Faculty, students and parents gathered for a Brigham Young University event got more than they bargained for. Bisexual student Jillian Orr, determined to graduate as her authentic self, flashed the Mormon graduation ceremony with a forbidden rainbow flag.
Utah‘s Mormon operated Brigham Young University prohibits same-sex relationships under its ‘Honor Code’. Jillian Orr worried the university would discover her relationship with another woman.
“I was always on edge that someone would find out or someone would turn us in.”
After realising she was bisexual halfway through her course, Jillian Orr remained at the conservative Mormon university. But she remained closeted fearful of expulsion from an institution which bans ‘same-sex romantic behaviour’.
However, she did refuse to hand in a required paper on ‘Why it’s God’s plan that marriage should only be between a man and a woman’. That cost her a lower grade.
The university’s insistence on so-called traditional marriage is just a tad ironic. Founder Brigham Young was a polygamist with at least 55 wives.
@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
Leading up to graduation day, Jillian Orr decided she wanted to make a statement. She realised wearing any obvious LGBTIQ+ symbols would give administrators the opportunity to ban her from the stage. Then, her younger sister suggested lining her academic gown with the Rainbow Pride Flag. An older sister offered to sew the gown, something that took just half an hour.
Nervous that university staff might tackle her on stage, escort her from the premises or rip up her diploma, Jillian Orr nevertheless proceeded with her protest. She took hold of the gown and spread her arms like wings flashing the auditorium with the glorious colours of the Rainbow Flag.
University staff seemed taken by surprise with none doing or saying anything. Jillian posted on Instagram that afterwards, another graduate approached her.
“She said ‘My girlfriend saw you on live tv and was so proud of you! I had to meet you, thank you for doing this!'”
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