On Thursday, Outsports contributor Ken Schultz asked out bisexual Brigham Young University cross country runner Emma Gee if this week’s change in the university’s infamous Honor Code made it any easier to be out while attending the university. For decades, the code has barred any kind of same-sex activity, including dating and public displays of affection. What follows is her eloquent and very personal response.
I found out that BYU’s honor code was changed right after I finished track practice yesterday afternoon. I was sitting in the locker room with my team, tapping through Instagram stories, when I saw a post of a news article that said, “BYU announces updated honor code.”
Immediately, my heart began to pound. I clicked on the link to the article and read the revised code.
“Live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside marriage between a man and a woman.”
“No way,” I thought.
Quickly, I checked BYU’s honor code website to see if the previous statement on homosexuality was still posted. As I scrolled up and down the familiar document, the document I’ve signed every year for five years, I realized the “homosexual behavior” section was missing. The dreadful homophobic statement was gone.
At that moment, I felt an enormous sense of relief.
The years of paranoia and ambiguity were finally at an end. I would no longer have to play the, “Is this BYU person homophobic and if yes how should I adjust my behavior so they don’t make assumptions and report me to the honor code” game. I would no longer have to lie and hide my identity. I would no longer be a cultural inconvenience and an uncomfortable political statement.
For the first time in my five years at BYU, I felt safe. For the first time, I would be viewed by the school as any other student.
No premarital sex regardless of sexual orientation works for me. That’s the standard I grew up with.
Though I had just finished a grueling track workout, I jumped up and told my team the good news. After celebrating with them, I ran to Coach Taylor’s office to discuss the Honor Code change.
Then, on my way to her office, I came across BYU’s statement about the Honor Code change on Twitter.
“In speaking with Honor Code Office Director Kevin Utt this afternoon, we’ve learned that there may have been some miscommunication as to what the Honor Code changes mean. Even though we have removed the more prescriptive language, the principles of the Honor Code remain the same.”
I stopped walking.
“Even though we have removed the more prescriptive language,the principles of the Honor Code remain the same.”
What does that mean? Is the homosexual behavior principle still the same? Can I date publicly or not? If not, did BYU replace an ambiguous statement with an even more ambiguous statement just to sound less homophobic and appear more inclusive? Is this about getting BYU into a bigger athletic conference?
The clarity I’d felt only a few minutes earlier was replaced by disappointment and confusion.
Over the past 24 hours, I’ve heard and read different interpretations of the change. Some people are convinced the standard is different now and LGBTQ+ BYU students can date publicly. While I hope that’s true, the only conclusion I’ve made is that no one knows.
So, to answer the original question, the removal of the “homosexual behavior” provision has not made it easier to be out at BYU because the school has not been clear about what the change actually means.
Because of the ambiguity of the Honor Code change, and the lack of clarification, my day to day life remains the same. I still have to be careful.
Ken Schultz asked Emma Gee, “Do you want the school to further clarify what is now permitted under the honor code in any way?”
Yes. BYU needs to clarify what the updated Honor Code statement on chastity means for LGBTQ+ BYU students.
Emma Gee, 22, will graduate from Brigham Young University in April. She is a Public Relations Major and International Development Minor who works as a writer. The Broomfield, Colo., native serves as chair of the diversity and inclusion committee for BYU’s Student Athlete Activities Committee and is a member of the cross country and track teams. She can be reached by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram (emma_gee1777).