Since moving back to Utah, I have been struggling with my inability to be myself. In Evansville, Indiana (even though it is located in the Bible Belt) I could be myself 100% of the time. My boyfriend and I could hold hands, I could check out a piece of sexy man ass, and I could do all of those other non-gay things that make up who I am. In Utah, and especially in the ultra-conservative Cedar Hills, I don’t feel comfortable being myself. This has caused a kind of haze to wash over me. If I can’t be myself, then who can I be?
At the height of my insecurities, I was invited out by two of my good friends from high school who I haven’t seen in quite a long time. I was ecstatic! The haze lifted, I was able to go out and have fun with my friends, as I have done many times before. We had a great time. After dropping Natalie off at the apartment she was staying at in Provo, something terrible, shocking, horrendous, repulsive–and many other words–happened. A group of BYU students drove up next to my car on I-15 and shouted, “QUEERS!”. They continued to drive next to me and shout things even when I slowed down and sped up. Luckily, they got bored soon when I gave them no reaction (mostly because I was so shocked) and sped off down the interstate.
It outraged me. I couldn’t sleep. All I could think about is the type of person who would do such a thing. A BYU student. A person who has been proclaimed Christ-like by not only themselves, but by their Bishop and Stake President. A person that is receiving an education so subsidized by their “loving” religion’s church that tuition is under $3000 per year. A person whose parents and peers set an example for the type of behavior that is acceptable.
Okay, so I didn’t feel comfortable being completely myself in Utah. Now I don’t even feel safe. “Based on FBI data, a homosexual is about 850 times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime motivated by his/her sexual orientation than is a heterosexual”(source). And hate crime rates associated with LGBTQ people in Utah are higher than in most states. So are LGBTQ youth suicide rates. I have always known these statistics, however vaguely, but they never struck home until I experienced the lack of safety for myself. Suddenly I was scared to walk home from work at 10pm on a busy and well-lit street. They say words can’t harm, and it’s true–the word “queers” does not affect me at all. It is the implication behind the word and the situation in which it was used.
Well, the haze came back, but this time it was more of a thick fog. I have to do something about it. I can’t get the incident out of my mind, the gleeful looks on the passengers’ faces. So I’m going to make a list. Lists always help my mom, and every time I get stressed out, she tells me to make a list. I just roll my eyes usually, but this time I’m going to give it a shot. Because short of running to D.C. and passing a law (AKA reiterating what the Constitution already says) it’s all I can really do. So to take my mind off of people that hate me because of their ignorance, here is my list of all the people I know that love and support me because they know me: