Cary Crall, Carol Lynn Pearson, and Jorge Valencia among Speakers
by Hugo Salinas
Organized by two returned missionaries and BYU graduates, the 2012 Utah County Sexual Health Symposium was held in Provo on November 8. The symposium was designed to address the sexual health information needs of the LGBTQ community of Utah County.
The organizers were Cary Crall, a Harvard medical student, and Caitlin Jolley, who is completing an MBA at Westminster College. The event included presentations by author Carol Lynn Person, Point Foundation Executive Director Jorge Valencia, and Dr. Kevin Kapila, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a physician with Boston’s Fenway Health, the nation’s largest LGBT community health center.
Jorge Valencia spoke about his experiences as a BYU student, where he served as vice president of ASBYU (Associated Students of Brigham Young University), and described the journey that took him to become president and executive director of The Trevor Project, positions which he held between 2001 and 2006. Jorge is the current executive director of the Point Foundation, which empowers LGBTQ students to achieve academic and leadership potential.
Jorge said that when he attended his first event organized by The Trevor Project, the statistics of suicide attempts among LGBT teens left him with a lump in his throat.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head: at a point in my life I could have been one of those statistics—and that was here when I was going to Brigham Young University.”
Jorge said that the decision to accept a position to head The Trevor Project was not easy to make, in part because he knew the salary was going to be very low.
“I was so moved by what it was about that I knew I had to do that, and it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Jorge said that there’s a correlation between LGBT youth coming from Mormonism or other religious backgrounds and homelessness, depression, and suicide attempts. He also suggested a correlation between religious perfectionism and destructive behavior.
“We [Mormons] are taught to be perfect—to be the best we can be. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when you do not know who you are, and everything is either black or white, it’s very dangerous.”