Growing up a closeted gay Mormon boy is almost a cliché in Utah. The same old tired story about the repressed sexuality in Utah is as common as green Jell-O with carrots. It took me 22 years to come out of the closet to my friends and family, and I still remember the terrible feelings of that day. Unlike others who were outed by their bishops or their Internet history, I sat down with my family for the big awkward talk. The fear I felt as I sat on the piano bench in my parent’s house that night is still palpable as I sit at my safe-haven of a desk in the office of a gay newspaper.
I didn’t cry. I couldn’t. It wasn’t because I didn’t feel torn up inside and it wasn’t because I didn’t feel terrible for my parents. It was because I could see my parent’s hopes and dreams for me being washed down the drain; a glittery and fabulous, Elkay drain, but a drain nonetheless. I hated doing that to them. I hated seeing the pain and the total lack of understanding. But it had to be done.
Up until that cold January evening, I had been exploring the gay life in Salt Lake City for about a year and was shocked at everything I found. From my first experience in a gay bar to the first time I walked through the Gateway on a warm Sunday afternoon with my gaydar tuned in, I couldn’t believe at all the affirmative and reassuring places and people I found in the city. I found a second home exploring coffee shops and tea houses. I couldn’t believe how many places in Salt Lake were welcoming of me and my friends. For the first time in my life, I began to feel accepted and comfortable with who I am. I always knew I wouldn’t change, but it wasn’t until I moved into Salt Lake City and found my community that I didn’t want to change.
After I came out to my little brother, he asked me if there were a lot of gay people in Salt Lake. I gave him the obvious answer. When he asked me if there are a lot of gay return-missionaries, I almost sensed his disbelief when I told him there were thousands and thousands. I told him you couldn’t walk down the street without tripping over a return-missionary and his boyfriend.
Salt Lake is fabulous, and exploring it probably saved my life. From the Coffee Garden to JAM and Cahoots. From Squatter’s to Ruth’s Diner and The Other Place, it blew me away finding all the different supportive businesses and restaurants where I felt completely comfortable going on a date or hanging out with friends.
While other papers and magazines may offer different, and very fun, awards, the QSaltLake Fabby Awards are more than that. Rather than just telling you where you can find the best sushi, we help the community know where you can find the best sushi and feel comfortable taking your partner. This isn’t just a list of some of the best businesses, it’s a list of some of the best businesses where you can regularly find members of the gay community. So grab a list of the winners and start exploring. Check out the coffee shops, restaurants and tattoo parlors. You’ll find the best and most supportive fabulous businesses in the state within this issue.