Brigham Young University
Ashtin Markowski lives in Springville, UT. They identify as nonbinary and gay.
Ashtin graduated from Brigham Young University in December 2020. BYU’s honor code states that students, faculty, and staff must “live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
After two and a half years of working at an on-campus job at the Missionary Training Center, teaching people about the church online, Ashtin cut their hair to better match their gender expression and was promptly fired. The firing was justified, according to the school, because Ashtin’s hair was “extreme and distracting” and “too masculine, not feminine enough.”
To be able to attend BYU, students have to renew their ecclesiastical endorsement every year, meaning that they must be deemed “worthy” by the church and are willing to live the church’s commandments and the school’s honor code. “I was constantly worried I would lose this endorsement, as the church had conditioned me to discuss my attraction towards girls with my bishop,” Ashtin said. The bishop told Ashtin to be more feminine, questioned if their sexual attraction amounted to a “sex addiction,” and attempted to persuade them to reject “temptation.”
“I began to feel unwelcome at the church for being gay, adding to my terror that I would lose my endorsement,” she said. “Even though I graduated months ago, I still feel like I am going to ‘get in trouble’ because of how I constantly had to worry that I would be thrown out of school for dating someone of the same gender.”
Ashtin is raising their voice to protect all LGBTQ+ students at Brigham Young University and religiously affiliated colleges across the country.