Brigham Young University valedictorian Matt Easton, who received global praise after he came out as gay in a commencement speech last month, says reconciling his sexuality with his Mormon faith remains a work in progress.
In a Monday appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Easton said he was nervous before opening up about his authentic self in the speech, which has received more than 203,000 views on YouTube, but the moment “just felt so right.”
“This is a new chapter in my life. I’m graduating and I want to live more authentically, live more honestly,” the 24-year-old political science major told DeGeneres. “And more than that, I want to give visibility to the other students who are gay who maybe aren’t so ready to come out ... I was so ready to do it.”
Though Easton had come out as gay to his family and friends prior to the speech, he and other BYU students are required to abide by a strict honor code that prohibits homosexual behavior.
BYU, based in Provo, Utah, is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church leaders maintain that while same-sex attraction is not a sin, members are expected not to act on such feelings. The Princeton Review ranks BYU as the second-most LGBTQ-unfriendly college in the U.S.
Because of that honor code, Easton said certain topics pertaining to his sexuality and private life had to remain off-limits in his chat with DeGeneres.
“It’s really scary as a gay student, I’m trying to figure out my feelings, understand my faith and on top of it, everybody’s watching me,” Easton said. “I’m so worried and afraid of losing all that I’ve worked for academically.”
Easton said he’s hoping to find work within the LGBTQ community when he relocates to Salt Lake City later this year. DeGeneres then surprised him with a check for $10,000 to help him achieve that goal.