The gay Brigham Young University graduate who came out at commencement last month appears on Monday’s episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and his comments draw further attention to the Provo school’s Honor Code — contradicting the narrative BYU is pushing.
Matthew Easton gets praise and applause from the host — along with a check for $10,000.
“You're a brave man,” DeGeneres tells him on her show, which airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on KUTV-Channel 2. “It's a hard thing to do to come out. … And then to do it at your commencement speech at BYU.”
Easton explains BYU’s “very strict” Honor Code — its prohibitions on alcohol, tobacco and gay relationships.
“It's pretty tough there sometimes,” he says, “especially if you're gay.”
“Or want a drink,” DeGeneres joked.
Easton says he feared showing even a friendly sign of affection to another man — that he couldn't kiss, hug or “even maybe shake his hand.”
“Wait a minute,” DeGeneres says. “If you like someone, you can't shake their hand?”
It could “potentially” be a problem, Easton said. And if he hugged a friend, “somebody could report me to the Honor Code [Office] and I could be expelled.”
“Even if he's just your friend?” DeGeneres asks.
“Even if he's just my friend,” Easton replies.
(BYU recently paid Google $800 to promote its story that it doesn’t require students to report violations; others have disputed that.)
“It's really scary as a gay student” at BYU, Easton tells a national TV audience. “I'm trying to figure out my feelings, understand my faith and, on top of it, everybody is watching me. And I'm so worried and afraid of losing all that I've worked for academically.”
Midway through the 5½-minute segment, Easton points to a white stole of honor that he had on over his graduation gown — and says he wore it to honor a fellow student, Harry Fisher, who was in one of his classes when he was a freshman at BYU. Fisher came out on Facebook, and “because of the … response that he got from our community, he actually ended up committing suicide.”
“He sat right in front of me,” Easton said, his voice breaking. “And I saw him do that and I thought, ‘Is that my future? Is that what I’m headed toward?’ So I thought if I came out at graduation, maybe a student like me — a freshman — could see, no, my future is something brighter. It’s something better. We can succeed.”
That draws applause from DeGeneres and the audience. Easton tells her he’s hoping to get involved in Salt Lake City’s LGBTQ community, and the host presents him with a $10,000 check “to help you do whatever you want.”
“What you did," she says, “was pretty amazing.”