In a four-part series entitled “LGBT Off the Grid,” the Changing Our Stories podcast, in partnership with Utah Public Radio, “explores the far corners of Utah where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people, and those questioning their sexuality are often isolated and unseen.”
In the first episode of the series, titled “Waterfalls in Red Rock Country“, Randy Thompson, Executive Director of Youth Advocates of Southern Utah, discusses his experience coming out as a young gay Mormon and being suicidal and homeless in Salt Lake City. Randy found help and a purpose through the Utah Pride Center. Today, Randy works to ensure homeless youth have a safe place to be, especially LGBT youth. He started Youth Advocates of Southern Utah. “I want to let them know that they are values…that we care for them and want them to be successful.” Randy hopes to grow the organization to provide more resources to youth and educate the public.
In the second episode, titled “Two Spirit“, is a glimpse of what it’s like to be LGBTQ in the Navajo Nation. While Navajos have held a special place in their history for those who have different sexual orientations, often called “two spirit people,” those traditions were changed as relationships with the white community. Moroni Benally is gay, was raised Mormon, and his parents encouraged him to find a way to not be gay, including through Navajo ceremonies. As a doctoral student, Moroni documented LGBTQ violence in the Navajo Nation. While he has left the reservation, he continues to be concerned with how LGBTQ people are treated in the Navajo nation, and in society in general.
The third episode of the series is entitled, “Transgender in Brigham City“, “a solitary transgender person in Brigham City finds community in a coven of witches.” Mackenzie Quinn Jetton is the only transgender person she knows in Brigham City, Utah. “I get a lot of strange looks…because I’m different…people are afraid of me.” MacKenzie left the LDS church, but her name is still on the roles. She discusses how difficult it is for people like her to not be a part of the support system the Mormon church offers in small communities like Brigham City and how she came to be part of a pagan witch coven.
The fourth and final episode in the series is titled, “Rainbow Mutual.” In this episode, “a family turns a Mormon tradition on its head to find fellowship.” The Berry family shares how their son, Abram, struggled with his sexual identity and mental health. Going to their LDS ward did not help. School wasn’t very welcoming either. The family stopped going to church, but missed having a community. They came up with the idea for “Rainbow Mutual.” The first meeting was April 2016 with a handful of LGBTQ kids and their parents. Now attendees come from all over Utah. One of their goals is to lower the rate of suicides among LGBTQ youth. Other youths who attend meetings share their experience and how Rainbow Mutual is helping them.