A Brigham Young University graduate flashed a rainbow flag inside her robe during the school’s graduation ceremony, in protest of the school’s strict honor code prohibiting same-sex relationships.
Jillian Orr, who identifies as bisexual, posted a video to TikTok of her sewing the gown, which had looked like a regular graduation robe, but had a rainbow-colored inside lining.
BYU, located in Provo, Utah, is affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religious tradition that opposes homosexuality. In recent years, BYU has come under scrutiny for its honor code, which requires students to refrain from “alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, vaping, and substance abuse” and commit to living a “chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman,” reports Newsweek.
The school’s honor code has been criticized as one of the key facts influencing what some detractors say is its mistreatment of LGBTQ students, and its desire to suppress dissent from those who are critical of the honor code. In 2018, the school threatened to expel a transgender student if they underwent gender confirmation surgery. Earlier this year, the university passed new rules to restrict student-led demonstrations on “Y” Mountain in response to an incident in which queer students and allies lit up the school’s iconic “Y” sign in rainbow colors.
Against that backdrop, Orr noted that there are often consequences for students who come out publicly while enrolled at BYU.
“At BYU it’s against the honor code to be in a homosexual relationship,” the video’s on-screen text reads as Orr is shown stitching together the gown. “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,” Orr continued. “I will not hide. I will be seen.”
The TikTok then cuts to Orr flashing the rainbow lining of her gown while she walks on stage to accept her diploma.
Orr’s TikTok video went viral, garnering more than 2.7 million views and 5,700 comments, with many users expressing support for her actions while others questioned why she chose to remain enrolled at BYU if she disagreed with the honor code.
“I didn’t know I was bisexual until halfway through my degree,” Orr responded in the comments section. “There are many credits that don’t transfer so you just stick it through.”
Orr also shared photos of her in her gown on Facebook following the ceremony on April 22.
“Today I showed BYU my true colors. While making my way through the crowd after the ceremony another graduate stopped me and 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!’” Orr wrote. “”It’s hard being gay at BYU…Today I took a chance and sent a message to other students – you can make it too! Be authentic, brave, and unapologetically you!”