As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, “Brigham Young University remains one of the most hostile campuses in the country for gay and transgender students,” according to the Princeton Review. Such a hostile environment has prevented students from speaking out, until now.
Because we, the filmmakers of “Same-Sex Attracted” are also LGBT and were current BYU students for the majority of filming, other LGBT and SSA (Same-Sex Attracted) students were finally willing to share their stories to a camera—and, finally, to be honest in their storytelling.
THE IMPENETRABLE MORMON BASTION
BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY
In “Same-Sex Attracted”, we follow a handful of LGBT & SSA students over the course of an academic year at LDS-owned Brigham Young University. As the year progresses, the film follows each of the students as they live and grow at "the Lord's University." These incredible individuals experience not only the regular day-to-day of being a college kid but also the unique trials that come with being LGBT at a Mormon school, grappling with questions of faith, sexuality, gender, family, love, and life. Combined, the students’ stories paint an elaborate picture of what is going on in the trenches of the “Mormon and Gay” conversation.
After years in the making, "Same-Sex Attracted" presents the real experience of being queer at 'the Lord’s University' from the perspective of real, current LGBT students.
It is widely recognized that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints holds a traditional stance on homosexuality. BYU, the prized jewel of Mormon culture and target destination for many Mormon youth, even has a specific section in its Honor Code for ‘Homosexual Behavior’, including the following:
One's stated same-gender attraction is not an Honor Code issue. However, [...] 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.
This definition of homosexual behavior illustrates the complexity of being LGBTQ at BYU. As of 2007, students at BYU can be “out” as LGBTQ and SSA and attend the university and remain in good standing. However, they cannot act in any way that would “give expression to homosexual feelings.”
The sentiment is both poignant and vague. LGBTQ students obviously cannot have sex with members of the same sex in accordance with the mentioned “law of chastity” (defined as abstinence outside of marriage). But they also cannot kiss or hold hands, even though there is no specific explanation of where the boundary extends. Can they hug their straight but same-sex friends? Can they speak with a feminine lilt? Can they have a rainbow button on their backpack? Regardless of the ambiguity to LGBTQ individuals, the understanding from the administration is clear: just don’t be gay.
Though BYU has drastically improved its policies towards LGBTQ issues from its long history of school-sanctioned conversion therapy and police raids, it continues to be clear to the LGBTQ community that BYU is not always a safe environment for students who are “out”.
Breaking the Honor Code can result in a variety of consequences, ranging from apologetic essay requirements to immediate expulsion. According to policy, individuals can also anonymously report other students to the Honor Code Office for any alleged crime, with or without evidence. Consequently, LGBTQ students at BYU live with the constant fear of being “turned in” to the Honor Code Office, even if they have done nothing against the rules. This means that as each of the LGBTQ students develop over the course of their time at BYU, they face not only typical coming-of-age growing pains and college stresses, but also the specific struggles that come with being LGBTQ at “the Lord’s University”; namely, crises of faith, family, and mental health.
Because we, the filmmakers of "Same-Sex Attracted" are also LGBTQ and were current BYU students for the majority of filming, other students were finally willing to share their stories to a camera.
Maddy realized she was gay during her freshman year at BYU. She recently received a degree in Media Arts from BYU with a focus in Nonfiction & Documentary Production. She has worked on several successful films, including God Bless the Child (2015), DREAMers (2018), and Mother, Mother (2018).
Zoie studied Graphic Design at BYU until they finished in December 2016. They have a large portfolio of both corporate and freelance work, and owns a media production company that specializes in video production. Zoie has a passion for empowering the voiceless and believes film is the best medium to tell their stories.
KATY DRAKE BETTNER
Katy Drake Bettner is an executive and producer in the entertainment industry having co-founded both Playful Corp, a game studio in McKinney TX with her husband Paul, and BetRed Stories, a development and production company with Amy Redford (The Guitar, Professor Marston and The Wonder Women) out of Sundance, Utah. Katy is a member of the Women at Sundance Leadership Council and serves on various boards including The Treatment Support Fund, Harmony Foundation and the McKinney Chamber of Commerce.
Holly Tuckett has contributed to more than 40 narrative and documentary and television productions, including National Geographic, Discovery, American Idol and NBC Olympics. Most recently, Holly shot and directed Church & State (2018), the heavy-hitting documentary about the political turmoil surrounding legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah. As an accomplished LGBT filmmaker and documentarian herself, Holly is a priceless voice for and vehicle behind “Same-Sex Attracted”.
Known for his award-winning films Sons of Perdition (2010) and An Honest Liar (2014), Tyler Measom has a long and colorful resume of directing and producing credits. His work has premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance Labs & Sundance Film Festival, MipDoc Cannes, HotDocs, and more. Tyler’s expertise has proved crucial to the development of “Same-Sex Attracted”.
Aaron Egbert Allsop is a documentary director and editor based out of Salt Lake City, UT. His first documentary that he edited and co-produced, Llama Nation, won best documentary at the Omaha Film Festival and the Utah Film Awards. He also teaches Digital Video Production at Salt Lake Community College as an adjunct professor, and has worked to help “Same-Sex Attracted” behind the camera, in front of the computer, and in print.
Remarkably, "Same-Sex Attracted" presents the story of the LGBTQ student experience at BYU with the intention of offering an olive branch of understanding. By allowing the audience the freedom to watch, recognize, and empathize with real people, the film patiently approaches larger, controversial issues and simply encourages the audience to come away from the film with a broadened understanding, demanding nothing more.
Since its conception in 2015, "Same-Sex Attracted" has developed into an in-depth, inside look at the controversy surrounding LGBT issues and the Latter-Day Saints with powerful, exclusive testimonies from LGBTQ students at BYU.
“Same-Sex Attracted” has the potential to drastically improve the conversation between LDS and LGBTQ communities.
Be a part of the journey.
“Same-Sex Attracted” presents a critical perspective towards affecting positive change to LGBT issues in Utah. In 2016, over one hundred people helped us raise over $8K on Kickstarter to launch our filmmaking, and since then we have funded the project ourselves. We have been working tirelessly out of pocket because we know this is a story that needs to be told, and that we need to be the ones to tell it.
However, in order to bring this story to light, we need your help. Our finishing budget will allow us to retain control of the narrative. All funds will go towards editing, producing, and distributing the film to a wide audience.
The film is fiscally sponsored by the Utah Film Center, “Utah’s preeminent, year-round source for high-quality and curated film."
With your support, “Same-Sex Attracted" can begin submitting to festivals by Summer 2019, within the wake of attention surrounding LGBTQ issues in Utah.
We will begin submitting to festivals in Fall 2019, starting with local festivals in Utah such as Damn These Heels!, Red Rock, and Sundance. Then we will apply to national and international festivals that specifically target LGBT films or female filmmakers. After the premiere we will begin screening at Utah schools, starting first with BYU, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, and Salt Lake Community College. We also plan on screening with various LGBT and/or religious organizations, such as BYU’s unofficial, off-campus group USGA. As fiscal sponsorship recipients of the Utah Film Center, we are optimistic about reaching our ultimate goal of widely distributing the film through SVOD services the following year.