Anna Sheffer
Updated Apr 30, 2019 @ 4:13 pm

The decision to come out—as well as when and how to do so—is extremely personal, and there’s no one “right” way to do it. Recently, Matt Easton, the 2019 valedictorian at the Mormon church-affiliated (and historically very conservative) Brigham Young University came out during his graduation speech. According to local CBS affiliate KUTV, Easton was the political science valedictorian at BYU’s College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences. When delivering his commencement speech on April 26th—with thousands of people watching—he revealed that he’s gay.

Easton shared his speech to Twitter, and in a follow-up tweet, he explained that he had never come out publicly, although he had told some of his friends and family members while he was at BYU. He added that he wanted to share his identity “both for myself and the LGBTQ+ community at BYU.”

As a university affiliated with the Mormon church, BYU asks students to follow an honor code based on the church’s principles. According to the Honor Code, same-sex attraction is tolerated, but students are not allowed to participate in “homosexual behavior.” All BYU students agree not to have extramarital sex, but “homosexual behavior” encompasses a wider range of physical affection.

Easton told KUTV that he was nervous to give the speech and that some questioned his decision.

Easton’s speech is a firm reminder that LGBTQ people exist in all spaces—even ones that try to ignore or deny their very existence—and that all people deserve acceptance.