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Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Stacey Harkey, left, speaks during the memorial for Kris Irvin on Saturday, February 12, 2022 at UVU.

“Kris took black and made it gray.”

Anyone who interacted with Kris Irvin was spending time with a friend. As person after person took to the podium at Utah Valley University’s Clarke Building Auditorium on Saturday, they told stories of their run-ins with Irvin and the impacts they had.

“They would have been the first to reach out to someone who was in pain and try to ease that burden with a smile and I think that’s kind of the underlying vibe that we’re trying to maintain here,” said Roni Jo Draper. , professor at Brigham Young University and friend of Irvin.

Those who made it to the memorial/celebration of Irvin’s life were greeted with a reminder of who they were. The banner welcoming them to ‘Possum Con’, tables of their favorite British snacks and Diet Cokes and – just up front – religious candles.

Not just any religious candles, however. Each tag was a rainbow with an image of Irvin wearing their signature Jedi robes, holding a lightsaber with a possum sitting on their shoulders and the words “Latter Day Saint Kris” written across the top.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

Jenny Smith speaks at the memorial held for Kris Irvin on Saturday, February 12, 2022 at UVU.

A mainstay of Utah’s LGBT and LDS communities, Ogden-born Irvin was known on Twitter for his love — of people and, most importantly, of opossums. Irvin was a graduate of Provo High School and UVU after transferring from Brigham Young University. Draper first met Irvin at the Understanding Sexuality Gender and Allyship club at BYU while working with the club and Irvin regularly attended their meetings.

Irvin was just 35 when they died on January 23, something his friends and followers weren’t ready for. “I was obviously not prepared at all for this. I think I don’t really fully feel it in my body. I’m also happy to have the opportunity to be with people who love them and grieve together,” Draper said.

This intersection of faith and sexuality, especially within the LDS Church, was a defining factor for Irvin.

In 2019, they told the Salt Lake Tribune, “I’m here to show queer LDS kids that it’s possible to be trans and to be LDS. Even when things are tough and even when people are transphobic or negative or judgmental, that’s one of the reasons I’m still here. The comments were not originally published, but were included in the obituary written for Irvin.

Stacey Harkey led the ceremony for Irvin, in part sharing possum facts to honor their self-defined possum parent.

Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

Kris Irvin of Queer Meals speaks during a press conference Thursday, June 14, 2018, outside downtown Provo. The rally was organized following the refusal of entry to the Freedom Festival parade by five LGBTQ groups. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

Throughout the halls of the auditorium, there were pictures and stuffed animals of the resistant rodent. As Harkey said, the nature of the opossum is to put its children on its back and protect them.

“No matter the obstacles, Kris was always committed to being who Kris was,” Harkey said. He told the story of when he first met Irvin at an affirmation event right after he came out as gay around 2019. “Kris picked me up and put me on my back. I’ve seen Kris do it so many times with so many different people,” Harkey said.

To remember Irvin, attendees could sign up to a list to receive a photo of themselves and a stuffed possum. Those who have the opossum are encouraged to write a note, take the opossum on adventures, and take pictures with it before finally sending the package to the next person.

They were also lucky enough to take home a piece of Irvin. In the hallways were tables of Irvin artefacts that friends could take home and keep – everything from ornate copies of the Book of Mormon to a well-worn edition of “The Black Stallion” and Baby stuffed animals. Yodas.

One by one, people browsed through the various trinkets and works of art that showed off the different parts of their personality. People went home with everything from classics like “Welcome” or “Keep Calm and Carry On” to those straight to Irvin in people’s hearts reading “Hug A Transgender Mormon” and “Color the Campus.”

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

BYU professor Roni Jo Draper bows her head during a moment of silence at the memorial held for Kris Irvin on Saturday, February 12, 2022 at UVU.

Echoing the hallways, conversations about Irvin were peppered with laughter and tears. Some decided to stand in front of the room and share their personal stories with everyone.

One person shared the story of meeting Irvin at UVU before an Encircle event, before fully accepting his sexuality. “The first thing Kris said was, ‘Hi, we’re friends now,'” the speaker recalled. “I think meeting Kris that day is why I am who I am right now. … To be honest, I don’t know if I’ll still be here. Kris is the greatest person I know. never had the privilege of knowing.

The sentiment was shared by all. Those who met them asked questions about their place in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or about their sexuality, or about any of the many topics Kris could come up with.

As Christian Hawkes, who described himself as “the token straight friend,” put it, “Wherever they are now, they’re watching over you and me, and they’ve got everyone’s backs as they go.” have done in life.

Towards the end of the service, the screen projected “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” for people to watch. Harkey’s stumbling over the title, however, brought out the same teasing spirit that helped Irvin leave such a mark. It became one more chance for people to laugh and celebrate Irvin’s personality that brought everyone together in the first place.

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald

People browse through items belonging to Kris Irvin that Irvin’s family made available to people at their memorial held Saturday, February 12, 2022 at UVU.

Enlarged and placed at the entrance to the ward were also a series of tweets from Irvin in 2019. Before undergoing surgery, they opened their account, @krisis1986and posted a thread they called an “age-old tradition” that planned their funerals.

Everything possible – from Diet Coke and British snacks to film – has been done. In their final post to the thread, Irvin wrote, “Man I’m bummed out I’m gonna miss this looks like a good time.”

As a vocal member of the LDS and LGBT communities, Irvin was something of a guide. People who were struggling regularly asked questions and became fuller versions of themselves for meeting Irvin. While they may not be available to help others in the future on their journeys of self-discovery, Irvin’s legacy still holds strong.

“One of the things they’ve tried to convey is that there are people who love you and will love you. And sometimes for a young person it’s not their immediate family. And that doesn’t matter because there’s someone out there who will love you,” Draper said. “Even if it’s not the same it’s going to be beautiful and that’s going to be enough. There’s a whole opossum family, and there’s a mama opossum who’ll kick your ass.

More than a chance for people to come together and mourn Irvin’s death, it was a reminder of all they had done in life. From every conversation, in person or online, that has helped change someone’s life. Through the memorabilia and artifacts that will remain with friends, the message was clear: Kris Irvin will not be forgotten anytime soon.


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Clifton L. Boyd