Challenges LGBTQ+ youth face today

Sponsored: The Utah Pride Center advocates for the most vulnerable in our community

(Adobe Stock) | High School Hallway.

Jay Evans is a student at West Jordan High School and uses he/them pronouns. Daily Jay is met with ongoing challenges that are fairly typical for most transgender students in Utah.

“People make jokes about everything. They purposefully use ‘you’re gay’ as a joke to the point where it’s really annoying” Evans explains. “It’s not a safe place to be,” they continue, “I use a hall pass to go to the bathroom while everyone else is in class. That means I use up all my hall passes in the first two weeks of school.”

These challenges carry through to gym class, team sports, and other activities where gender often separates the “boys” from the “girls.” Evans likes to stay active at school, but that’s becoming more difficult to do after the Utah Legislature voted to pass HB 11, banning transgender girls from playing sports.

“Everyone just wants to do what they love and there’s no reason to get in the middle of that,” said Evans referring to transgender students playing sports at school. “Get over it!” said Jay frustratingly.

The day before the Utah Legislature decided to overturn the Governor Cox’s veto of HB11, the Utah Pride Center organized a rally at the Utah State Capitol with two objectives: to protect trans kids and let them know they are loved and supported, as well as ask lawmakers to vote no on HB 11. Jay Evans was asked to EmCee the event.

“I just want to keep playing like the rest of y’all,” said Evans to a crowd of roughly one thousand people attending the protest. Evans was one of many voices that spoke up that day of people just trying to survive. “It felt nice to see people who are straight and cis-gender, coming together to show support for trans youth.”

Jay’s father, Justin Evans, was also in the crowd and could be heard yelling “I LOVE YOU” to a group of youth sitting on the south steps of the Capitol. He wants his son, Jay, to be given every opportunity at school like every other student. “I couldn’t be more proud of him for stepping out of his comfort zone and doing something he’s passionate about,” he continued, “He wants to do marching band, extra-curricular activities, and we support him in that.


While school may not be a safe space right now, Jay finds refuge among his family, friends, the school’s GSA group, and the youth support group at the Utah Pride Center. “With youth support group, I get a chance to vent and get everything off my chest. The other youth will share and connect on an emotional level,” said Evans.

The Utah Pride Center provides a number of different support groups including for men, women, adult trans/non-binary, religious trauma, sexual assault trauma, seniors, youth and transgender youth. These groups are very well attended serving 300 unique individuals in 2021 across the state of Utah.


Since the pandemic arrived in 2020, the Utah Pride Center was forced to transition into virtual mode, bringing support groups, as well as direct mental health services and individual therapy sessions online. In the last two years, $500,000 has been directed to support mental health services alone.

Jessica Dummar, Co-CEO over Legal and Operations, oversees the Mental Health Department.

“COVID was not easy on us,” said Dummar. “Apart from a lack of donations, and without a physical space, we had to figure out how to do programs virtually. Concern grew around building community without having a physical space to meet in, but staff did an amazing job at adjusting to the limitations brought on by the pandemic, and now we’re able to reach more people than ever before,” said Dummar.

“We assisted all clients who faced technology barriers, including providing laptops to several low-income seniors; and we provided technical training and support, as well as financial assistance for internet access, to those who needed it,” Dummar continued.


With improved technology, new leadership, and doors open to the public again as of April 2022, Dummar is looking forward to ramping up therapy and counseling with the goal of reaching an ever-growing population of people seeking affirming mental health services.

“We feel ready to expand our reach to the entire state and enabled to reach a significant number of LGBTQIA+ individuals who previously had little or no access to competent, safe, LGBTQIA+ affirming services, a capacity expansion that we will continue going forward because it’s important that we fill this gap.” She continued, “As we return to in-person programming, the Center is prepared to offer a hybrid of virtual and in-person services making them more accessible to the LGBTQIA+ community than ever before.”


At the heart of their mental health strategy is to continue QPR (Question, Persuade, & Refer) Training, an evidence-based gatekeeper intervention that trains families, peers, community members, and others to effectively respond to people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or intentions. In addition, the Utah Pride Center has a suicide prevention team responsible for implementing specific programs including Survivors of Suicide Attempts (SOSA) and Survivors of Suicide Loss (SOSL) support groups. As a response to the pandemic, the Utah Pride Center developed Suicide Prevention Boxes to be mailed to LGBTQIA+ community members and partners throughout the state. They contain 200 items ranging from information cards, bookmarks, stickers, and posters all printed with state and national suicide prevention lifelines, and optional gunlocks.


The Utah Pride Center has a long history of standing up for social justice and equality and plans to be a strong advocate for the most vulnerable in our community. We are excited to return to our roots in unified protest on a regular basis, to ensure progress made over decades, isn’t rolled back by discriminatory political practices.

As for Jay, they have one message to share with the LGBTQ+ community. “Stick together and help each other out. Be each other’s people. Stay strong. You are loved, you are heard, you are seen.”