A gathering off-campus in Utah was disrupted by protesters, including Brigham Young University students, who threw homophobic slurs and taunted LGBTQ+ students and their supporters. In Provo, approximately 100 people protested "Back to School Pride Night" last weekend. A line of angel-dressed people who supported LGBTQ students drew a blockade to stop the protesters.
Brigham Young University, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prohibits romantic relationships between non-heterosexual couples, displays of same-sex affection, and LGBTQ-related groups or clubs on campus.
A nonprofit organization supporting LGBTQ+ students called the RaYnbow Collective holds a welcome back-to-school event every year, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. But this year, supporters dressed in large angel wings had to protect participants from hateful protesters.
BYU current or former students performed in what was advertised as a family-friendly drag show this year.
A senior at BYU, Madison Tenney, founder of the RaYnbow Collective, told the Tribune that she expected protesters but was concerned when Provo police informed her that a large crowd of them was likely.
According to the paper, conservative groups had promised to show up to protest, claiming the event was inappropriate for children.
"This shouldn't be at a public park," Thomas Stevenson, a BYU senior and the co-founder of BYU Conservatives, which has no restrictions for meeting on campus, told the Tribune. They were protesting children's attendance because of a "social contagion with gender dysphoria."
BYU Conservatives called for protests at the event before the weekend's gathering.
"Listen, we've had a lot of publicity the last couple of days. However, this 'family friendly' drag show is still happening at Kiwanis Park in Provo this Saturday at 6 pm," the group wrote. "We want you to show up and peacefully protest at 5 pm. Nobody in their right mind would allow children to be put in front of a drag show. We can't let what has happened other places happen to Provo."
Some protesters carried handguns while waving American flags and chanting, "Christ is king" and "Stop grooming our children."
"Drag is a sexual fetish," local resident Brad Bartholomew told the Tribune. "This is sexualizing children."
Chaya Raichik, who runs the transphobic Libs of TikTok account on Twitter, posted a clip from the event to her timeline. The video has been viewed more than 475,000 times.
Tenney explained that the group opted to dress in angel costumes after the friends of murdered gay student Matthew Shepard employed the same strategy in 1999 when two men accused of killing him went on trial. The Westboro Baptist Church had sent members with hateful messages outside the courtroom, which the angel-dressed supporters blocked with their wings.
Tenney told the Tribune, "Religion has been weaponized against the queer community for a long time. But that needs to end. I believe there's nothing more divine than who I am as a queer child of God."
People who came out to support the queer community outnumbered the protesters.