gay, however, this section has far less impact. In my case, then, the only physical contact barred by the Honor Code would be with another guy I found attractive (from the definition of homosexual attraction - simply defined as feeling that another person of the same gender is attractive). I could hold hands with guys, give them handshakes, hug them, cuddle up on the couch, or even fall asleep on their chests after talking all night like Joseph & Brigham did the night before the martyrdom, without any problem.

After reading the Honor Code statement, I was more than a bit distraught.

My best friend was the one that showed it to me. He asked me if he wasn't allowed to hug me anymore. As I mentioned, he's a BYU student.

My gut started twisting. I told him I didn't want to break the Honor Code.

I have never been in opposition to the Honor Code... I was in the Honor Choir, performed at New Student Orientation and gave firesides about the Honor Code, and still have my Honor T-shirts from Freshman year when every other one was thrown away.

I have always supported the Honor Code... and in every case that someone has attacked it I've always been able to help them understand.

But am I breaking it right now when I hug my best friend? Or when we watch a movie together cuddled on the couch? Those things have never been against Church standards - I mean, John the Beloved was laying on the chest of Christ during the Last Supper, and the modern "guys shouldn't cuddle with guys" has been a western cultural artifact for less than 100 years - proof that physical intimacy among men isn't a sin. All physical intimacy would mean that I could never touch another guy... ever. Is BYU really trying to tell people with same-sex attraction that they should never touch or be touched by another soul?

So I called.

The student at the Honor Code Office was polite and, after a short break on hold, she confirmed that the policy is worded exactly as intended. All forms of intimacy, including hugging, hand-holding, and everything else, are against the Honor Code when same-sex attraction is involved. She offered to put me in touch with the director of the Honor Code Office, and said he would call me back.

Half an hour later, the director called me back and I asked him to help me understand the policy. I explained my concern and the fact that physical intimacy covered things as benign as prolonged eye contact or handshakes, as well as sexual contact. He confirmed, when I asked specifically, that any physical intimacy that is affected by, motivated by, or that has an effect on same-sex attraction is against the Honor Code. I asked again, about hugging, handshakes, and holding hands, and he confirmed that if the action is at all motivated or causes effect to same-sex attraction, it is against the Honor Code.

"Those are things that you shouldn't do."

I didn't know what to say.

I asked for confirmation one last time, and he gave it again. Then I thanked him and hung up.




...I think there's something wrong.

Telling me that I shouldn't have sex with guys is one thing. Or that I shouldn't watch pornography or break the law of chastity in any way - with another guy or alone. I believe that. I support that. And the people who break the Honor Code in that regard need someone to help them repent and change.

But this is way, way more than sexual actions.

This affects everything.

I've officiated as an ordinance worker at the temple - pretty much the most sacred calling a single guy with same-sex attraction can have. Temple workers conduct all the sacred ordinances of the temple... and, when you're a guy, every single one involves male physical intimacy. From looking into someone's eyes for longer than usual, to holding hands, to laying hands on head, to the embrace of baptism, sacred ordinances are the physical representation of a spiritual covenant with God... and so they all have powerful physical aspects.

Does working at the temple, or worshipping at the temple, arouse me sexually? Not usually. But it most definitely affects and is affected by my attraction to men. In fact, working at and attending the temple, for a long time, was the only real, regular physical intimacy I had with men. No one would give me a hug, a handshake, or even hold eye contact with me in real life, but in the temple they had to... and I knew I could go there to not only feel a connection to God, but also to my fellow men. That connection with God and the physical connection I get with male humanity is still a major reason why I go.

And now that's against the Honor Code.

I'm the ward greeter in my ward. A big reason why I shake hands and make eye contact with every person in my ward is to feel connected with people, and to allow them that connection. As I said, every time I touch a guy, it's deeply influenced by the fact that I'm attracted to men. Touching guys, no matter the circumstance, touches me in a way that touching girls does not. And I don't think I'm alone in that regard. It's the exact same thing with heterosexual guys - in a ward missionary meeting just on Sunday my ward mission leader expressed, honestly, that if he got more hugs from cute girls in the ward, his life would be less stressful. I definitely appreciate getting hugs from guys whether they're cute or not. We added giving hugs to the ward mission plan.

But that's against the Honor Code, too.




As are "all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."

Which means everything.




Looking at my feelings, right now, I'm terribly confused. It's blindingly clear that my actions - as simple as giving my same-sex attracted best friend a hug when I see him at work in the morning - are in violation of the Honor Code. I confirmed that with the director of the Honor Code Office.

But Isn't the Honor Code approved by the leaders of the Church? Shouldn't it reflect the standards of the Church - including those of love and inclusion and support and faith? It definitely didn't include a never-touch-anyone statement the last time I looked... did someone in a committee just add the language as a catch-all?


After I post this, I'll contact someone to ask them for advice.

If I were to change the wording, I'd copy the words out of For The Strength of Youth. Put simply, don't do anything with the intent to arouse yourself or others. Simple, clear, direct. And if we need to make a list of Thou-Shalt-Nots, they need to apply to everyone regardless of potential sexual feelings.

But as I wait for a bit more clarity, I find myself asking a difficult question:

What if, as I push to try to find why the Honor Code is worded this way... I learn that God, through the Board of Trustees (the Prophet, First Presidency, and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) really did intend to communicate that I should never be physically intimate with another guy... ever again?

What if I could never go to the temple? If I could never meet a guy's eyes? If I could never touch a guy, let him touch me, if I could never give my brother-in-law a hug as he leaves for work in the morning or hold my same-sex attracted best friend while he cries on my shoulder?

What if God asked me to never touch a guy again?

Would I be willing to follow His counsel?

I'd lose all my friends if I could never touch them or meet their eyes. I'd lose my calling, never be able to go to the temple, and never be able to give a blessing. I'd be an outcast and a leper with no mortal I could turn to. Life would be worse than it already is.

But if He asked... I'd still follow Him.

Somehow, He would make it right.

I just hope that isn't what He's really asking me to do...

...and that there's just been a terrible misunderstanding.


I sent an email to the Honor Code Office referencing this blog post and my conversation with the director, asking the wording of the section to be changed. I suggested using the wording found in For a the Strength of Youth - any action designed to cause sexual arousal or stimulation in self or others would be across the line. I'm still hopeful that my conversation was just a major misunderstanding, and that the policy simply needs much less vague, broadly-interpretable language. My concern in this matter is because I care about BYU. I'm not a student, and even if I were, I'd still hug and touch guys even if I were deeply attracted to them.

I'm just concerned that the Honor Code, which for me was always a source of simply, concrete guidance as a student, has potentially begun to isolate those who need help most. With an active underground sexual hookup culture that has always been present, the Honor Code traditionally split people into three groups - those who followed and loved it, those who didn't care for the letter of the law but still wanted to do the right thing, and those who lived in total violation. If platonic physical contact between men, whether or not attraction is involved, is part of restrictions in the Honor Code, that forcefully pushes anyone affected into the middle group. Obviously, the literal interpretation in this post is far-fetched and absurd that it would ever be enforced. But it was also the direct result of my conversation with the director, and doesn't have any logical fallacies or assumptions - I was told that since I and my best friend have same-sex attraction, we shouldn't ever hug each other. There's no sexual desire there, no arousal, no whatever - hence my concern for a policy that keeps the university I love a positive, safe place for people like me - those who love both the letter and the spirit of the law and love to know exactly what it means so that we can help others stay true to the faith.
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