Growing up in California, I met a few gay men and women there. My best friend was gay, a fact I learned nine months into serving my mission. I had one friend my freshman year of high school that was gay but I stopped hanging out with him. My section leader in band my senior year of high school was a lesbian. We promised to never "act on it (a promise we thankfully have both broken)." On my mission, I had one companion that was gay. He chose to come out shortly after the mission and I chose to remain in the closet. Coming home, my parents banned my best friend from the house because he was openly gay.
For two years at college, I knew no one that was gay. My solitary prison existed by my own design. When I finally wanted to come out, I found out that I knew no one in the entire state of Utah that was gay. It was only by pure coincidence that a friend of mine knew a friend that knew gay men. It was through that connection that I was able to connect to the gay community in Utah, Sentry.
But I have met dozens of gays that know of no other gay guys. They know me by pure happenstance. I cannot help but wonder at how many gay men are out there in this county that wish they knew other gay guys but don't know how to meet them?
There's a group at school called "Understanding Same Gender Attraction." It's the Mormon equivalent of GSA clubs at other universities and colleges. The nature of the group is more discussion oriented than socializing. It's education does not extend beyond the realm of discussion. It is not affiliated with the school but is permitted to meet on campus. It's existence has allowed for many other gays and lesbians to connect on campus. The feeling that "you're not alone" is a welcome relief, certainly. The public schools are also woefully weak on different clubs and organizations to assist and educate the LGBTQ community in the county. I know very little about what goes on in that area. When it comes to those schools, I am left in the dark on what goes on there.
What's my point, Sentry? Travel less than 40 miles north and the center of the LGBTQ community can be found in the downtown. The Pride Center, Equality Utah, clubs, and bars are all to be found there. Cross over into this county and there are no such things. The groups that meet are just groups of friends that are barely connected to other groups. Every once in a while a games night group forms but nothing else. The USGA group is not the first to have organized at BYU. It may not be the last. USGA risks disappearing without a trace like so many of its predecessors. What will happen then for the my community at BYU? We are unaware of each other. Sure, there are groups that know of each other. Some of the more social members of the group know many of us. But so many are unconnected. We have no ability to connect. The centers up north are focused on Salt Lake City's LGBTQ population. Meanwhile, my county is barely linked into the system.
I do not write this as a complaint against the groups in Salt Lake City. It is not their responsibility, in my opinion. It is our responsibility down here. If we want to change our situation, we must change it. Sentry, I want to see this changed. I want to see a group that organizes and registers different groups and activities that go on in the county. I want to see eventually educational resources available for the LGBTQ community here. I want to see groups organized to meet throughout the county to address the different needs of this community, my community. Sentry, I primarily want this information available to everyone that wishes to find it.
I want to one day see the Pride Center equivalent in Salt Lake City created and run down here in Utah County. I want kids from the high schools, UVU, and BYU able to know of its existence and go to it to find resources and information to help answer their questions and connect. I want to see adults also connected to it. Activities organized outside of the group that announce times and places through it so that attendance can be high and a sense of community exists. I want to essentially connect the LGTQ community to each other. I want to one day see bars and clubs open up serving our community and any others that wish to participate in it.
That's my dream, Sentry. I want to help make Utah a better place for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and all others that belong in my community. I want to see positive change in this county. Wouldn't you like the same, Sentry?
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