Equality Utah and the Raynbow Collective hosted an equality and inclusion educator certification event at the Provo Recreation Center Saturday, Nov. 13 for educators to learn how to support students of color and LGBTQ students.
The Raynbow Collective is a community space for LGBTQ students and allies at BYU to share stories and support one another. Earlier this fall, the organization asked Equality Utah to join their efforts to create networks within the LGBTQ community and allies across the state.
Maddison Tenney, the founder of the Raynbow Collective, said she wanted to join Equality Utah because they have been providing training for businesses and institutions across the state and felt that BYU professors would also benefit from this training.
Equality Utah is the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights and advocacy organization. They agreed to be part of this effort and held the training to create a safe space to learn, talk and ask questions about gender identity, sexuality and race.
“We’ve had professors who still want to be trained, and we have professors who still need to have these conversations, and I want to support them professionally,” Tenney said. “They want to engage, they want to support queer students, they want to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) students. They really are trying, they just need information. They just need resources that are willing to work with them.”
Troy Williams, executive director for Equality Utah, said the goal of offering the certification is to build bridges and friendships by expanding empathy for diverse individuals.
“Our hope is that the more that we engage with each other, and open our hearts to each other, that there’ll be increased empathy and compassion and that we can help heal some of the wounds that have divided us for so long,” Williams said.
The idea that religious liberty and equal rights for LGBTQ rights are eternally as odds is false, he said. Instead Williams said everybody can coexist without being adversaries.
Olivia Jaramillo, public outreach director of Equality Utah, and Stacey Harkey, diversity trainer and consultant at Equality Utah, led the training on LGBTQ terms and concepts and being an ally for people of color.
Jaramillo, who is a transgender woman, said she feels learning more about the LGBTQ community is important because it causes less fear.
She said that fear of the unknown causes division within people, stopping them from creating connections and building bridges with others.
“We are here to build bridges, to build on shared values and move forward together,” Jaramillo said. “I feel it’s important to start this conversation so people can go on from here on their journey and feel that they understand the community a little bit better.”
Harkey, who is a gay African American and BYU alum, said that learning about racial issues is important because of the intersectionality of people’s identities. If one part of their identity is affected, then other parts are affected as well.
Harkey said that his time at BYU showed him that some students are hurting and that not everyone is having the same experience. This training taught educators how to help those students and be an ally.
“We see someone hurting and we want to help them. We have a drive to make our communities better, not just for us, but for our loved ones and just the members of the community,” Harkey said.
He said that allyship is important because it creates change, regardless of if the ally is part of the community or not. He urged people to get involved and be an ally because it affects members of their community.
School of Family Life professor Larry Nelson said he attended because it is important to support students in communities that are marginalized and create safe spaces for them. He encouraged professors to do the same and learn about these communities.
“Have the courage to be uncomfortable, to listen to others, to ask a question for something you just don’t know, to gain the skills to learn to love better,” Nelson said. “We live in a day and age of divisiveness and I just think it’s important to build bridges.”