BYU’s Black Menaces Will Protest Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Students

The announcement of an Oct. 11 walkout follows BYU’s removal of previously approved LGBTQ+ resource pamphlets from welcome bags for incoming freshmen.

Published September 8, 2022

Edited by Alex Pasquariello
BYU’s Black Menaces Will Protest Discrimination Against LGBTQ+ Students
Photo by George Frey / Bloomberg / Getty Images

  • The Black Menaces rose to fame on TikTok after exposing racist, homophobic, and sexist views at BYU.
  • A national walkout is planned for Oct. 11 to demand additional access, support, and enforcement of Title IX.
  • President Joe Biden last June released proposed rule changes to Title IX that would formally protect LGBTQ+ students for the first time.

Brigham Young University’s Black Menaces are organizing a nationwide walkout to protest religious exemptions to Title IX that allow legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ students.

The Black Menaces on Wednesday announced via TikTok that their advocacy group was partnering with the LGBTQIA+ students of the Religious Exemptions Accountability Project (REAP) to organize a national student walkout on October 11.

The walkout will coincide with National Coming Out Day.

@blackmenaces COMMENT & REPOST TO BLOW THIS UP #fyp #protest #viral #blackmenaces #strikeouthomophobia #provo #menacechapters #utah #byu ♬ original sound - the black menaces

Beyond protesting legal discrimination against LGBTQ+ students by religious universities, the Black Menaces and REAP are calling for additional access, support, and enforcement of Title IX so that all students, faculty, and staff “have the ability to exist completely as themselves.”

Title IX, a federal law, protects students in federally funded schools and educational programs from discrimination on the basis of sex.

The Obama administration interpreted Title IX to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, protecting individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, but the Trump administration rolled back those guidelines in 2017. President Joe Biden last June released long-awaited proposed rule changes to Title IX that would formally protect LGBTQ+ students for the first time.

However, religious schools such as BYU, a private Utah university operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are still allowed to enforce some discriminatory policies through religious exemption waivers to Title IX.

The planned Black Menaces-REAP walkout was announced in the wake of several anti-LGBTQ+ incidents on BYU’s campus and in its Provo, Utah, community.

At the end of August, BYU administrators removed LGBTQ+ resource pamphlets from welcome bags that were to be distributed to some 5,000 incoming first-year students.

The pamphlets were created by RaYnbow Collective, a nonprofit organization founded by BYU student Maddison Tenney to provide allyship, community, and education for the school’s LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff.

Though BYU approved the inclusion of these pamphlets for orientation welcome bags, the school later removed them. Most of the pamphlets were thrown in the trash without notifying RaYnbow Collective, Tenney told The Salt Lake Tribune.

BYU in a statement to TODAY.com said that it would prefer that students and employees in need of support utilize its new Office of Belonging as their “primary resource” rather than seeking outside resources.

Last Saturday, the RaYnbow Collective’s annual back-to-school Pride Night at an off-campus Provo park was interrupted by protesters, including students wearing BYU apparel, shouting anti-gay slurs, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The event was held at a public park because clubs for LGBTQ+ students who attend BYU are not allowed to meet on campus. The school’s honor code also forbids any same-sex romantic partnerships or displays of affection among LGBTQ+ students.

Members of the Black Menaces who were at the event to support BYU’s LGBTQ+ community documented protesters’ hate speech on TikTok.

@blackmenaces Hate will never win. We love you❤️🧡💛💚💙💜🤎🖤🤍#fyp #trending #tiktok #blackmenaces #lgbt #pride ♬ original sound - the black menaces

Earlier this year, members of the group told BestColleges about the importance of turning their social media fame into action at their school and beyond.

"As the Black Menaces, we want to make changes so everyone can feel safe, always, and we have to push boundaries to do so, unfortunately." Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, one of the group’s founding members, told BestColleges. “We have to make [some] people feel uncomfortable so that everyone can feel comfortable.”

BYU has yet to react to news of the planned walkout, but the Menaces have previously stated that the university’s administration has never directly said anything to them about their campus activism.