One of America’s most notoriously anti-gay universities has a gay valedictorian.
Matty Easton, a political science major at Utah’s Brigham Young University, which owned by the Mormon Church, came out to his fellow graduates during his valedictorian speech at the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences’ commencement ceremony.
After first shouting out to his LGBTQ+ friends earlier in the speech, Easton eventually spoke about himself and his journey to coming out on stage in front of friends and family.
“As I’m sure many of you have felt, I recall countless times here at BY where I have battled and fought in prayer with my maker,” Easton said. “It was in these quiet moments of pain and confusion that I felt another triumph: that of coming to terms not with who I thought I should be but who the Lord has made me.”
He continued, “As such, I stand before my family, friends, and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God. I am not broken. I am loved and important in the plan of our great creator. Each of us are.”
The crowd erupted in cheers for Easton, who continued on to thank his family, friends, and mentors at BYU.
Brigham Young has a less-than-stellar — and sometimes, downright hostile — history when it comes to its treatment of LGBTQ+ students. The university has a strict honor code that forbids everything from sexual activity to drinking coffee and for years it barred LGBTQ+ students from openly stating their sexual orientation. In 2007, BYU changed the honor code to allow students to state their sexuality and in 2010, the University removed a section of its honor code banning “the advocacy of homosexual behavior.” The campus bookstore removed greeting cards celebrating same-sex marriage from its shelves.
A 2016 Salt Lake Tribune exposé showed that the Honor Code often sided with those who sexually assaulted LGBTQ+ people rather than the assault survivors. That same year, 25 LGBTQ+ organizations, including Athlete Ally and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, submitted a letter to the Big 12 college football organization asking that they not make Brigham Young a member of their organization due to the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
In a series of follow-up tweets, Easton thanked BYU for allowing him to be his authentic self on stage.
He also shared that he had previously come out to a select few, but that this was the first time he had shared his sexuality publicly.