Michael Aaron

A beautiful Davis County Pride — my speech

What a beautiful day for Davis County Pride! Thank you to those who heeded Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s plea for prayers for great weather.

I am a proud native son of Sunset, Utah. I consider myself lucky to have grown up in Sunset, right outside the gates of Hill Field. People of many colors and creeds were my neighbors and friends. My closest friends were more likely to be Japanese or Mexican than white. And I was welcomed, even as a Christmas-Easter Catholic, to the LDS Sunset First Ward to participate in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. My scout leaders taught me valuable life lessons that didn’t necessarily come from religious texts — they came from their lives based on fairness, acceptance, and their belief that all people were equal.

I remember a day when our scoutmaster was driving us to a week-long summer camp. On the way, we passed an onion field in Clinton as migrant workers toiled away. One of the boys said something about “wetbacks.” The scoutmaster slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road, enraged. He marched us over to meet the workers, explaining to us that these were some of the hardest-working people we would ever meet, that their hard work was done to provide for their families, and that we should be honored to know them.

That life lesson obviously sticks with me to this day. He shaped my life in that short moment.

Books

But one thing none of the adults I grew up around talked about was a difference I felt from others — that of my attraction to boys rather than girls. Again, I was lucky to grow up in Sunset. I would hop onto my bicycle and ride to the Davis County Library North Branch in Clearfield, head to the index cards, and look up “homosexuality.”

The Dewey Decimal System called it “306.76.”

I would spend much time in the section category called Social Sciences; Sociology and anthropology; Culture and Institutions; Relations between the sexes, sexualities, love; Sexual orientation and gender identity.

I was lucky, because these books were readily available on the shelves. With very few exceptions, I could find the book, open it to the back where the index was, and find words like homosexual, and read what was going on in my heart.

I remember one day, I found a book that was titled something like “Homosexuality for Parents.” In the index was something about sex. I read the words, and I’m paraphrasing, “While sexual experimentation is natural and normal, if your child has progressed to oral or other kinds of sex, it is likely their homosexual feelings are permanent.”

I sat there on the floor in front of the 306.76 section and soaked those words in.

“Okay,” I thought. “I guess this is just me.” I hopped on my bike and went back home.

I say this because of the importance of making books about gender and sexuality available to questioning kids. Had these books not been out on the shelf, I would never have found an understanding of what I was feeling. I would never have gone to the library desk and asked for the books to be pulled from behind the counter. Or worse, if some people got their way and the books were removed from the libraries, there would have been no way at all.

It is vitally important that we rise against the efforts of the bigots who are working to remove certain books from school and public libraries. In a world where prejudice and discrimination not only exist, but are growing, it is essential that we create safe spaces where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can find refuge and acceptance.

Mothers

It’s coming upon Mother’s Day. Mothers hold a special place in our hearts. They are our first teachers, our fiercest advocates, and our unwavering pillars of strength.

I just visited my mother, who is in a memory care center in Clinton. For the past ten years, she and our family have struggled with her advancing memory loss because of Alzheimer’s.

As a child, my mother was my fiercest ally. In second grade, when she found that my teacher was calling me “Mike,” she marched into the school and told her in no uncertain terms that she named me “Michael,” and that is what she would call me.

I should say that my mother was 16 when she had me — a kid. At 23, when I was in second grade, she was still a kid — but one with seven years of experience raising a boy and my sister four years younger than me.

But it was my mother marching into Sunset First Ward while I was attending Cub Scouts that made the huge change for me and the other non-LDS boys. They were teaching only their word of wisdom and other religious messaging rather than knot-tying and first aid. She went in and demanded that they teach scouting lessons. The leaders compromised and said they’d do scouting every other week and their religious lessons the other weeks.

It is groups like PFLAG and local pride centers who can give mothers the support and information they need to understand their child who is a gender or sexual minority. Some mothers have lost their way and grip tight to the fears and misinformation out there, especially these days.

We must support mothers so that they can support their children.

Unity

The last thing I want to touch on is Unity in our Community. That happens to be the theme of next month’s Utah Pride, but I’m sure they were looking over my shoulder as I was writing this speech.

Those who are against us are using ways to divide our community, therefore making it easier to conquer. And it is working. There are those in our community calling for the LGBTQ+ to be split into LGB and TQ+. There are those like the failed Log Cabin Republicans of Utah actively working against the Transgender community on Utah’s Capitol Hill and in the state and local school boards.

Our strength is that we welcome those who are quote “others” because of their gender or sexual expression. Our strength is our unity in our community’s beautiful, vibrant colors, our symphony of different voices, and our ability to love and embrace those who are different than us.

We must let our voices ring loud, for we are here to celebrate OUR community. All of it. All of us. As my scoutmaster said — we should be honored to know and welcome each of us into our community.

Let’s commit to creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all. Let’s honor the heroes who worked to secure our rights through history at great personal risk and send those who would divide us back to rethink their lives.

Together, let us continue to march forward with courage and conviction, guided by the values of love, acceptance, and equality.

Thank you, and Happy Pride!

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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