Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
This week Behind the Lines has a guest contributor. Troy Williams is a GLBT activist and executive producer of RadioActive on KRCL 90.9 FM.
Bagley: Tuesday's cartoon about the LDS Church feeling "glitter bombed" over Salt Lake being chosen by The Advocate magazine as the gayest city in America was the most shared cartoon I've ever had on Facebook. You're as close to the official "gay voice of Salt Lake City" that I know, so I thought I'd solicit your reaction to the 'toon.
Williams: I am far from the official voice but I'm certainly one that doesn't mind speaking up. Being a Mormon missionary taught me to share my truths out loud and I've carried that over to my gay activism. I always thank the LDS Church for teaching me to bear my testimony. What a thrill that Salt Lake City was honored as the "gayest" city in America. So true! Didn't Brigham Young prophesy that in the last days our city would be one of the world's most wicked? Well, here we are!
Bagley: I thought Brigham was talking about all the multi-level marketers out to scam-thy-neighbor. I'm pretty sure that's what really was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah. You've left something out of your back story; that you were at one time an Eaglet for Gayle Ruzicka's Eagle Forum.
Williams: Oh yes, that's very true. Though I am a proud queer leftist today, I count Gayle as one of my political mentors. After my mission I was so scared of my sexuality that I sublimated it completely into right-wing politics. I even went with Gayle to John Birch Society meetings! Total crazy Ron Paul kinda stuff. I loved all the crazy people it attracted. But ultimately it was all inconsistent with my core values as a human being. My nascent queer identity finally kicked in and rescued me. Being gay saved me from the Eagle Forum. It also saved me from hoarding tons of food supply, semi-automatics and mounds of gold! But now that I look back, I have to say, I really do love Gayle. If progressives had half her determination we'd be running this state!
Bagley: Since we're in confessional mode, I have an admission to make as well. I was a homophobe. A two-year mission and BYU had done nothing to alter my perception that homosexuals were deviant perverts. But my firmly held beliefs were rocked when I realized that many of my friends and people I admired were gay. I had two contradictory facts in my head: These people were wicked, but they were also some of the most interesting and good folks anyone could hope to meet. I went with the interesting and good. By the way, Salt Lake isn't really the gayest city in America that was just The Advocate poking the Church with a sharp stick as payback for its support of California's Prop 8.
Williams: I'm so glad that we finally won you over! I don't know that I would see this award so cynically. National organizations have been marveling at the work that we have been doing in Utah. The gay community here took the ugliness of Prop 8 and turned it into positive action. We finally started conversations with the LDS Church. They endorsed our non-discrimination ordinances in Salt Lake City. The church has been making an effort to understand us for the very first time. I see tremendous progress here in Salt Lake City due to our over-the-top, flamboyant, intrepid and courageous gay population. Our time has come. We are only going to grow bolder. We aren't going anywhere.
Bagley: All part of your "gay agenda," I'm sure. To quote an itinerant preacher from Palestine: Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another (Mark 9:50).
Be salty, my friend.