Michael Aaron

The future of Utah Pride and our community is up to us

For a while there, it seemed Utah’s LGBTQ community was doing pretty well. Even in the age of an antagonistic presidency and Congress, we were moving forward. We have a beautiful building to house our community’s services. We were able to get our state to deem supposed conversion therapy as unlawful. Our arts organizations are producing compelling, meaningful plays. Our social organizations are thriving. And while we once had nearly a dozen bars, we still have three that open their doors to us.

And then some virus starts to take over the world, shutting it all down. Our Utopia was brought to a standstill.

Now our Center, our arts organizations, and our political advocacy groups are struggling to survive. Our social organizations have had to cancel all events. Our bars had to shutter for weeks, opening only under severe restrictions to those not in fear of stepping back out into public.

As we know in our personal lives, bills pile up even when we are forced to stay home. Building leases still have to be paid. Employees need to make a living. Utilities, even though largely unused, still send bills.

Through all of this, our Pride Center’s staff worked diligently to find ways to maintain their services online. Some bars were able to pay staff, at least for a short time, to help spruce up their buildings.

And then the headline on QSaltLake.com: “Utah Pride Center lays off much of its staff as donations slow because of Covid-19 and postponed Pride Festival.”

In talking with other nonprofits, the situation is the same. All are wondering how they will weather this pandemic. Donations have trickled because people fear their own financial future needs and situations.

But it is up to us to determine what the future of our community will be.
Will we attend and support the Pride Spectacular fundraiser, even though it is online? Will we participate in its silent auction and pay for tickets at some level?

This was a fundraiser that helped pay salaries and bills in the past. Will our Center be able to rely on us to maintain our level of support?

Will we attend Pride this Fall, or if a change like forcing it to be virtual as well, will we pay what we would have had it been any other year?

We need to maintain our membership dues to our social organizations even though they struggle to find ways to engage us.

We need to participate in fundraising for our bars and their employees.
We need to donate to ensure our political advocates can represent us on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

The future of our community depends on us digging deep in these uncertain times.

This is not our community’s first pandemic. How we responded to HIV/AIDS with love, compassion, properly directed anger, and our pocketbooks made it possible for many of us to survive and our community to thrive.

Those of us who have the means, we implore you to spend what you would have at Pride, even though it may be next year before we can see each other on floats again. Add up what tickets you would have bought and beers or wine you would have paid for. Donate that amount.

Encourage your employers and companies you do business with to continue or begin to support our community through Pride donations.

We can skip a few lattes. We can invest in our community’s future.

How our community will thrive through this rests on our willingness to be about and for our community more than about ourselves.

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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