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.
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.
"I felt this documentary did a wonderful job of showing the lives of the BYU students that face discrimination while being hopeful for change. It showed honest and candid moments in their lives as well as interviews that helped show the pain and passion of these students. It isn't anti-Mormon, for those who worry it might be. It just shows an honest problem that needs to be addressed by the university, and the belief that positive change can be made."
"This is a very eye opening film into the LGBTQ experience of students at BYU, and similarly to LDS church members as a whole. I breaks my heart that these student have to fight so hard for years to be heard at all, but I'm glad that their efforts are beginning to bear fruit, even if just a little at a time. The production of the film was decent, especially considering it was created by students while attending school. I hope this movie isn't the end of efforts to publicize this conversation."
"Oh, my gosh. My gosh. I wish there could be a film like this for every generation that's been at BYU, because I graduated right before these kids showed up and my experience was so different from theirs. I have so much love in my heart for queer Mormons. I am so impressed with the pacing and weaving of stories in this documentary, and how well it encompasses the vast range of emotions/journeys that come in the middle of the Queer/Mormon Venn diagram. A friend of mine once said something to me like, "Mormonism fucks you up as a queer person so specifically," and that is incredibly true. There are church leadership quotes and lessons and ideas that permeate our upbringing, bridging us between generations. I am so grateful for the strength of these kids and so envious of the fact that they got to find each other at school. My best friend and roommate of 3 years at BYU is queer, like me, but we weren't able to divulge that to each other until years after graduation. We both saw this documentary and got emotional seeing a person get a butch haircut in an apartment that looked just like ours. They queered the space that was our closet. With those haircuts and the loud-and-proud attitude, though, those kids have targets on their backs like we never did. I'm amazed at the fortitude and so moved by the friendships depicted..."
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 Purves is an emerging filmmaker from the bicycle capital of the world, Davis, CA. Maddy received her BA of Media Studies in 2018, focusing on nonfiction and documentary film. Since then she has edited and produced two award-winning feature films “Same-Sex Attracted” (2020) and Anchor Point (2021). With a love of doing good work, Maddy has extensive and invaluable experience in a wide range of media production: she’s gripped, produced, ran camera and sound, edited, and even run live replay in front of 50,000+ sports fans. Maddy believes in the healing power of honest storytelling and is in search of projects that inspire love, compassion, and empathy.
Zoie studied Graphic Design at BYU. 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.
They currently work full-time as an in-house Senior Graphic Designer at a leadership development company, and hopes to continue to make the world a better place through individual storytelling and development. Zoie is continuing to create art in film, writing, the fine arts, and design.
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 herself, Holly has been a champion for “Same-Sex Attracted”.
Known for his award-winning films Sons of Perdition (2010), An Honest Liar (2014), and I Want My MTV! (2018), Tyler Measom has a long and illustrious career of directing and producing films. 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.
News & Press
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.
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.
“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.
The film is fiscally sponsored by the Utah Film Center.
“Same-Sex Attracted" is available now on iTunes.