I’m one of the students who walked out, but I’m an LGBT supporter

Shelbyy copy

The editorial was written in response to another letter submitted on Tuesday by Chelsea Heaton regarding whether or not USU students should voice their dissenting opinions about members of the LGBT community.

Recently, a letter to the editor for the Statesman was written about how students should feel comfortable to disagree in class. The author wrote that she recently attended a class in which a guest speaker came in to discuss LGBT and how there was “palpable peer pressure” filling the room. Not only was there obvious discomfort, but three students actually chose to leave the class. I am one of those three students.

Now, I know I just instantly lost some readers because of anger, sadness and disappointment in me being “intolerant” or many may see me as “hypocritical.” And if you do see me that way, I’m fine with that. But you don’t know me and you should not judge my character on this one issue.

Before I continue, I want to tell you about myself. First off, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, I am a Mormon. However, I also support LGBT rights. Many people seem to be under the impression that these two things can not coexist, but I am here to tell you that it is very possible and actually, rather common.

Although my religious beliefs may lead me to believe something different on a spiritual level, that does not make me believe that the LGBT community shouldn’t have the same human and legal rights — as any other individual in our society. Nor does it make me intolerant, regardless of what you may say.

For the past week since the lecture, many people asked me why I chose to leave when I am a strong supporter of LGBT rights and always have been. Choosing to leave was not a decision I made lightly. Many readers seem to be under the impression that the three of us who left heard the words “LGBT” and walked straight out the door. That was not the case. We did not leave until about fifteen minutes into the lecture.

Now I can not speak to my classmates reasons for leaving, or for staying, but I left for two reasons. The first was simply because of a feeling I had that what was happening was not right. I might receive condemnation for that, but that is fine with me. The second was due to the way the information was presented. With all due respect to the presenter, the lecture had more of a feeling of being “preached” to or having information “shoved down our throats” rather than a discussion. Although I know this was not their intention, some things that were said made it seem like those who disagree with the LGBT lifestyle are wrong and that they should change their beliefs. Asking someone to change their beliefs to fit your lifestyle is not right, no matter your sexual orientation.

My cousin, AC Ivory, came out to our family just a few years ago. In a conservative, Mormon family, I can not begin to even imagine how difficult this was for him. Being able to do that takes a great deal of bravery and confidence in yourself. AC and I had the chance to talk about this situation, and this is what he had to say.

“I was not in the room so I cannot have an opinion on the actual content talked about in the room. If you and your friends were not comfortable with what was being presented, you were right to walk out. I have also walked out on lectures that I didn’t agree with. There is nothing wrong with that,” he said.

As far as acceptance goes, AC is very grateful to me and my family for our acceptance of who he is, regardless of our religious beliefs.

“I appreciate your acceptance and openness. Not everyone is obviously. It means a lot. Regardless of what anyone believes, what race they are, what religion they are, what sexuality they are, etc., we are all human and we all deserve to be treated equally. It means a lot that you reached out to me and I love you and the rest of the family. I feel like our family has been very accepting and loving towards me, even after coming out,” he said.

A close family friend, Sadie Somsen, was raised in the same small town Idaho community as me. Sadie and her brothers grew up with my dad. They were all taught the same values when it comes to loving and serving those around you. In a largely Mormon community, coming out for Sadie was not easy either. But I like to believe that it is good hearted people like my family who made it a little easier for her.  

“The world we live in is vast and ever-changing,” she said. “That being said, a lot of opinions of right and wrong are shared and discussed. I personally have had many of these discussions with many different people. My ‘lifestyle’ has been a point of some of these discussions.  I believe and live my life with those same core values I was brought up with. Love one another, like I have loved you. I have only been greeted with love and respect from the Stoor family.”

Sadie knows the importance of choice for herself and for all of us. She told me when I asked her opinion on my choice to leave that she hears and understands both sides.

“We are all human, and to share who I am with those I love is a gift, not a requirement.  I also believe that it is a beautiful thing to have a choice. Some of the cruelty I have heard I have chosen to walk away. As should be everyone’s option, actually it IS everyone’s option,” she said.

After the letter to the editor was posted, readers instantly began attacking the writer as being unkind, intolerant and homophobic. While I think these accusations are hasty (and a form of intolerance themselves), I also see why people would react in this way to her words. However, it was one letter, written by one student stating her opinion on the fact that we should feel free to disagree. And she is absolutely right. Disagreement is a good thing, but many people see those who disagree with them as being ignorant and unkind. That is where the problem lies.  

I do not regret walking out of that lecture. As I have questioned myself over the past week, I have come to know that was the appropriate decision for me in that moment. I still love and accept the LGBT community and hope that one day, the intolerance they face from so many people is put to an end. And I hope that those of you reading this will extend that same love and acceptance not only to me, but to everyone. Because we are all human and we are all deserving of love and of having the right to choose.

— Shelby Stoor is a freshman that loves all things Utah State. She enjoys spending her free time writing, binge watching Grey’s Anatomy and traveling to Idaho to be with her family.



There are 15 comments

Add yours
  1. Tracie Lloyd


    • Steve

      Like several of the commentors here already, I would like to know specifics of what it was that was being “shoved down your throat”. Your letter did little to explain how you are an LGBT+ supporter, yet still walked out during what sounds like an open discussion. I’m not trying to be mean or disresprctful, but just offering anecdotal quotes and stories really comes off as just trying to make yourself feel better about it. I respect your right to walk out, if that’s how you felt about it, but how you or Chelsea expect to be immune from criticism about your comments is baffling. The other thing I am struggling with, is if both of you feel fine about writing an editorial for the entire campus to see about your feelings, why couldn’t you have just brought them up during the class and had an open discussion so either you could understand better what was being presented, or they could understand the problems you where having with they way it was being presented. It seems like a lot more good could have come from that.

  2. Joanna

    What was said, specifically, that made you feel so uncomfortable? Or what was it about the way it was lectured that felt preachy? I want to hear you out.

  3. Nic

    While you may not believe that you are hurting people withint the lgbt community when you walk out of a lecture about the lgbt community, you really are. The act of walking out says that you do not support the community regardless of whether or not you belive you support them because you know someone who is gay. In addition it’s not the “lgbt lifestyle”. A lifestyle is a way someone chooses to live. Those who are gay do not choose to be, they are born that way. Do you really think they would choose to live in a way that would make their lives harder, have postpone treat them as subhuman, and their feelings of love discredited and turned into a political argument? No. In addition your comment that those speaking up against Chelsea’s letter are being intolerant, is incorrect. They have just as much right to speak up as you do. They’re also a minority group who constantly face oppression and rejection from those around them. Letters like hers truly hurt those who are already hurting. You might also think that I’m attacking you, but I’d ask you to turn the tables around and imagine what it would be like to hated and rejected by your peers and even your family just because the way you love is a little different.

  4. AW

    I don’t get it. You are a supporter of LBGTQ rights but you’re unwilling to imagine what it’s like for them? Not willing to have empathy? Do you think they were trying to turn you gay? How could it be wrong to imagine what it might feel like to come out of the closet and face persecution?

    Honestly, I don’t get it. How it could be wrong for you to have an experience to help you gain empathy. Now, if they asked you to have gay sex, then sure. I think you’d have been right for walking out. But imagining what it might be like for someone? How scary it would be? I’m sorry, but have a lot more self reflecting to do before you can officially call yourself an LBGTQ ally. You’re on the right track. Please don’t just stop here, though.

  5. Chelsea

    It makes me sad that even a very compassionate letter expressing a simple opinion upsets you all who are commenting. She has a right to disagree in whatever form she may and you have a right to disagree. She is being very kind. Thank you Shelby for your bravery.

  6. Chris

    Shelby, as a gay ex-mormon and USU alumnus I understand where you are coming from. The last LDS sacrament meeting I attended the second concealer in the bishopric was speaking on the Plan of Salvation. I was sitting next to my ex-boyfriend. All I could think about was why do we not fit. I left the meeting after I had all that I could stomach. We wanted everything that the Plan had to offer. We were planning our lives together. I can’t remember if I had asked him to marry me yet or not but things were definitely headed that direction. The only answers the church an provide at the moment is grit your teeth and God will figure it out in the next life. I encourage you to take some time to picture yourself in that situation. You have found the partner of your dreams, and you have to choose between the love of your life and your faith. It is a painful decision, but where ever there is discomfort there is a chance to grow . Make the most of it.

  7. Angela

    Shelby, the “I have gay friends” defense doesn’t make you immune from doing things that are homophobic and hurtful to gay people. And having your one gay cousin tell you that what you did was right also doesn’t mean it wasn’t homophobic, intolerant, or incredibly hurtful to the people you walked out on. I don’t know what the conversation was in that classroom, and your article did little to clarify that. But part of being a supporter or ally to oppressed groups involves ongoing reflection on your actions. It isn’t a status that we obtain and then we’re done and beyond question. It’s something we work at and constantly grow and improve upon. So overall, being an “LGBT supporter” may be a value that you hold, however your actions were homophobic and hurtful, and by writing this article you are continuing to defend something that has hurt people. I applaud you for supporting LGBT rights and recognizing others’ ability to make choices for their own lives, and I hope you can take your allyship farther by being able to consider the diverse feelings, experiences, and opinions of the human beings in the LGBT community and respond to their stories, their assertions that an action you’ve taken was hurtful, and their truths in a compassionate way. By walking out, you and the others involved made this whole thing all about you and this conversation was not ever about you to begin with. It was about the suffering of LGBT people and they deserved better from you.

  8. Christopher R Nicholson

    Shelby, you have set a wonderful example for Mormons everywhere by having the courage to express your beliefs in a respectful and compassionate yet uncompromising manner. I think most of us are afraid to do that because we know we’ll get our heads bitten off by “tolerant” people. (It’s funny, for example, how people admit they don’t know what was actually said in the lecture yet assert with 100% certainty that you were wrong to walk out of it.) I hope you maintain this level of courage throughout life as people will undoubtedly continue to choose to be offended and reject any amount of sincere love unless you abandon your beliefs and agree with them on everything. Kudos.

  9. Brittney Mattison

    How about STAYING, and then talking to the presenter afterwards to express your concerns so they can improve their presentations in the future? I can understand walking out if you’re a child in Sunday school (which I did many times, not because I was pro-LGBT, because I wasn’t at the time, but because the information is being presented was against church doctrine). But I WAS A CHILD. You are not a child. Raise your hand and say you support LGBT people, but that you feel preached at and you’re afraid others feel the same way. If you want a “discussion,” CREATE ONE.

    Passive aggressive homophobia is not “compassionate,” nor is it not “attacking.” What’s upsetting us is not just what you are “preaching” at us, but that you are blind to your own hurtful comments. At least those of us who disagree with you are saying what we really think, OPENLY, and not hiding behind Utah culture’s “As long as I’m not yelling or cursing then I am communicating respectfully.” And yeah, Chelsea was attacked. She and you don’t have to worry about DYING because someone finds out your LGBT. Because both of your ignorance is astounding.

    I’m gonna say the same thing to you I said to Chelsea. Go find that presenter and have a discussion. Then you can write a letter together that isn’t ignorant and passive aggressive and rubbing feathers because you can’t be bothered to sit and listen to a damn lecture about HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH LGBT PEOPLE. There are reasons to walk out of presentations. This is not one of them, ESPECIALLY if you claim to be a supporter of LGBT rights.

    All you people saying people should stand up for what they believe, then why did you not stay and ask questions until the presenter was blue in the face? Were you silenced? Even if you were, SO WHAT! KEEP SPEAKING UP! What are you waiting for, the perfect Jesus of the LGBT community that can communicate perfectly? Have fun waiting because nobody is that perfect!

    Jesus only ever walked away from RELIGIOUS people who did not believe in him. He NEVER turned away someone who lived a life he wouldn’t condone. None of the people he healed were perfect, but he left a lot of pharisees broke and unhealed because of the same lack of compassion you’re showing the LGBT community right now.

    GET INFORMED. Stop saying homophobic things. You CAN agree to disagree, but only if you actually know what you’re talking about and understand the other side’s stance. I have lots of friends who are anti-LGBT, but they don’t shove crap like this letter down my throat. I respect them, and they respect me. You ought to learn how to do the same.

  10. Brittney Mattison

    I will continue to be “disrespectful” (as if) and “attacking” (AS IF) for as long as you are being disrespectful and attacking the LGBT community. If you knew what you were doing, you would agree with me.

  11. Ernie

    You should probably WALK IN to the writing center and get some tips on improving your writing skills.

    Also, this letter didn’t provide any information. You just used a quote from a family member to defend your selfish behavior.

  12. Merran

    As a lesbian who grew up in Provo, I have seen many members of the LDS community profess their support for gays, lesbians and transgendered people, but bristle when these identities are presented as legitimate and equal to their own. Are you only comfortable with gays and lesbians when we agree to be seen as sinners, as lost souls hoping to be tolerated rather than respected?
    Here in Logan the LDS community is the majority, but if you ever venture outside of Utah, you will find yourself to be the minority. And you will encounter many people who will profess that they are fine with Mormons, as long as they don’t have to hear you talk about your religion, especially for more than 15 minutes. It’s difficult to explain what this feels like until it happens to you, but I’m sure that speaker was trying to describe it.

Post a new comment