As a member of the LGBTQ community, it's been a long road to the current days of #slay and YASSS GAGA. Like many of my cohorts in the Beehive State, being proud of being different wasn't intrinsically in the cards for me. In fact, I remember my nighttime routine growing up involved getting down on my knees and praying to God to make me "normal." To be OK with being different, and on top of that to celebrate it, seemed like lunacy.
Still, eventually, celebrate it I did. For me, Pride festivities represented an opportunity for park-drinking, manic dancing and daytime scandal. After a few goes at it, I saw past the beads and the balloon-adorned flatbeds, and came across its true meaning: pride in your community and pride in oneself.
That feeling reached its zenith last summer when a landmark Supreme Court decision made marriage for all the law of the land. A lot of people altered their Facebook profile picture to one emblazoned with the colors of the rainbow flag, remember that? Up until then, the sigil—the work of San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker—meant very little to me. It was a mere symbol often seen on shot glasses or cheap dog tags in San Diego's Hillcrest district where I'd come into my own. But on the evening of June 26, it meant triumph. It meant vindication. It meant unity, as many non-gay friends also changed their profile pic in support.
That same jubilation continues to run deep in Utah thanks to some of the subjects featured in this special issue. People like illustrator Andy Simmonds, aka Hey Rooney!, who has amassed a huge social media following thanks to his clothing line that challenges gender norms. There's also the Mama Dragons, a group made up entirely of LDS women that whole-heartedly support their LGBTQ kids. They started out as a secret a few years back and are now a fiery and open force to be reckoned with.
For many, a year lead time is barely enough to plan a wedding. Luckily, Amanda and Leisha LaCrone had the better part of a decade to plan theirs and become the first same-sex couple to marry in Sanpete County. And what about the often-overlooked bisexual community? Yep, they do exist and they meet up on the regular. Find out what they're all about here. Finally, we celebrate with cheers and jeers the ups and downs of the year gone by.
As far as my own journey goes, when I pray now, it's usually to give thanks for the family and friends I've been blessed with; and about the only change I ask for is a change of heart in those that continue to ostracize, vilify and spread misinformation about those like me. I also give thanks for being different, because let's face it, anything else would be wearisome.
This is my new normal, and I've grown to embrace it, unabashedly love it and be 100 percent proud of it.