Guest Editorials

Guest Editorial: The Importance of Community

by Chord Martet

I grew up in a large, red (conservative) state in the Midwest. I always knew I was different but didn’t really understand how. The idea that I might be gay actually never crossed my mind. It wasn’t until puberty and attending high school that I started to understand how different I was and how that difference would be a problem for others.

High school was a complete nightmare. Even though I never looked at other guys, didn’t date guys and wasn’t out somehow people knew I was gay. I was verbally abused on a regular basis and quite frequently I’d arrive at school to find the word “FAG” written on my locker. The abuse didn’t end at school. On multiple occasions other kids would toilet paper our house and write the word “FAG” in soap on my parent’s car windows.

This type of abuse continued all four years of high school. As a result I withdrew from the other students. The idea of being around people gave me anxiety. I suspect that’s the primary reason I decided to go to a commuter college, even though I was accepted at every university to which I applied. The idea of having to deal with other people was unappealing.

I used to cry myself to sleep at night, knowing that I would never be happy and would die alone. That misery persisted for years as I continued to isolate myself and comfort myself with food. I was inactive, fat and extremely depressed.

I stayed that way until the day I decided I had enough. Fortunately, that decision didn’t entail taking my life—not that I hadn’t considered it. It entailed coming out to my parents, putting down the junk food, getting off the couch, getting active, and most importantly, reaching out to others.

The reason I’m sharing such personal information is because I know, first-hand, what isolation does to people. It can lead to depression, unhealthy decisions and, in some cases, suicide. I feel the best way to combat isolation and its associated effects is through community—having a sense of belonging. That’s one of the reasons that, after moving to Salt Lake City, I decided to form a social group for gay, bisexual and transgender men. We’re stronger when we’re together.

That brings me to the actual topic of this article—the need for a more connected community. When I moved to Salt Lake City I was excited to discover a rich and vibrant LGBT community. I immediately got involved. After a while I started to notice the lack of communication, coordination, and collaboration between LGBT organizations and the diverse parts of the community. What would the rainbow flag be if all of its colors weren’t united together?

Thankfully a collection of organizations and individuals are reviving the former Gay and Lesbian Community Council of Utah.

The mission of the new LGBT Community Council is to bring organizations and individuals together to share information, to coordinate activities that address community needs, and to host collaborative events for the benefit of the LGBT community. The vision of new LGBT Community Council is simple—to improve the wellness of the LGBT community in the greater Salt Lake City area.

The organizers of this new community council have created a Facebook group, “LGBT Community Council (Greater SLC).” If you’re a LGBT organization or an individual who feels strongly about the wellness of the community and wish to participate please request to join the group—everyone is welcome. Monthly meetings will begin in May. I have great hopes for this new collaboration. After all, Communication + Unity = Community! Q

Chord Martet is a Salt Lake City resident and an organizer of Men Who Move,, a social group for 18+ year old gay, bisexual and transgender men in the Salt Lake City area.

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