The rainbow umbrella stood on the corner of West Fourth South and South First West, just outside the BYU-Idaho Center. Beneath it, nearly a dozen students gathered, carrying colorful posters and sporting every shade of the color wheel. Lady Gaga blared through a handheld speaker as students passed out pins, pencils and candy to passersby.
On March 4, many students across Church Educational System schools, including BYU-Idaho, participated in “Rainbow Day.” Abby Tenney, a sophomore studying English, was one of them.
“It’s not a protest, it’s not attacking the church or the school or anyone,” Tenney said. “It’s just to spread love and to show our colors because it’s not black or white, it’s a rainbow.”
The concept of Rainbow Day was sparked at BYU in September 2019. Bradley Talbot, a senior at BYU studying psychology, decided to choose one day each semester to encourage students to wear rainbow clothing or accessories to show solidarity with LGBTQ students and faculty. He started an Instagram account, @colorthecampus, to raise awareness about the day and create a space for LGBTQ students and allies attending CES schools to virtually gather.
“I started it as an initiative to show love and support for the LGBTQ+ community at all the CES schools because I quickly noticed that there’s a lot of people at these schools, I go to BYU so I’m speaking for personal experience, that are very homophobic and discriminatory … they tend to be very loud,” Talbot said. “I wanted to create something that shows even though there are people who are hateful and are loud, that there’s also people who are very loving and accepting and will be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, and we can be even louder.”
Talbot shared that the first Rainbow Day had about 50 participants and the following one had thousands.
“This time I’m anticipating a lot of people to participate,” Talbot explained. “I’ve been getting a lot of messages from people not just all over the state, but all over the country and all over the world, people in England and Australia. It’s insane how many people are going to be participating in this one, so I’m a little overwhelmed.”
Students who participated at BYU-Idaho helped spread awareness of the day by posting on and gearing up in colorful hues themselves. Owen Packham, a freshman studying music education and Brynn Bennett, a freshman studying political science, run @byui.q, an Instagram account unaffiliated with BYU-I that highlights BYU-I students who identify as LGBTQ. They joined with other groups and account owners outside the I-Center.
Packham and Bennett shared why they supported Rainbow Day.
“My goal for the day is for the people who need clarity that they aren’t alone, that they see there’s other people with them,” Packham said.
The next Rainbow Day will be announced on @colorthecampus sometime next semester. BYU-I declined to comment on the event.