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May 22, 2015

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BYU students send ‘It Gets Better’ message to gay youth

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Students from an unofficial gay-straight alliance at BYU produced an “It Gets Better” video for young gay people.

A year and a half after Dan Savage and Terry Miller sparked the “It Gets Better” viral phenomenon, people and organizations across the globe continue to post inspirational videos to YouTube to let LGBT youth know that life, indeed, does get better.

One such video, posted on March 29, came from a place most wouldn’t expect—Brigham Young University. The organization responsible is an unofficial gay-straight alliance at the Mormon university called Understanding Same-Gender Attraction (USGA). Their mission is to “strengthen families and the BYU community by providing a place for open, respectful discussions on the topic of same-gender attraction.” The video USGA produced indicates that more than 1,800 LGBT students attend the Provo, Utah university.

LGBT students and their straight allies contributed to the video, sharing personal testimonies that were often emotional and sometimes heartbreaking. "I just felt that I needed to just kill myself because the heartbreak of me dying would be less than the heartbreak my parents would experience if I came out to them," says one lesbian student in the film. The video also says that 74 percent of LGBT students at BYU have contemplated suicide and that 24 percent have actually attempted it.

According to USGA’s video, BYU changed its honor code in 2007 to allow LGBT students to be open about their sexual orientation (students once feared expulsion for coming out of the closet). However, the university's honor code still requires strict chastity for all students, and says, "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." In 2010, the video says, the university made another major change, lifting a ban on “advocacy for homosexuality.” That change means videos like USGA’s can now be produced on the BYU campus—and hopeful messages for Mormon LGBT youth are now being heard.

As one student says in the video, "There are people rooting for you. There are people who love you. We might not know you personally, but we are cheering for you the whole entire way. I want you to know that it really does get better."

A version of this story first appeared on lasvegasweekly.com, a sister site of the Sun.

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