by Troy Williams
There is no more deserving person than Brandie Balken to be acknowledged as the Utah LGBT “Person of the Year” for 2010. The work that she and Equality Utah have accomplished over the past year has been astounding. I miss her terribly as a RadioActive host, but KRCL’s loss was certainly the community’s gain. And Brandie will be the first to acknowledge that no one person stands alone. Many people contribute to make change happen in SLC.
And I’d also like to thank the folks at QSalt Lake for including me in their “honorable mentions”. I’m super honored. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for publishing my ramblings every month in your zine!
read the entire Q Salt Lake article.
Excerpt: When Balken learned that she was going to be named Person of the Year, she said that she was elated — but surprised. Nonetheless, in her first year helming the state’s largest gay and transgender rights organization, Balken not only helped many Utah communities begin difficult discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, she was also instrumental in getting many of those communities to turn discussions into action. Just days before Christmas, Balken and Equality Utah saw their dream for 2010 become a reality: the passage of 10 ordinances protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Utahns from job and housing discrimination. According to estimates published in The Salt Lake Tribune, these ordinances protect a fourth of the state’s population.
Honorable Mention: Troy Williams
A joke by Jim Dabakis to a Salt Lake Tribune reporter appointed RadioActive producer, playwright and activist Troy Williams “the gay mayor of Salt Lake City” in early October, much to Williams’ chagrin.
“When did I run for office?” asked Williams, who writes the QSaltLake column “Queer Gnosis.”
While Williams takes a rather lighthearted view of his unofficial title, the brand of activism in which he is often involved can reach equally absurd levels. As the general legislative session wound to a close in March, Williams and several other activists lead several Utahns—including members of the press — down a political theater rabbit hole reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Under the banner of “Patriots for a Moral Utah,” Williams and several friends, including actress Tamara Johnson-Howell, staged a press conference to draw attention to a bill that sought a Nazi-like solution to the “problem” of gays in the state: forcible relocation or internment in a reparative therapy camp. Johnson-Howell played Nora Young, the group’s president who spouted lines taken from a number of anti-gay panegyrics from the extreme right. Williams described this character, who resembled the bête noir of the beloved drag character Sister Dottie S. Dixon, as “a composite of every hateful legislator and anti-gay organizer up on The Hill.” And while Williams doesn’t ultimately think the stunt was successful thanks in part to the press’ confusion, he nonetheless admires the radicalism behind the faux press conference.
“I don’t think the LDS Church would have ever met with Equality Utah, the Pride Center and [Milk screenwriter] Dustin Lance Black if we weren’t all out there with our kiss-ins and temple marches. That’s all integral to the fight,” he said, referring to a kissing protest held in 2008 after LDS security kicked a gay couple out of its Main Street Plaza.
“But radicalism is more than just angry marches,” he added. “Radicalism is a worldview of systemic change. It’s radical to stand against war. It’s radical to dismantle patriarchy. It’s radical to fight for fair wealth distribution to benefit the poor and working classes. This was the spirit of the first queer radicals that comprised the Gay Liberation Front and Queer Nation (and so many other groups). They wanted more than just marriage and military service. Those were the institutions of global oppression that needed to be fought.”