REXBURG — Former Brigham Young University alumni are helping collect funds for LGBTQ students wishing to transfer from Latter-day Saint schools because they don’t feel safe.
About two weeks ago, The OUT Foundation started a GoFundMe after the student Honor Code at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and other church schools were updated. For a brief period, some students felt The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was shifting its stance on homosexual relationships and that open dating between same-sex couples would become accepted on church campuses.
The church, which owns BYU and other church universities, late clarified that was not the case, and the Honor Code was essentially staying the same. The Honor Code is set of standards students agree to abide by as they attend church schools, such as abstaining from alcohol and sex outside of marriage.
The OUT Foundation, which started in 2017 by three BYU gay men graduates, has raised nearly $40,000 for students wanting to leave BYU in Provo, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii or the LDS Business College.
“In that brief time period, many queer BYU students have come out and displayed acts of queerness on campus (taking and posting pictures of themselves kissing/holding hands with people of their same-sex, etc),” the GoFundMe states. “These same students are now at risk for punishment from the Honor Code.”
The OUT Foundation’s Executive Director and co-founder John Valdez, said they were prepared to jump in and help those that feel affected by the clarification.
“Because of the most recent events, a lot of students feel more compromised now. That additional mental stress is going to affect their ability to perform in class, work and any extracurriculars that they have going on,” Valdez said.
That’s why the organization created a transfer application.
Depending on how many applications are submitted to the foundation, the GoFundMe money can help pay for things such as transcript fees, application fees, transportation, employment stipends and tuition reimbursement for the first semester.
Valdez said they’ve received more than 10 transfer applications, and a handful of them are from BYU-Idaho students.
Efforts to reach any of the BYU-Idaho students were unsuccessful.
“Once we have a full scope how many students want to transfer and what their financial needs are, then we’ll be able to divide the fund based on need,” Valdez said.
The nonprofit organization is a way for alumni to collect, preserve and celebrate the LGBTQ culture of BYU, according to its website. Valdez believes one way to do that is by helping LGBTQ students feel supported and safe at school.
“Our mission statement is to empower the students and alumni in order to fulfill their social, intellectual and professional potential,” Valdez told EastIdahoNews.com. “When you are in an unsafe environment — and that could be physically, mentally or emotionally — it is difficult to perform to the best of your ability.”
The foundation holds alumni gatherings in several cities across the United States. It also provides scholarships and safe spaces for LGBTQ students. But the transfer fund is something it has never done before.
Valdez said the foundation is working with several non-religious universities in Utah to see what kind of resources are available for any LGBTQ students wishing to transfer there.
By talking with other universities, they are hoping to stretch the GoFundMe dollars as far as possible.
“If a student does feel like they can thrive at BYU, OUT wants to position ourselves to help them. If a student feels like they need to leave in order to pursue their education, OUT wants to help them too,” Valdez said. “Our overall goal is to support students wherever they are and to lift and empower students in the ways that they want to be lifted and empowered, in order to have a successful educational experience.”