A rainbow beams through Downtown Boise with Pride
In many ways, Matt Easton’s valedictorian speech at Brigham Young University was traditional. He congratulated his fellow students and shared his personal struggles and victories during his six minutes on stage on Friday.
That’s where Easton’s speech became unconventional. The political science graduate told the crowd one of his greatest victories during his time at the school, which is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was learning to accept himself as God made him — gay.
“I stand before my family, friends and graduating class today to say that I am proud to be a gay son of God,” Easton said. “I am not broken. I am loved and important in the plan of our Great Creator. Each of us are.”
His announcement was met with cheers and applause from the crowd. Since Friday, it’s also earned him thousands of views on social media.
Through his Twitter account, Easton said the speech was the first time he’d ever publicly acknowledged his sexual orientation.
“During my time at BYU, I have slowly come out to my closest family members and friends,” he wrote. “However, this is the first time I have publicly declared it. I felt it was important to share both for myself and for the LGBTQ+ community at BYU.”
The church, also known as the Mormon church, recently walked back two controversial policies affecting LGBTQ church members and their families. The changes allowed children of gay parents to be baptized and made same-sex marriage no longer an act of apostasy. (The church said it still considers such marriages “a serious transgression.”)
Earlier this month, the Salt Lake Tribune reported, BYU students protested the school’s Honor Code, which prohibits homosexual behavior.
Easton thanked the BYU College of Family, Home and Social Sciences on Twitter “for allowing me to share my authentic and vulnerable self to so many in our college.” In his speech, he said he found support in his friends and mentors at the university.
“Four years ago, it would have been impossible for me to imagine that I would come out to my entire college,” he said on Friday. “It is a phenomenal feeling. And it is a victory for me in and of itself.”