June 20th, 2012 by admin

22 Comments

Understanding Who She Is

Understanding Who She Is

Bridey Jensen

At A Glance

Currently the president of Brigham Young University’s Understanding Same Gender Attraction club, Bridey Jensen has spent her college years coming to terms with the fact that she is gay. Although she’s suffered through years of struggle and depression, Bridey now feels more confident and loved by God than she ever has before.

Growing up, how did you come to terms with your sexuality within the context of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

I was born into the Church–both my parents and grandparents are members, and I have Mormon pioneer ancestors. I didn’t start understanding what I was feeling until I was about fourteen or fifteen years old. When I was thirteen, we had a missionary fireside for the youth. We asked the missionaries about some of the issues that nonmembers have with the Church. Somebody asked, “I have a friend who is a homosexual. What does the Church say in regards to that? Where in the scriptures can I send them?” I think the missionary was kind of joking in his response, but he didn’t answer with very much tact. He said, “Just tell them that they’re an abomination because that’s what the scriptures say.” I left the fireside that night thinking that that was the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

Growing up, I felt that I really stood out. The group of girls in my Young Women’s class were really into boys. They would do the weirdest things all of the time for boys. I understood that girls were supposed to like guys, but I didn’t get it. I went to my mom and told her that I wasn’t like these girls, and I didn’t understand why. It frustrated me because I felt like I didn’t fit in. My mom told me that I would like boys one day. So, I thought that one day it would be okay. In high school I started to have romantic feelings for women. I had a hyperawareness of women–more so than any of my friends. I wondered what it would be like to kiss certain women, and I would think, “She’s really beautiful.” Then I would think, “I’m not supposed to be thinking that!” I can’t describe how much I hated that I felt that way. I tried to hide it. I didn’t have the words to describe what I felt. At one point I was the Young Women’s Laurel class president, and all of the moms would come up to me and tell me how much they loved me. I would always thank them while thinking, “You wouldn’t be saying that if you knew what I was.”

I can’t describe how much I hated that I felt that way. I tried to hide it. I didn’t have the words to describe what I felt.

I thought the only place I would be accepted was what I understood at the time to be the “gay scene” or “gay lifestyle,” which I thought consisted of bars, drinking, drugs, and promiscuity. Because of this, I thought, “I can’t be gay. I’m not like that. I don’t want that kind of life.” It really scared me. By the time I was seventeen years old, I still hadn’t told a single person about my sexuality. I was terrified to even pray about it. During my senior year in high school, I started to push away from the Church; I thought that would be easier on myself and on my family. I kept attending church, but internally I disconnected myself from spiritual things. I would go to church but I didn’t want to be there. When my friends would go out and party, I would go with them. My parents didn’t know what was going on inside of me. We fought almost every night, and I would just scream, “You don’t understand!”

The first person I came out to was my best friend in high school. I told her that I was sexually attracted to women. She told me to stop. She started asking me a lot of questions and concluded that I had homosexual feelings because I had a weak testimony of the Church.

What was your experience like when you started college at Brigham Young University (BYU)?

I came to BYU feeling really scared that I would be found out. I decided I wouldn’t go to church and wouldn’t talk to people. Nobody would know me there. I mentally prepared myself to be alone and friendless. I thought I could go through life like that, and nobody would hate me because of my sexuality.

As a freshman, I had one of the bubbliest roommates. One day she found me crying before church started–I didn’t want to go. She asked me what was wrong, and I told her, “I think I’m gay. I don’t always feel like going to church, and that’s really hard for me. I don’t know what to do.” She said, “I love you. I don’t know what to do, but I love you.” She suggested I go talk to the bishop. When I went to talk to the bishop, I told him I was scared and that I thought I might be gay. I told him I was afraid that I would be kicked out of BYU. My bishop said, “That’s not true. If you haven’t acted on it in any way, then you’re fine. You’re just like anybody else here at BYU who hasn’t acted on their feelings.” That was the first time that I realized I could still be a good Mormon and have this trial in my life.

I hit a lot of roadblocks throughout the rest of my time at BYU. I kept trying to go to church but I would get really discouraged when I didn’t feel the Spirit or when I realized I didn’t have a strong testimony about something. A year or so after I talked with my bishop, I got so depressed I could barely get out of bed. I hated myself. I would pray, “God, please take this away from me. Please change me. If I read my scriptures every day, if I pray every day, if I fast every day, if I go to the temple as much as I can…what will it take for You to take this away?”

That was the first time that I realized I could still be a good Mormon and have this trial in my life.

I decided I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I obviously couldn’t stand in the middle of Brigham Square and shout, “I’m gay, and I’m lonely and suicidal! Someone talk to me!” I searched everywhere on the internet; I don’t think I did my homework for three or four weeks. I found a group called Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA) on an obscure blog post. That post led me to several links until I found USGA again on BYU’s 100-hour board. Someone had written on the board, saying, “I’m a lesbian but I’ve also been a member of the Church my whole life. I don’t want to be alone. Is there a place for me here at BYU?” My friend Brandon, who was the president of USGA at the time, responded, “We just started this group and it meets at this time and on this day and in this place. You should come!” I read this and thought, “I’m not alone.” I went to the USGA meeting, and there were about twelve people there. It was a breakthrough moment for me. I didn’t even talk the entire first meeting. I just sat there and listened. The members of the group were saying things that I had felt; I thought I was the only one who had felt those things. It was amazing to not feel alone anymore. Afterwards, I ran home and said to my roommate, “I found them!” I just sat there and cried because I wasn’t alone anymore.

Eventually, Brandon and I started talking to sociology classes on campus about being gay and Mormon at BYU. The first time was absolutely terrifying. Afterwards everyone was very accepting. A girl from my freshman dorm was there and said, “I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.” We ended up visiting six or seven classes every semester.

Can you tell me more about your involvement with USGA?

USGA was started by Brandon and a small group of his friends, and I am now the acting president. The club is for BYU students but it’s not sponsored by BYU. We have our meetings on campus and the administration is okay with that. The club is available for students who want to talk about being gay and Mormon. We wish more straight students would come as it’s not just a support group. We say, “If you have questions, come ask us. If you have relatives that are dealing with this, come talk to us. Use us as a resource.” We try to talk about the issues we don’t understand. We always bring in some sort of spiritual component. I think what makes us different is the fact that we all want to stay in the Church and believe that God needs to be with us, God needs to lead us. One day we talked about revelation and faith, and it turned into a testimony meeting. People talked about the moment they realized that things were going to be okay. Many had stopped asking God, “Please make me straight,” and instead asked, “God, what do you want me to do?” They felt peace. In one way or another they had a confirmation that God is okay with them exactly the way they are.

Many had stopped asking God, “Please make me straight,” and instead asked, “God, what do you want me to do?”

How do people generally react when they find out you’re attracted to women?

I don’t expect a lot of people to feel perfectly fine about my homosexuality. I don’t expect people to be okay with it immediately. Everyone has to go through their own process. Generally, though, people have exceeded my expectations. I did have trouble with some roommates at BYU. I was featured in a book called Gay Mormons? by Brent Kirby that goes a little bit more into my personal life. Before I moved in, my roommates Googled my name and read my section of the book. One of my roommates kind of flipped out. She wouldn’t come home if I was there. She tried to move out. She reported me to the landlord, BYU Housing, and the Honor Code Office. None of the roommates liked it when my friends came over and openly talked about homosexuality. I felt depressed and considered suicide. I always feared that people would hate me or hate this part of me that I didn’t even ask for. I thought, “The only way my roommates will stop hating me is if I stop being gay. But I’ve tried that before, and it doesn’t work. The only way to stop being gay is to kill myself.” In my mind, that was a legitimate path. It was horrible.

You are so confident now! How have you arrived at a place in your life where you don’t let that kind of negativity affect you?

Getting involved in USGA really helped me. Seeing how much I was making a difference in other people’s lives helped me get my energy back. Some things had to change inside of me. I don’t feel afraid of telling people now. I’m okay with who I am, and I’m okay with how I feel. It’s this newfound freedom. That’s taken me the better part of a decade to figure out. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t imagine feeling any other way, as if some part of me would be gone. Going through this has shaped me so much. I can’t imagine it being different. I still struggle with some things: I still feel like I don’t have a place at church. I don’t know how I fit in there. I know I want a family; I don’t how to explain that. I’m 23 years old so I don’t think I need to explain everything right now.

What would you like to see change in regards to how we as Mormons approach homosexuality?

I love the Church. I love the gospel, and I love what it represents. I love Christ and the fact that we have someone to follow. When I go to church I don’t always see that. I often don’t feel like there’s a place for me. I don’t feel that being gay should be a shameful thing. I would love to see a change in the way people talk about homosexuality in the Church, including the way people treat it and the way they act. It shouldn’t be a shameful thing for someone to say, “I’m dealing with this in my life. I’m dealing with the fact that I’m gay, and I don’t know how that fits in with the plan that the Church has.” It’s a struggle feeling like you don’t have a space in the Church or in God’s plan because of who you are internally. That is a lonely, lonely place to be. I’m trying to change this culture of shame in part through USGA. Let’s get over our judgments and realize that we’re here to go through hard things so that we can become like our Heavenly Father, and we’re here together so that we can help each other through those hard things. We are all children of God, and we should embrace and support each other no matter what.

At A Glance

Bridey Colleen Jensen


Location:
Provo, UT

Age:
23

Marital status:
Single

Occupation:
Statistician and full time Student at BYU

Schools Attended:
BYU

Languages Spoken at Home:
English

Favorite Hymn:
“I Stand All Amazed”

Interview by Krisanne Hastings. Photos used with permission.

22 Comments

  1. Emery
    7:13 pm on June 20th, 2012

    Thank you for having the courage and desire to share your story and help shed light on a subject that is not often discussed in the Church. What a beautiful statement this is: “I would love to see a change in the way people talk about homosexuality in the Church, including the way people treat it and the way they act. It shouldn’t be a shameful thing for someone to say, ‘I’m dealing with this in my life.’”

  2. Suzy
    7:35 pm on June 20th, 2012

    We all have different challenges in this life. I admire anyone who is willing to bare their soul to help others. I don’t know if I have that kind of courage. It’s not our place to judge anyone, just to love everyone. And thank goodness that our only judge is our loving and merciful Savior. Thank you for sharing. I hope your faith brings blessings of peace and joy into your life.

  3. Chrysula
    8:19 pm on June 20th, 2012

    Bridey, I wept when I saw the BYU “It Gets Better” and I firmly believe and hope and pray that it does. Thank you for being bold in your search for your place. I am grateful you and others are part of this rich community of faith and I send love and prayers for you on your journey.

  4. ashmae
    9:05 pm on June 20th, 2012

    Bridey, I don’t know you, but I’ve known many in your position and I’m grateful for so much bravery, forgiveness and patience you clearly shine with. I’m so glad to see these resources opening up at BYU and hopefully in other venues where the church is present. Krisanne, great interview!

  5. Anna
    10:13 pm on June 20th, 2012

    What I love most about this is how you said it shouldn’t be shameful to talk about struggling with this. Shame is not the Savior’s way. We all struggle and why should you struggle in silence? Keep speaking up, there are a lot of people in the church who want you and people like you there, and want to offer support, love, and kindness.

  6. Kendall
    10:35 pm on June 20th, 2012

    Hi Bridey, I just want to tell you that you are amazing. I have always known that Heavenly Father has a place for those who have a different sexual orientation and who want to continue to live the gospel. After all, you are his daughter and He loves you. You are where He wants you to be and you are helping others to be there too. Thank you for your strength and commitment.

  7. Mark
    11:32 pm on June 20th, 2012

    To echo Suzy and Anna, we all have different challenges/struggles in life and it is not our place to judge others, especially not by the challenges they have been given by our Father. I don’t know how I would handle that challenge and I pray that you will continue to find the strength and the faith to follow the guidance of the Spirit. Thank you for speaking up. Please continue to get the message out that you should not be judged for your challenges. There are many of us who support you, and all those with this challenge, and want to offer you love and support.

  8. Barbara
    3:30 am on June 21st, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your story, Bridey, and for being open about who you are and trying to change the dialogue. There is such a huge need within the church for what you and USGA are doing.

  9. Joan Smith
    12:13 pm on June 21st, 2012

    Well spoken. Thank you. We as members of Christ’s church need to make a place for all people in his church. We are the ones who need to change our attitudes but change is hard and often slow. Reading your story will help people to change. I have a gay son who no longer attends church. I once suggested to him that attitudes would change quicker if he stayed active and members could see that a gay person wasn’t just about the more typical lifestyle you described. Thank you for staying in the church so people can see your example and begin to understand better. I know it is a rough road. You have my respect, love and appreciation.

  10. Krisanne
    12:38 pm on June 21st, 2012

    From the Interview Producer: I am so grateful to Bridey for her courage, self-awareness, and wisdom. She truly is wise beyond her years. The work she’s doing now to help create a more loving environment for our gay brothers and sisters is nothing short of God’s work. I want to thank her for bravely speaking her truth and thank all of you for your loving comments.

  11. Bob Northrup
    1:19 pm on June 21st, 2012

    Your story is very inspirational. My son Kevin is part of your USGA group and he has been supported and encouraged by you and the members of this group. Thank you for loving all the members of your group. I hope you feel their love in return. It is quite apparent that there are many students and youth in your situation. The actions that you are taking will have a broad affect on many members. MBB has become a good support group for parents of LGBT sons and daughters. There are no easy answers for us,but I do know that I love each of you and pray for your courage. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Venessa
    1:45 pm on June 21st, 2012

    Thanku so much for sharing, u are truly amazing and an inspiration to many. I felt so touched as u open yr heart.I pray u can continue in strength and be exactly what yr Savior wants u to be. I’m sure u will be insrumentle in helping many other people understand thier sexuality and still feel they are needed in our Saviors plan.Hold yr head up high at church because u most definatly hav a place! I truly admire yr faithfullness and feel truly touched by yr example, thanku X

  13. T.A. Demings
    10:10 pm on June 21st, 2012

    Wow. Awesome answers. Go Bridey.
    This is amazing.

  14. deila
    9:36 pm on June 25th, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your story and your experiences with us. I do not understand all things and I believe the Lord loves you and has a plan for you — hopefully more at church will be able to see you as the wonderful person that you are. LIfe is tough for all of us, with different challenges and none of us is perfect. It’s a messy life here in the telestial kingdom!

  15. Sistas in Zion
    2:26 pm on June 26th, 2012

    When USGA did the “It Gets Better” video we shared it on our site because we were so impressed with BYU students for bravely doing their part to prevent suicide among LGBT youth. No one should have to feel like suicide is the only way to find peace.

    Thank you for your willingness to share your life experiences. This dialogue is so important in the goal of each us learning to love one another as brothers and sisters of a loving Father in Heaven.

  16. Verily Stevenson
    9:15 pm on June 27th, 2012

    Bridey (cool name), you are a great example to others! I know your story will help other people in similar circumstances. Stay strong, keep fighting the good fight! I am in awe of your courage and faith!

  17. Con
    9:04 am on July 10th, 2012

    Thanks for sharing you thoughts and feelings. Although I do not know any who are in your situation, I have a hard time understanding the frequent Church stance on homosexuality. I am glad to see that there is a ‘gospel’ attitude which is offering you much more.

    I hope that things work out for you and that you can be really happy in being yourself.

  18. Meredith
    12:00 am on July 12th, 2012

    Thank you so much for being so courageous and sharing your story! This is such a difficult thing- and I like many others here, do not understand it, but are trying to have the faith that at some point in time, we will have some clarity. I am so grateful that you have a positive attitude and know that suicide is not an answer. I don’t have the answer, but I absolutely know that your Savior and Father in Heaven loves you and everyone who struggles with this. I have also been interviewed on this site- I am not gay, but was married to a lovely husband for 15 years before he decided he wanted to leave to live a gay lifestyle/relationship. I don’t have any answers, but I know that our personal trials, thoughts and heartaches are felt and understood by a loving Heavenly Father who wants to very best for us.
    I am thankful for you and for your group at BYU. I’m glad there is support out there.

  19. Kelli
    8:02 am on August 29th, 2012

    Thanks for sharing some of your story Bridey. I really liked the video the USGA recently put together.

    best of luck in your studies and future life plans!

  20. Colleen
    8:17 am on September 13th, 2012

    First … I love your middle name :-)

    Second … Thank you for sharing. I greatly admire your strength. I recently started investigating the Church and I have been trying to reconcile the commonly
    expressed “Christian” views on homosexuality and my personal views. I believe ALL love comes from our Heavenly Father and shame/guilt/hostility come from the advisary.

    I see proof of that in my nephew’s relatinship with a wonderful man I am proud to have in my family — 17 yrs and going strong! There are not many traditional marriages that last that long these days.

    I also see that in my niece’s relationship with her new wife. They are literally the answers to each others prayers. They were both praying for guidance on where God wanted them to go next at the same prayer meeting and God brought them together even though neither one thought they were ready for romantic entaglements.

    I firmly believe that God is not done instructing us. I believe the time for change is coming soon. As mankind continues to mature, it will be reveled that God condems promiscuity and abuse not mature, loving relationships between equal adults. In my opinion, this revelation can not come soon enough.

  21. Jenny
    9:26 am on December 15th, 2012

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy you are receiving support and providing support for others in your situation. God bless!

  22. Margaret K. Dove
    1:15 pm on August 8th, 2013

    I don’t think it’s you who should be facing challenges. I think you were created perfectly fine. It’s the church who creates barriers of exclusion and prejudice. Sometimes I feel like an Abolitionist while being a member of the KKK. I’m very frustrated with current policies. As a straight female, no one ever has asked me not to act upon my feelings for a man. Yet for gays, its a sin. I’m sorry that you had to go through so much searching and turbulence. You are wise way beyond your age. Thank you for sharing your story.

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