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.