Bi BYU Student who Flashed Pride Flag at Graduation 'Not Ashamed,' Prepared for Consequences

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday May 11, 2022

Bi BYU Student who Flashed Pride Flag at Graduation 'Not Ashamed,' Prepared for Consequences
  (Source:Jillian Orr)

BYU student Jillian Orr bravely flashed a Pride flag at her graduation. Now, the bisexual grad says she's ready for whatever's next, People Magazine reported.

The infamously conservative school has an "honor code" that denies legitimacy to same-sex relationships.

"I don't know if they are allowed to take away my degree," Orr told People. "I don't know if they're allowed to freeze my transcripts."

Whatever BYU might do, "I'm ready to face it and take accountability and own that," Orr said, "because I'm not ashamed of what I did because I understand that there may be negative consequences to choosing what is right."

As previously reported at EDGE, Orr, 28, flung her gown open during her graduation to reveal a Pride flag sewn inside as a lining. She later shared her story in a video on TikTok, as well as on Facebook.

@jillianoreo Good thing I didn't have to rely on my sewing skills for this. #byugraduation #byu #lgbtq #lgbt???? #pride2022 #justice #sistersarethebest #collegegraduate #exmo #exmormon ? How You Like That - BLACKPINK

The story instantly went viral. In her video, Orr had explained that the school could punish LGBTQ+ people in same-sex relationships by expelling them and revoking their degrees, and said that because of this hard-line stance, LGBTQ+ students remained in hiding until after graduation.

"I will not hide," Orr declared in her social media posts. "I will be seen."

Orr also spoke with BuzzFeed about her Pride moment, explaining that by the time she realized she was bisexual, she was already midway through her coursework.

"I struggled when my grades were affected by it, with tests and papers I had to write," Orr told BuzzFeed. "I felt I betrayed myself when I had to write about why marriage is between a man and a [woman] only. That was painful."

Orr told People Mag: "Being at a school that is so religiously based, I felt torn because I couldn't be authentically me with my sexuality and I couldn't be authentically me with my spirituality in one place." Orr went on to say that when she "showed my colors, I was showing people that you can be both and you don't have to pick."

Orr's sister helped her come up with the idea of lining her graduation gown with a Pride flag, and then did the tailoring for Orr, as the TikTok video shows.

"My sister wanted me to make a statement but also do it in a civil manner," Orr explained to BuzzFeed. "A protest in a civil manner to be seen for myself and for others at BYU."

She described a nerve-wracking experience as she prepared for the big moment.

"I wasn't sure if they were going to escort me off the stage, tackle me, or just have some words with me afterwards," Orr recounted. "Leading up to it, I knew that I wanted to do it, so I just had to commit."

The moment was a magical surprise — and not just for Orr. After the ceremony, a young woman thanked her, saying that her girlfriend had seen Orr's Pride flag. "She wanted to tell me thank you and that she was grateful for what I did."

Both BuzzFeed and People noted that in 2020 it seemed that BYU had abandoned its ban on same-sex relationships among its students.

However, People detailed, "Two weeks after the language was changed, the school confirmed its ban remained in place."

So far, BYU has taken no retaliatory action. Orr confirmed that she had received her degree. She has also "received hundreds of positive messages from people, especially students, of all sexual orientations," People noted, "which she said is an 'awesome' show of support."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.