A BYU student has launched an Instagram account to share stories and experiences from LGBTQ students.
Maddison Tenney, a senior from Hooper, Utah, founded the RaYnbow Collective to create a community of love, support and kindness for students who identify as LGBTQ. The account features anonymous stories in a similar vein to the anti-racism account Stop Your Silence, as well as art and poetry about the LGBTQ experience at BYU. It also highlights “safe spaces” (offices that indicate support for LGBTQ students) seen on campus.
Tenney started the account in early March, and she said the turnout has been amazing. As of April 2, it had 734 followers. She said it’s different from similar existing accounts because all submissions are anonymous.
“We want people to feel safe sharing art and stories even if they don’t feel safe being themselves,” she said.
Tenney said she had been passionate about advocacy and helping the LGBTQ community since she came home from her mission, but the “blatant homophobia” surrounding this semester’s Rainbow Day spurred her to take more action. She drew inspiration for her initiative’s name from efforts to protest Rainbow Day.
“On their posters, they call it ‘raynbow’ with a ‘Y,’” she said. “I thought, ‘you know what? It is the raynbow! I’m gonna reclaim that.’”
She spread the word by distributing Raynbow Collective flyers, one of which hangs outside history professor Amy Harris’s office in the Joseph F. Smith Building.
Harris said she discovered the account when Tenney sent her an email asking her to spread the word to students about submitting art and poetry.
“I support students having a variety of places to talk about their experiences, particularly students who are often on the margins and not sure if they have a place at BYU,” Harris said. “So I put up the flyer.”
Tenney said hearing such experiences has been both the best and hardest part of running the account because people have good and bad experiences. “You want to believe BYU is doing its best, and I think we do try, but I think we can do better.”
The account also functions to build hype and collect submissions for a virtual art show it will sponsor this summer, Tenney said. She will post some art submissions as teasers on Instagram and save the rest for the official show.
Though details about its execution are still up in the air, she said she hopes the show will become an annual event and help future generations of LGBTQ students feel like they have a place at BYU.
Illustration professor David Habben was one of the first to submit art to the Raynbow Collective. He repurposed a drawing he had done before of a character championing respect for everyone.
“The nature of this character here is he is marching forward with an idea of respecting everyone,” Habben said. “That’s a core value of my faith, and it should be of the university campus as well.”
He said he follows the account because he cares about the students at BYU and wants to know what their concerns and feelings are. “When I see an account like that, regardless of the topic, I like to know about it.”
Habben said he personally wants LGBTQ students to know they are loved, respected and wanted on campus, in his classroom and in BYU programs. He believes it should be a cause for alarm if any student doesn’t feel safe on campus.
“BYU is a place for learning and for exercising Christlike attributes, foremost of which is love,” he said.
Tenney said if she could say anything to students at large, it would be that loving people is the most important thing anyone can do and that Christ loved people completely.
“He loved people, and He wanted them to come to Him,” she said. “And if we are true representatives of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter if we disagree with choices because they’re not our choices. The greatest way to love God is to love the people around us.”