Having chosen to attend one of the only schools that would never accept him or his lifestyle, BYU freshman Neil Murray used to walk the hallways in constant fear that his peers would see him for what he really is.
“You’re just so fearful; you hate yourself to begin with, because you’re still not OK with yourself … it’s so stressful,” he said.
The part of him that would never be accepted by his fellow students wasn’t anger issues or a drug addiction. Murray’s alleged wrongdoing was his homosexuality.
Murray admits that his biggest fear was not his actions, but rather being discovered and getting kicked out of school, considering the stance of the church-owned university on homosexuality.
However, that did not make it easy for Murray, who had a strong religious background which centered around traditional family values.
“It was hard for me to date guys and be OK with it. It definitely was [an inner struggle] because my parents were so against it,” Murray said.
The Murray family is not one to practice the teachings of their church exclusively on Sundays — they are devout, which made the announcement all the more shocking.
“I don’t know how many people have seen their mother in the fetal position, rocking back and forth in tears, praying out loud to God,” Murray said of his coming-out moment. “It is horrifying and awful … you don’t know what to say.”
Despite Murray’s homosexuality, his parents still pushed him to give BYU a chance, hoping it would help him in more ways than providing him an education. However, contrary to his preconceived notions about the LDS school, Murray quickly discovered he wasn’t the only one in his situation.
“I went to BYU and met lots and lots and lots of gay boys. I met hundreds of gay boys, and that can’t be all of them,” Murray said.
He began attending ‘gay game night’ held every last Wednesday of the month at a hushed location called “the tight end.” These regular activities led to more than just game nights on campus and he was soon fully participating in relations he had never considered possible at an LDS school.
“The stuff I got away with at BYU was ridiculous,” Murray said. “I was on the bottom floor of my complex, so people came in and out through my window without anyone knowing they were in there. It was easy to get away with.”
As time went on, he came to realize that it wasn’t just a bunch of people trying to be rid of their lifestyles, but they were a thriving underground community.
“It’s definitely one of the more closely-knit gay communities that I know, just because it’s bound by this fear and by this [fact]: We have something in common that we cannot share with the world,” Murray said. “This is where we’re safe.”
Despite these feelings of acceptance by the underground gay community and the fact that his parents had groomed him to attend BYU throughout his whole life, Murray no longer wanted to live a double life filled with fear and anxiety.
“I made the decision to transfer to UVU and I cannot tell you how much happier I am with the decision,” Murray said.