Michael Aaron

Tough Issues Issue

Michael Aaron  thinks next issue has to be all happy stuff.

That was my Facebook status as we were in the home stretch getting this issue out.

The previous week I did a ton of work on our website, some computer maintenance, cleaned the office, made phone calls and developed our editorial calendar for 2011. All so I didn’t have to sit down and do a long story on recent suicides in the gay community, edit a feature on the issue of meth in our community, and work on a follow-up to our “HIV in Utah” story with a former Utahn who has left the state over his treatment here.

Yes, this is the “Tough Issues” issue.

I guess it can’t be unicorns and rainbows, as was suggested for our next issue, all the time.

But these three topics should be, and are, on the top of agendas of our community groups and leaders. In fact, next week I will be attending a meeting where all of these issues will be discussed.

And up-and-coming leader Turner Bitton is right. [“Rally for Equality to Build a Better Community,” page 11.] He notes that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take care of each other. If someone’s garage burns down, the local ward is there with hammers in hand to help rebuild. When someone has a death in the family, out come the funeral potatoes.

“In many ways we don’t often support our own,” Bitton said. “If we draw on the lessons from the LDS Church we can learn something.”

Is our community capable of growing into something like that? We bristle and puff our chests if a business disses a fellow gay or lesbian person, calling for boycotts and rallies. But do we do it for them, or do we do it so we don’t have the same issue when we walk in the same doors?

I suppose we may find out on August 13 when Bitton’s rally happens on the Utah State Capitol grounds. His hope is to talk about developing a community that cares for one another. And he’s talking on a larger scale than you probably just read. He wants families and friends of people who come out to still love their son or daughter or friend. He wants a welcoming gay and lesbian community that isn’t rife with high school bitchiness, name-calling and judgmental attitudes.

Yes, Bitton is 19. But is he “just” an idealist, or is he a visionary? He makes the point that most people in this community grew up in the LDS culture. Where did the compassion and circling-the-wagons mentality go?

When a fellow member of our community finds that he or she has contracted HIV, we as a community should be funneling our strength to help him or her survive — financially, emotionally, physically. When one of us has his face bashed in by a ’phobe, we should be more concerned about the victim’s welfare than an angry sound bite on the evening news. When a friend finds himself addicted to a drug, we should make ourselves available to help, not to judge.

While driving to the liquor store yesterday for my vitamins, I saw a woman get hit by a car as she was crossing the street. I pulled over and ran to her and found that about two dozen people came out of the woodwork to help out as well. That’s what Utahns do. That’s what any civilized, compassionate person should do.

That is not the story I’m hearing from many people within our community.

How do we change that? How do we evolve as a community to do the things we should do as individuals?

That is your assignment for the next week. Develop ideas and send them to me at ­[email protected]. I’ll bring them up at my August 11 meeting and during my speech at the Rally for Equality on Aug. 13.

And, yes, the next issue is about happy stuff — unicorns and rainbows. Or our pets. One of those.

Until then.

Michael Aaron

Michael Aaron is the editor and publisher of QSaltLake. He has been active in Utah's gay and lesbian community since the early 80s and published two publications then and in the 90s.

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