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Celebrating and Supporting LGBTQ+ Students at BYU

First-ever BYU sanctioned pride event occurred Saturday, June 11, 2022; speakers focused on how to respect and support LGBTQ+ peers.

The first-ever BYU-sanctioned pride event occurred recently at Brigham Square in front of the Wilkinson Center. The event celebrated the LGBTQ+ community at BYU and helped inform allies about what they can do to better support their fellow students. This event built on the tradition of peaceful, supportive events that have occurred previously around campus. Many students and faculty from the College of Humanities attended to show their friendship and willingness to assist BYU’s queer students. Julia Sasine, the event’s coordinator and president of the Cougar Pride Center, spoke about her hope that every student on campus will feel supported.

The speeches that followed Sasine each touched on the topics of acceptance, respect, and love within the campus community for those who are different. Mariane Rizzuto, vice president of public relations for the Cougar Pride Center, said, “One thing I have learned here at BYU more than anywhere else is that we all matter. We all deserve to be loved, even those who feel so hard to love.” This love is seen when walking down the halls of the JFSB, where invitations (featuring a pride flag) for the recent event are still pinned to various faculty’s doors as a sign of respect for the community.

However, it is going to take more than a change in decoration to make queer students feel accepted at BYU. David Shill, a queer BYU student and advisor for the Cougar Pride Center, mentioned that “effective support is often unsaid or unnoticed. Oftentimes, support manifests in making queer people feel comfortable.” Such simple advice, yet it makes all the difference. Another queer BYU student, Luke Westhoff, shared an easy means of helping: “To me, being celebrated means being seen.” In further efforts to help these students feel seen, the College of Humanities supports queer students’ right to participate in any public College events for which they qualify.

Cielle Salazar, an advisor from the Liberal Arts Advisement & Careers center (located in the College of Humanities), expanded on how we can continue to support the students around us by seeing them as complete people. “Experience has taught me that a person’s sexual or gender identity is an important part of who they are and informs their daily life. It is not a piece of them that can be hushed up, covered up, or looked on with pity. But neither should that piece be overemphasized, obscuring the person’s passions, talents, and goals.” When we see beyond single pieces of a person, we can recognize the value of who they are as a complete person.

Those students who seek out additional help and support can find it at the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, as well as from the many loving faculty members who understand the journey these students are on. Though we are imperfect people, the College of Humanities is working to maintain a safe, supportive space for its students where they will feel comfortable to be themselves.

At the end of the event, the group sang “Love One Another” and wrote down their ideas to foster inclusion and belonging at BYU. The spirit of love the students felt was palpable as they chatted among each other. Though this is the first event of its kind, there are sure to be more in the future.

For further information about BYU resources for LGBTQ+ students, please see the Committee for Diversity and Inclusion’s website.