Color the Campus celebrated the first “Rainbow Day” of the school year on Sept. 23 to show love and support for the LGBT community still hurting after Honor Code confusion.
Color the Campus is a movement that brings awareness to the LGBT community at all CES schools. Rainbow days are held about once a semester. Students participate by wearing rainbow clothing and handing out pins and T-shirts. Organizations participating in the movement include Affirmation Hawaii, The OUT Foundation, USGA at BYU and the Progressive Student Society in Rexburg.
Founder Bradley Talbot started Color the Campus in 2019. Talbot, who is gay, said he noticed a stigma surrounding LGBT students at BYU. He didn’t realize how bad it was until after a popular Provo Instagram account asked students how they would feel about having a gay roommate.
Talbot said he was disturbed by the many negative responses. “It seemed like people didn’t really understand what it meant to be gay.”
Frustrated and discouraged by this, Talbot said he wanted to do something to show that there were still allies at BYU. He started Color the Campus as a way for allies to bring awareness and visibility to the LGBT community.
“It’s geared a little bit more towards allyship,” he said. “Some people confuse it with Pride, but I feel like Pride is more for the community. This is geared more towards allies letting the community know ‘we love you.'”
LGBT students at BYU said they did not feel that support during Winter Semester’s Honor Code confusion.
On Feb. 19, the “homosexual behavior” clause of the Honor Code was removed. Students said they got permission from the Honor Code Office to date people of the same sex and celebrated the change.
However, on March 4, Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of the Church Educational System, sent a letter to those enrolled in CES schools. The letter seemed to reverse the changes that were made. “Same-sex romantic behavior cannot lead to eternal marriage and is therefore not compatible with the principles included in the Honor Code,” it read.
Bisexual BYU student Cassidy Toone said she felt like students were largely silent during this time. Toone said those who weren’t silent were telling queer students to leave the university they love.
“I’ve had the opportunity to do some introspection and I’ve come to my own conclusions that the part of me that loves women is not bad and it’s not dirty,” she said. “That’s something that not everyone agrees with me about.”
Talbot said he hasn’t gotten closure from the situation and he is still waiting for BYU to properly address it. “It was betraying to a lot of us,” he said. “It kind of made us feel like we were inferior and less important in their eyes.”
Talbot said he wants an explanation for why the Honor Code changed and allowed same-sex dating only for it to change back. “It seems like there’s a disconnect between the Honor Code and the CES.”
The clause on homosexuality is still missing from the Honor Code, causing confusion.
Lauren Fielding, another bisexual BYU student, said she doesn’t understand why the Honor Code Office would remove the clause but still expect students to act like it’s in there.
“Now there’s nothing concrete to point at when anyone’s experiencing homophobia from the administration specifically,” she said. “There’s no more concrete writing that is forbidding anything.”
Despite the challenges, Color the Campus participation revealed that there are allies at BYU who want to better support the LGBT community.
Jorri Johnson, 23, is a senior from Pocatello, Idaho majoring in Spanish teaching. She said she wanted to become a better ally when a loved one trusted her enough to share their story.
Johnson said she wanted to know how to support this person in the best way possible, so she reached out to Color the Campus on Instagram.
“Being a better ally, as I’m learning, is about listening and trying to understand, and standing with those in need even if we don’t fully comprehend what they go through. We can say, and really mean, ‘I’ll walk with you’, like the Savior does,” she said.
Elisha Freitas, Ellie Boyden and Jackson Wolfer are all freshmen at BYU who participated in Color the Campus by wearing rainbow.
Freitas, an editing and publishing major from Texas, said she wants queer students to feel not only accepted, but welcome at BYU and suggested that classes have more conversations about being inclusive. “Don’t be afraid to start positive discussions.”
Boyden, from Massachusetts and majoring in political science said BYU students can be better allies by being respectful. “What you think doesn’t matter as much as other people’s experiences.”
“Everyone’s human and we should love everyone like God does,” Wolfer said. Wolfer added that BYU students shouldn’t put queer people in an “other” category.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to tell people not to hate others,” he said.