Members of the LGBTQ community and allies at BYU hosted the first ever BYU Pride March on Monday, June 28. The group is not sponsored by the university.
The event was organized by BYU Pride, a group which “aims to empower students to celebrate progress made by the LGBTQ+ community at BYU and to advocate for change through collaborative activism” according to its Instagram, @byupride.
Hundreds of people participated in the march, including BYU students, alumni and professors. It started at Joaquin Park and ended at Kiwanis Park south of campus. Provo Police helped direct traffic and keep everyone safe. A few guest speakers addressed the crowd at the beginning of the event, including actor Stacey Harkey, a former Studio C cast member. BYU alumnus and OUT Foundation member Emma Ramirez also spoke, as well as a current BYU student.
Harkey, who is gay, said for 30 odd years of his life, he did what other people wanted him to do, and these people didn’t have to live with the consequences. His bishop who gave him counsel didn’t have to sit at home alone wondering why he was so broken.
“And it made me realize that if you’re going to live with the consequences of your own life, you have every right to take it into your own hands,” he said. “Every right!”
Harkey came out as gay publicly in 2018. A couple months before that, he said he was trying to live a single life and had also tried dating women. “I find myself single, incredibly active in every way I can be in the community,” he said. “And I am so, so sad. I am so sad. So sad.”
He said he used to pray for God to fix him, but decided one night to pray and see if “God was cool with it.” He felt the most comforting peace and that he had been fighting who he was. He realized he is exactly who he’s meant to be, and said every person needs to know this as well.
“You are made by a creator of perfection who does not make mistakes,” he said. “If you were like me looking in the mirror wondering why you were broken, you’re looking in the wrong mirror. Because we are not made imperfect. We are not made broken. And sometimes, a weed is just flower in the wrong place.”
After Harkey’s remarks, the crowd marched for about a mile donned with rainbow signs and outfits. One woman, Becky Edwards, wore a shirt and held a sign that said “Free Mom Hugs.” Edwards has a gay son and is aware of the pain of the LGBTQ community. She said she wants to be a “conduit of God’s love.”
Edwards went to her first Pride march a couple weeks ago and gave out hugs. “I knew that this is part of what I was sent here to do, was to love people who don’t feel the same amount of love that I naturally get because I’m straight.”
BYU alumnus Adrienne McKell attended the march with her husband, Jake McKell. She said she recently came out as bisexual and just graduated from BYU in April. “We’re excited to represent both BYU and the LGBTQ community.”
Another participant, Shelby Wagner also said she was participating to support the LGBTQ community. She said she doesn’t feel that BYU and Provo are very supportive, so the event meant a lot.
Kagen Nelson agreed and said he feels the community is a lot more represented in Salt Lake City, but it’s a little more “hush-hush” in Provo. “It’s amazing to see everyone turn out for this great cause.”
The event ended at Kiwanis Park with music and dancing.