Orr planned to use her final moments as an undergrad to honor herself and the other LGBTQ students at BYU like her who hadn’t felt comfortable being fully authentic on campus, instead feeling pressured to hide some or all aspects of their LGBTQ identities. In recent years, the school has made clear that it does not embrace gender and sexual diversity.
Orr said she didn’t intend her rainbow reveal, her younger sister’s suggestion, to stand as a rebuke to her alma mater.
“I wanted to do this to be honored, to be seen,” Orr told CNN.
To Orr, her faith and identity aren’t at odds
Orr said she had been comfortable at BYU until she felt attracted to another woman.
“I felt like I was forced to choose between my spirituality and sexuality,” Orr said. “It created this inner turmoil and despair, because they’re both so important to me.”
“I did keep it hidden,” she said of a past queer relationship. “The only people who knew were my immediate family. People I knew could turn me in if they knew. I never felt I was fully authentic.”
She felt confident, after speaking with her best friend and mentor, that her faith and her queerness weren’t at odds with each other.
“The church didn’t give me my relationship with God; the church didn’t give me my spirituality,” she said. “That was mine. I owned that.”
LGBTQ students were affected by honor code changes
“I had these courses that were causing me to betray myself through my own homework,” she said.
BYU did not immediately respond to multiple CNN requests for comment on the quiz and Orr’s actions on the graduation stage.
BYU students and alumni have supported Orr
Immediately after her graduation gown reveal, Orr said her fellow students were immensely supportive.
Orr, who’s now a director of an after-school program for young people, said her spirituality is intact, but her relationship with the Mormon Church is fractured.
“I have a lot of gratitude and I have a lot of pain,” she said. “So, at this moment, I can no longer affiliate with a religion that is not all inclusive.”
As for the university, Orr said she doesn’t hold any ill will toward the school. She said she hopes it heeds the calls of its LGBTQ students and allies to better support them.
“I will give BYU space to change,” she said. “I think they’re capable of it.”