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Mormon university student flashes rainbow flag while graduating in stunning act of defiance

Lily Wakefield April 27, 2022
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BYU Mormon university graduation

Jillian Orr in her rainbow BYU graduation gown. (TikTok/ jillianoreo)

A student at the Mormon Brigham Young University (BYU) made a bold rainbow statement as she graduated from the anti-LGBT+ college.

Jillian Orr, 28, majored in psychology at BYU in Utah, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormon church.

The university has strict anti-LGBT+ policies enshrined in its Honor Code, which students can be expelled for breaking. For example, requiring that they “live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman”, and even banning “same-sex romantic behaviour” because it does not “lead to eternal marriage”.

Half-way through her course Orr, who was raised Mormon, realised that she was bisexual. Even though Orr felt uncomfortable and alone in such a hostile environment, she “came to the realisation that this is who I was and it was beautiful”, she told Today.

However, she decided to stay because of the low tuition fees, well-respected psychology department, and the fact that her credits for BYU’s many required Mormon religion classes would not be transferrable to another university.

Ahead of her graduation ceremony, her little sister suggested that she make a statement on stage, and offered to sew a Pride flag to the inside of her gown.

In now-viral TikTok, Orr showed herself flashing the inside of her gown to the audience as she crossed the stage.

@jillianoreo Good thing I didn’t have to rely on my sewing skills for this. #byugraduation #byu #lgbtq #lgbt🌈 #pride2022 #justice #sistersarethebest #collegegraduate #exmo #exmormon ♬ How You Like That – BLACKPINK

The text of her TikTok reads: “At BYU it’s against the Honor Code to be in a homosexual relationship. If you are discovered to be dating or just holding hands there are severe consequences.

“They threaten to take away your degree and kick you out of the university. Students are afraid to be who they are, so they hide out of fear until they get out.

“I will not hide. I will be seen. In front of the entire school.”

Orr told Today that after leaving the auditorium, another BYU graduate approached her to say that her girlfriend had seen the colourful statement on TV and was so proud.

“I impacted another graduate who just got out… who felt like she had to hide,” she said.

Explaining her message to other LGBT+ Mormons, she added: “I hope that they recognise that the sooner they live their life authentically, the sooner they can tap into true happiness. The faster you do the scary thing, the sooner you can be free.”

More: Brigham Young University, mormon church

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