The Uintah Basin is now home to a social group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer residents of all ages, thanks to one Vernal man.
Donny Sawyer said he was inspired to create Gay Uintah Basin after Kathy Godwin, president of Salt Lake City’s Parents, Families & Friends of Gays and Lesbians, visited Vernal to teach interested residents about PFLAG.
“She inspired me because she said that she gets a lot of e-mail and the [Utah] Pride Center gets a lot of e-mail from people in Vernal for information [about resources for gays and lesbians] and other things, so I wondered how many people would be interested in just getting together,” he said.
Sawyer then set up a Facebook page for the fledgling group, which he said sparked immediate interest.
“I got inundated,” he said. “I have 157 friends on my page as of today. I had 30–40 a day for a few days. I just discovered there’s a real need for education and social interaction in this area, and people from high school on up want to get together and meet each other, so I want to provide a safe, neutral place for them to meet.”
“And it’s not just gay people [who are joining], it’s their friends,” he added.
Although Sawyer lives in Vernal, he stressed that the group truly is for residents of the entire area, which includes Duchesne, Roosevelt and Dinosaur, Colo., which is close to the Utah state line.
At present, Sawyer said he is mainly concentrating on setting up the group, getting members and planning future activities. The first of these activities will be a Halloween party on Oct. 30 at the Kingsbury Community Center in Vernal, 65 E. 100 North, from 2–5 p.m. — though Sawyer said it can run later if attendees want.
“I thought I’d have it early so people could go on to their own Halloween events,” he said.
Sawyer is also trying to help support other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-friendly organizations in the Basin, including a gay-straight alliance at Uintah High School. He said a student at the school recently contacted him for help.
“He was online with me [on Sept. 26] chatting, and so I told him I’d collect information before he started asking teachers,” said Sawyer. “I was online with someone else on my Facebook page for an hour gathering information and I messaged it to him.”
“I’ve had tons of questions, and I’ve talked to the Pride Center getting answers for people. It’s been really great,” he said.
For more information about Gay Uintah Basin, search for “Gay Uintah Basin” on Facebook, or contact Donny Sawyer at 435-790-4752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.