Last month, Utah saw an increase in bigotry and anti-LGBTQ violence. On August 18, a newly married lesbian couple in southern Utah were found murdered after telling relatives about a “creepy” man following them; the matter is being investigated as a hate crime. Five days later, three anti-LGBTQ actions made headlines.
First, a prominent Mormon Church leader Jeffrey Holland delivered a speech to faculty and staff at Brigham Young University advocating more “musket fire” in response to criticism from LGBTQ activists. Second, the Utah State School Board announced that it was against policy to ask students for their gender identity and preferred name. Finally, outspoken far-right member of the state school board, Natalie Cline, used social media to identify and criticize a local high school class for posting a post welcoming LGBTQ students. But as political organization and LGBTQ activism has grown in recent years, the LGBTQ community and their allies have responded with denunciations of Holland’s sectarian rhetoric and advocating for an inclusive approach to secondary education.
Brigham Young Mormon University has been a central arena in the LGBTQ liberation struggle in Utah – a struggle that has intensified in recent years. In the 1960s and 1970s, the president of BYU used spies to discover gay men on campus who were then subjected to electroconvulsive therapy in order to stay in school. The approach is now more subtle, but no less oppressive since LGBTQ Mormons are unable to enjoy full brotherhood and are excluded.
Over the past decade, BYU’s once underground LGBTQ community has emerged and started to advocate for a change in politics and culture. In reaction to this release period, the BYU administration had to relax the second-class status of LGBTQ students based on the fact that all students must wait until marriage to have sex, but only heterosexual students. can get married. Unsurprisingly, the latter’s second-class status contributes to a culture of harassment on and off campus.
On the same day that BYU opened its new “Home Office,” the First Presidency of Holland Church of Mormon delivered a speech in which it lamented that BYU faculty and staff had not lifted their ” muskets ”against members of the public who criticized BYU’s anti-LGBTQ policies regarding. Interpreted charitably, Holland’s comment was just a violent metaphor, but it’s hard to believe that this linguistic violence won’t translate into physical violence, especially just days after the lesbian couple was murdered.
While they do not directly advocate for violence against LGBTQ people, it is evident that, at best, Mormon church leaders are reckless with their violent rhetoric and exclusionary policies. LGBTQ oppression is a problem all over the United States, and Utah is no exception. In fact, 65% of LGBTQ youth surveyed in Utah said they had been verbally harassed in school, compared to 51% nationally; more homeless youth in Utah identify as LGBTQ compared to the national average. And there is some evidence that anti-LGBTQ fanaticism is linked to Utah’s high suicide rates.
In response to this spike in anti-LGBTQ fanaticism, the Socialism and Liberation Party and Provo Pride banded together to fight back, staging a protest at BYU on August 27. The fight against LGBTQ oppression in Utah is a crucial fight, and it was a reflection of the passion of the protesters. More than 50 protesters held placards advocating the liberation of LGBTQs and rejecting the violent rhetoric of the Netherlands. Strangers who had never met were united in their opposition to the oppression of students and LGBTQ individuals across the state. With a few exceptions, drivers passing the intersection honked their horns and shouted supportive messages. Given that Provo is one of the most politically conservative cities in the country, it felt like the tide was turning on this issue in Utah.
The protesters held placards with slogans that linked the LGBTQ struggle to the struggles of the workers. Three speakers addressed the crowd. Tay Adams –– the director of Provo Pride and a former BYU student –– spoke about the suffering he experienced while trying to live as a closed gay on a Mormon mission and as a student at BYU. Kaylee, an organizer of PSL Provo, made the connections between LGBTQ liberation, the patriarchal family and capitalism. Kelli Potter, organizer of PSL Provo and associate professor of philosophy at the University of the Valley of Utah, spoke about her experiences at BYU and in the Mormon Church as a locked up trans woman, an experience that played a role in its own political development towards revolutionary socialism. . All three speeches showed the interconnection between LGBTQ + and worker liberation and were very well received by the energized group.
On the evening of August 28 in Salt Lake City, LGBTQ activists held a vigil to ask those who would target “muskets” at LGBTQ people instead “bury their guns,” a reference to a Book of Mormon story. in which a once violent people bury their weapons and take an oath not to relapse into violence. One of the speakers at the vigil was Matt East, who declared himself gay during his BYU opening address in 2019.
In recent years, the Mormon Church’s fanatical policies towards LGBTQ members have come under increasing public criticism and undoubtedly played a role in the high number of members leaving the church. So it’s no surprise that demand for LGBTQ equality and liberation is escalating in Utah. Utah’s LGBTQ community and its allies are growing stronger as the fanatic reactionaries in charge desperately try to stem the tide of resistance to the capitalist patriarchy.