Jay Fox: UTA’s Pride community engagement event lost in translation

(Utah Transit Authority) A Utah Transit Authority bus with pride livery will no longer appear in Sunday’s annual Pride Parade, a spokesperson with the transit agency said Friday, June 2, 2023.

Lost in last weekend’s discord over UTA’s wrapped bus, which was donated without the expenditure of public funds, was the message on the outside of the bus — “Work with Pride.” UTA’s bus, and our participation in the Utah Pride Festival and Pride Parade, was first and foremost a community engagement event to promote transit ridership, promote transit education, and promote UTA as an inclusive, mission-driven employer.

UTA engages with communities across the Wasatch Front. On the same weekend of the Pride Festival, UTA was participating in the Utah Asian Festival for the same primary purpose, which is consistent with our event sponsorship guidelines. To promote transit ridership and promote transit education.

Lost, as well, in the decision over the bus last weekend, was consideration of community. UTA’s LGBTQ+ employees and many attendees at the Pride Parade, do not see the pride wrapped bus as a tool for UTA to promote transit. They rightfully see the bus as a symbol of them. A symbol of their inclusion in the greater community and in the state where they proudly live, work, and contribute.

We, the people of Utah, the people of the United States, the people of the planet Earth, are a collection of communities with a common biological thread. 23 pairs of chromosomes that are nearly identical. We, the people, share laughter. Share a meal. Share family. Share art. Share education. Share growth. Share love. We are so similar that it is mystifying to me that we spend so much time and so much strife focusing on how little we are different.

That collection of communities includes our LGBTQ+ employees and our thousands of LGBTQ+ riders. That collection of communities includes members of religious organizations, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latinx, African Americans, bicyclists, skiers, clean air advocates, musicians, real estate developers, safety advocates, students, educators, and sports fans, and innumerable more. And that collection of communities also includes legislators, many of whom advocate strongly for transit.

Last weekend, my family and I were in the Cathedral Valley of Capitol Reef National Park. As I stood next to my daughter, gazing at the Walls of Jericho, I could not help but recall a line from the film “Grand Canyon” that those walls, which have existed for millions of years and which will exist long after we have faded, were laughing at us. Laughing at how unbelievably intelligent humans, who have lived for mere seconds in the Earth’s geological clock, can spend so much of that precious time focusing on differences rather than building community.

When we left the Cathedral Valley and returned to our rented home in Torrey, I spoke with the UTA employee, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, who planned our participation in the Pride Festival, and our promotion of transit ridership and education. We spoke about what was happening. He expressed his distress. We cried together. And we shared caring and comfort.

And then, I walked around that rented home, and saw the first end-to-end rainbow of my life. A band of colors born from one unified stream of light. And I knew that the rainbow I was seeing was a divine gift to remind me of who I am and who we are.

All different, yet all the same. Unified in spirit and love.

(Jay Fox)

Jay Fox is executive director of UTA.