LGBTQ+ students at Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah were protected from misinformation and insults thrown by protestors by allies wearing large angel wings during the rally.
During the pride event last Saturday, queer students were confronted by anti-LGBTQ+ students and outsiders, as reported by The Salt Lake Tribune. The unique and clever shield of angel wings by queer allies became an effective security barrier.
Held at a public park in Provo, the event had various clubs for LGBTQ+ people who attended the university as they weren’t allowed to gather on campus. Brigham Young University, a conservative university also prohibits “any same-sex romantic partnerships or displays of affection among LGBTQ students,” according to the Tribune.
The university is operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more colloquially known as Mormons.
Queer Allies Step Up To Support Community
Student and one of the angel allies, Sabrina Wong spoke about her sister’s negative experience at the university and how “she got kicked out.”
“My older sister, she’s gay and she used to go to BYU, and she had a really hard time here,” she said.
“During that time, I didn’t even know she was going through this. She hadn’t even come out to our family.”
“She also didn’t have a lot of resources, and that breaks my heart so much.”
Anti-LGBTQ+ And Religious Protesters Descend Onto Park
With many US Republican-led states taking steps to constrain LGBTQ+ rights, especially when it comes to public education institutions, non-for-profit organisation, RaYnbow Collective, holds an annual event at the park as a back-to-school gathering for the queer students.
While the gathering featured a family-friendly drag show as attendees sang songs, protestors came out and utilised the usual right-wing tools and religious zealotry culture wars. The protestors seemed to take further offence at the presence of the drag performers.
The Tribune reported that some protestors openly carried handguns and waved American flags whilst chanting “Christ is king” and “stop grooming our children.” One protester said, “stop protecting the homos.”
The use of angel wings as shields came after RaYnbow Collective founder and senior at BYU, Maddison Tenney was told by Provo police to expect the crowd to push back.
History Of The Wings
The angel costume was previously used by the friends of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepherd back in 1999, during the trial of the two men accused of killing him.
The strategy was used to block hateful signs held by Westboro Baptist Church members that read “God hates fags.” Since then, several groups have used the angel wing display, especially during the funerals for the LGBTQ+ nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016.
The angel costumes worn by allies at an LGBTQ event for BYU students Saturday had the same type of wings that blocked anti-gay protesters during the 1999 trial for Matthew Shepard’s killers in Wyoming.
— Courtney Tanner (@CourtneyLTanner) September 4, 2022
The students who wore the angel wings stepped in between the gatherers and the protestors, creating a shield and turning the very image of religion on the protestors back onto them. A move that Tenney says was a long time coming.
“Religion has been weaponized against the queer community for a long time,” she said.
“But that needs to end. I believe there’s nothing more divine than who I am as a queer child of God.”
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