The Black Menaces group, known for interviewing Brigham Young University students on equity issues for their TikTok page, called for a walkout at BYU on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. Mountain Time to “protest [for] an end to legal discrimination by religious universities against queer individuals.”
On October 11, which is also National Coming Out Day, a nationwide college protest titled Strike Out Homophobia is being called by the Religious Exemptions Accountability Project.
REAP was organized to “empower queer, trans, and non-binary students at more than 200 taxpayer-funded religious schools that actively discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression,” their website reads. “Through civil rights litigation, storytelling, oral history, research, and public policy, we work towards a world where LGBTQ students on all campuses are treated equally, with safety and respect.”
REAP has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Board of Education “to put an end to the U.S. Department of
Education’s complicity in the abuses and unsafe conditions thousands of LGBTQ+ students endure
at hundreds of taxpayer-funded, religious colleges and universities.”
“The Plaintiffs seek safety and justice for themselves and for the countless sexual and gender minority students whose oppression, fueled by government funding, and unrestrained by government intervention, persists with injurious consequences to mind, body, and soul,” the lawsuit reads. “The Department’s inaction leaves students unprotected from the harms of conversion therapy, expulsion, denial of housing and healthcare, sexual and physical abuse, and harassment, as well as the less visible, but no less damaging, consequences of institutionalized shame, fear, anxiety, and loneliness.”
The department gives a religious exemption to Title IX, which protects sexual and gender minority students at taxpayer-funded colleges and universities, including private and religious educational institutions that receive federal funding.
Elisa Stone, professor of English and Queer Studies and an advisor for the Queer Student Association at Salt Lake Community College, believes the walkout could be effective in prompting change.
“Peaceful protest is always impactful,” she told the SLCC student newspaper The Globe. “Anything we can do to get the attention of those who are choosing to oppress and let them know that the oppressed are rising up, that’s when things begin to shift.”
Stone says she tries to ensure SLCC is a safe place for LGBTQ+ students and minorities in her advisory roles of QSA.
“I fight every single day for people who are oppressed by organized religion in any way to claim their authentic identity, to be who they are, and to know that they are seen, loved, and way more than tolerated,” she said. “They deserve to be celebrated.”
Three years ago, on National Coming Out Day, SLCC opened its Gender & Sexuality Student Resource Center to support the school’s LGBTQ+ students throughout their education by holding activities and support groups and providing resources to women, LGBTQ+ students, and allies.
Black Menaces kicked off their TikTok channel in February of 2022 after a video of LDS leader Brad Wilcox surfaced, saying people shouldn’t ask “how come the Blacks didn’t get the priesthood until 1978,” and instead ask “why did the whites have to wait until 1829?”
Since then, they have accrued a following of over 700,000 people and are spreading to BYU campuses across the country.
The group was honored at the Equality Utah Allies Gala in September.