The room was covered in rainbows and quiet conversation as students busied themselves with tie-dyeing white t-shirts and masks. Rainbow Otter Pops decorated the crafting table where students strung together colorful beads to make bracelets, and event-goers picked through a selection of stickers at another table.
Members of the Rexburg LGBTQ community got together on May 28 at Centre Square to prepare for the upcoming Pride event by creating various colorful accessories. Organized by Eliza McDonald, a sophomore studying biology, and attended by more than 40 people, the event’s goal was to provide a safe space for students to express themselves, make new friends and tie-dye clothing.
McDonald started the Instagram account @byuilgbtq in March and has thrown a karaoke party and an ice cream social in the past. She said she felt it was important to cultivate a culture of acceptance at BYU-Idaho.
“Lots of people can feel alone here,” McDonald said.
Also in attendance was Alisa Fye, Chief Compliance Officer on campus. She made it clear that she was not here in an official capacity, but as a friend to the LGBTQ community. Fye said she has a soft spot for LGBTQ students because her son is gay.
“I love these kids,” Fye said. “I want them to know we see them and we want them here.”
The goal of creating a safe space was well-supported by those in attendance.
“I don’t think anybody should suppress a part of themselves for any reason,” said Bee Bailey, a sophomore studying biology.
Michelle Anderson, a sophomore majoring in marriage and family studies, attended the event as an ally. She said she showed up to support them so people don’t feel like they have to hide who they are.
As the event progressed, McDonald complied with requests from the Centre Square manager to enforce masks and to take signs off the window.
The room grew hushed as campus security pulled up and walked slowly around the room, inspecting the event.
The officer made the announcement that in order to stay in the lounge, everyone would need to follow the campus dress code and told a masculine-presenting person wearing a skirt that they needed to change.
“I personally feel as though it was really horrible,” said Beck McVey, a freshman studying theater education. “They tried to justify calling out the one person by saying that it ‘was against the dress code,’ yet there were many there, including myself, who weren’t wearing what they would deem ‘appropriate clothing.’”
Students expressed discontent that the officer seemed to be saying leggings on females are allowed, yet skirts on males are not allowed. Some students commented that this wouldn’t have happened at a non-LGBTQ event.
“I am very thankful for the people who organized the event and stood up to the officers for their homophobic remarks,” McVey said.
On the @byuilgbtq Instagram, McDonald made the statement: “We want to apologize to all of you who attended and witnessed and experienced the homophobic and disrespectful behavior from @byuidaho public safety. Our events will no longer be held at @byuidahocentresquare, not to make @byuidaho employees more comfortable but to keep our events safe, fun and welcoming for all. We will continue to support our LGBTQ students and wear skirts as we please in our future events.”
After the brief confrontation, students flooded out of the lounge and gathered at Porter Park where the conversation continued.
“I just love that there’s a community here where I don’t feel like I have to hide a part of myself,” said Canon Briggs, a sophomore studying public health. “Too many people believe that being gay and being a member aren’t things that go together. It absolutely does.”
Students expressed their disappointment at the behavior of campus security.
“Sometimes it feels like Rexburg is working towards acceptance, but then stuff like this happens,” Briggs said. “It’s extremely upsetting and I really hope that the campus security officer’s actions do not reflect the opinion of the university.”
McDonald said it’s not a safety issue for a male to wear a skirt, especially because it wasn’t on campus and it was an event not affiliated with the school.
Other students felt the confrontation had faults on both sides.
“I think the head of security could’ve pointed out more than a few dress code violations there last night but it was a poor decision to point at a masc presenting person wearing a skirt,” said Alexa Arndt, a BYU-I alumna. “Aside from that, they were just doing their jobs because they were called by the manager. I watched the situation last night escalate because people from our own community were trying to create a problem that wasn’t there and in the future, I’d really love to see more productive exchanges.”
McDonald and other LGBTQ students will reach out to the BYU-Idaho inclusion and diversity officers.
Scroll reached out to the university and they provided no comment.
“We will keep continuing to work on making BYU-Idaho a place for everybody and a place where all students feel welcomed and supported just as Jesus Christ would want,” McDonald said.