In response to threats from an anti-LGBT protest by the RaYnbow Collective’s “Back to School Pride” event welcoming LGBT BYU students at the start of the school year, several people donned angel wings to separate the negativity from the event.
In the end, says Ryann Combe, who was photographing the event, love won out.
“Protesters showed up with hate but like I was capturing everything. I can fully tell you love wins in the end,” she wrote on Instagram alongside the photos she took. are held hands and built a human chain full of love to block out such negativity.The angels emerged just before our beautiful drag performers performed – preventing hate from emerging in the open space and sure that was built.
Utah County conservatives were spurred into action when the ultra-conservative online magazine The Federalist publicized the group’s event, focusing on children and the risque names of some of the drag performers.
“A Utah nonprofit is sponsoring a ‘Back to School Pride Drag Extravaganza’ on Saturday featuring performers whose names sound like ‘anal leak’ and ‘genitals’ when pronounced,” began the story. “The Provo-based LGBT group ‘RaYnbow Collective’ promotes the performance as ‘ALL AGES, Family Drag Show’ on its flyers. The RaYnbow Collective did not respond to The Federalist’s request on how the organization can guarantee that the show will be “family friendly”.
The group’s social media posts about the event were awash with hateful comments and threats of borderline violence.
RaYnbow Collective organizers edited social media graphics to remove ‘offensive’ names, but the swell against the event was too advanced. The group decided to go ahead with the event, notifying Provo police of the threats against them.
About 100 protesters showed up at the event, shouting homophobic epithets, “pedophile,” “groomer,” holding up anti-LGBTQ+ signs and shouting quotes from the Book of Mormon at attendees.
During the week leading up to the event, BYU officials threw out the group’s brochures for incoming freshmen that contained LGBTQ+ resources after initially agreeing to include them in a welcome pack. The group promised that new leaflets would be distributed when the school year resumes.
Organizers told the press that the event aims to connect students with LGBT-friendly businesses, organizations and resources.
“[The event is] truly inclusive, so we encourage members of the Provo community to come join us. Anyone who is queer is welcome, anyone with gay family members, or if anyone is just curious to come see,” said Maddison Tenney, Founder and Executive Director of the RaYnbow Collective. “We’ve worked really hard to make sure it’s safe with Provo Police and it’s truly family friendly.”
Over the past year, countless protests against similar “family drag shows” have sparked elements of far-right groups opposed to equality and LGBTQ+ people, most of which have been spurred by the infamous Libs of TikTok account targeting the LGBTQ+ community.
Angel suits are a famous strategy used by friends of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in 1999 when the two men accused of killing him went on trial. Shepard, 21, was beaten, tortured and left hanging from a wooden meadow fence in October 1998 after being attacked for being gay. Shepard died six days later.
The Angel Action Wings project blocked signs held by members of the Westboro Baptist Church led by Fred Phelps who demonstrated outside the Albany County Courthouse in Laramie, Wyoming with signs saying ‘God hates people. queers”.
Several groups have since replicated the display, including at the funeral of victims of the Orlando, Florida mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in 2016.
“Religion has been weaponized against the queer community for a long time,” Tenney told the Salt Lake Tribune. “But this must stop. I believe there is nothing more divine than who I am as a queer child of God.