Utah Valley University recognizes Pride Month and historical 50-year anniversary


The LGBTQ+ community celebrates Pride Month in June. Activities are marked with rainbow flags and colorful parades are held around the globe. The goal is to recognize the impact members of LGBTQ+ community have had on the world. This year’s celebration holds additional significance as it marks the 50-year anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which occurred on June 28, 1969, and is considered the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States.

Utah Valley University participated in this year’s annual Pride parade in Salt Lake City. The theme of this year’s parade was “Exist, Resist, Persist.” These words echo back to the memory of the Stonewall riot’s words of survival. Karen Deysher, the programs manager for LGBTQ+ on Utah Valley University’s campus said while change is slow, things are improving.

Justin Marks, an intern in the LGBTQ+ office said, “The individuals at UVU who are involved in creating a better place for LGBTQ+ individuals do great work despite a climate that does not encourage LGBTQ+ individuals to feel safe or valued.”

The office, which opened four years ago, offers one-on-one advising, support, advocacy, and general education opportunities for all on campus. It works closely with Spectrum, the queer student alliance which has been in place for many years. 

This year the LGBTQ+ Wolverine team worked together to create banners for the Pride parade that they felt honored the history of Stonewall. Some of the banners read, “Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day 1970,” referring to the very first Pride parade held one year after Stonewall. Another banner read “Silence = Death,” with a pink triangle, addressing the AIDS crisis and the government’s slow response in dissemination of information, and finding and providing treatments.

The pink triangle was originally used by the Nazis to identify homosexual people in concentration camps. After the end of World War II, East and West Germany upheld the countries’ anti-gay law resulting in many gays remaining incarcerated until the early 1970s. Ultimately, the pink triangle was reclaimed as a symbol of liberation.

Deysher described their group as energized and angry as they marched. “It’s been 50 years and we are still talking about the same things. Sometimes it feels like we are marching backwards.”

Still, Dr. Barney Nye, associate vice president over PK-16 grants, outreach, and partnerships at UVU, remembers a far different time on campus.

“I have been on campus for over 20 years, beginning as a student, and I vividly remember walking the halls, deep in the closet and feeling so isolated.  In the years since, I have watched people all through campus work to gain a deeper understanding of UVU’s queer community and become more aware and accepting as more individuals have come out and more people have worked to be strong allies to the community.”  Nye says he understands still more must be done.

“While I recognize there is still a lot of work to do at UVU and beyond, I remain motivated because I see our students who have formed a community of solidarity and support. Being able to find that community, through a place like LGBT Student Services, would have so dramatically changed my experience as a student over 20 years ago and the intelligence, dedication, and perseverance our LGBTQ+ students demonstrate every day makes me so optimistic about the path ahead. Stonewall reminds me of the strength and courage of those who have done this work for 50 years, and I am humbled to be able to stand on the shoulders of giants.” 

Deysher also points to visible signs of progress in inclusion at Utah Valley University, noting the increased number of all-gender restrooms and the addition of gender identity and expression anti-harassment policies.

“It is important that we (UVU) continue to make progress for the diverse communities that make up the UVU campus. UVU has a mission of inclusion and this is for all people,” said Belinda ’Otukolo Saltiban, chief inclusion and diversity officer.

Utah Valley University is an integrated university that educates every student — regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or race — for success in work and life through excellence in engaged teaching, services, and scholarship. 

It is important that we continue to make progress for the diverse communities that make up the UVU campus. UVU has a mission of inclusion and this is for all people.

— Belinda 'Otukolo Saltiban, UVU chief inclusion and diversity officer