The Utah law governing student-led clubs can make it challenging for LGBTQ+ students to organize. Few schools in Utah have gay-straight alliances, and even fewer have strong groups that last year after year.
Friends, Allies, and Mentors of the LGBTQ+ Community, or FAM, wants to draw attention to the problem.
“Our main message is one of support for LGBTQ students, staff, and families,” Martin told the Ogden Standard-Examiner. “We want them to know that despite a lot of public attacks on their identities, they are not alone — we stand with them and for them and believe they matter in this world and in their schools.”
Some Utah schools have GSAs or other clubs meant to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning students, but they are not widespread and because they are usually student-driven, a club may only exist until a student or small group of students graduates.
Utah FAM was founded by elementary educator Kody Colvin, Horizonte Instruction and Training Center assistant principal Alli Martin, and education instructional coach Tyson Price in 2016, with the goal to make Utah schools better for LGBTQ+ teachers and students. They have delivered hundreds of professional learning workshops, seminars, and training at schools, companies, and homes. They organize monthly educator socials via Zoom open to teachers across the state. They also hope to help educators make new friends, celebrate successes, share ideas and resources, and provide individualized support.
“We believe LGBTQ+ educators, families, and students make our schools and our world a better place,” said Colvin. “A diversity of people must be represented and respected in our classrooms.”
“Utah schools have the right and responsibility to prepare our students for a real-world where they will encounter people with various identities,” Colvin continued. “We support education that includes learning about LGBTQ people. When inclusive curricula are embedded into the materials presented and taught at school, students report less anti-LGBTQ+ language and a greater sense of safety.”
“We embrace our trans and non-binary students and teachers. We recognize that especially now, in the face of ongoing political attacks on their rights and their identities, they need to hear this more than ever,” he said.
The group encourages allies to use the hashtag #mystorybelongs to document stories of support for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Utah schools.
More information on Utah FAM is at utahfam.org.