During his graduation speech Friday, Brigham Young University valedictorian, Matt Easton, told his classmates “I have come to terms, not with who I thought I should be, but who the Lord has made me to be.”
Then, before a crowd of thousands at the school’s convocation ceremony at Marriott Center in Provo, Easton came out.
“I am proud to be a gay son of God,” he told the crowd as cheers of support erupted. “I am not broken, I am loved and important in the plan of our creator -- each of us are.”
Two weeks before the speech, Easton said in an interview, he was required to submit it to the university for vetting, and it was approved as delivered, with no changes.
A video of Easton’s speech was posted to YouTube and widely circulated on social media. Easton later went on Twitter to share that he had come out to his closest family and friends, but had not been “out” publicly prior to his speech.
Easton said in the speech that four years ago it would have been impossible for him to imagine that he would come out, especially before his entire university, calling it “a triumph,” and “a victory.”
A spokesperson for BYU confirmed in an email that Easton is a valedictorian in the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences. He is a political science major.
BYU is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church doctrine says that being gay isn’t a sin, but acting on it is.
The LDS church rolled back a controversial policy about LGBTQ people earlier this year, which had called same-sex parents apostates - those who have abandoned their faith. The church also reversed a ban on same-sex parents having their children blessed and baptized.
Easton’s speech framed his struggle as one of many challenges that he and his classmates have faced in order to make it to graduation.
“Perhaps there are those of you who are here today who are afraid or uncertain about how to deal with the unique challenges you face,” said Easton. “I hope that my stories can serve as a reminder that BYU has given us the foundation to face difficult problems, both secular and spiritual and that through the Lord, all things are possible.”
He asked his fellow graduates, “What are you here to celebrate? What are your victories that the world needs to know?”
Then he told his classmates that their stories could change the world.
“Perhaps even more importantly,” he said in the speech, “are the people who will change each other and the people who will change themselves.”