Oh, Put a Cock In It!

June 26, 2008

Published in the April 1, 2007 edition of QSaltLake. 

From what I can tell, there are quite a number of people living here in Utah that don’t have a whole lot of good to say about this place. It also seems to me that this number is higher among gay men. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Although I suppose many of these people haven’t really experienced other parts of this country and/or the world, I bet it probably has more to do with that heavily favored idea in the gay community that the grass is always greener someplace else. 

I know that Utah has it’s shortcomings: the pollution that builds up in the valley, the small fortune you have to invest at the bar to get an adequate buzz going, the legislators that have mistaken the capitol building for their local chapel. At least those are a few that stick out in my head. 

Let me tell you something about gay men across this country: they all say the same things about their communities. Things like, “Everybody knows everybody here, there’s only like two degrees of separation,” “The club scene sucks here,” “We don’t have any good bars,” or “The gays here are so shallow.” Really, it doesn’t matter which city you visit, you can find men that will say the exact same negative things about their community that you’ve heard said about your community back home. 

I believe there is truth to the saying that we take those things that are a part of our daily lives for granted. This includes the places that surround us. I bet nobody who lives in the Salt Lake Valley looks up every morning at the beautiful Rocky Mountains with the awe that they deserve, the type of awe that they would create inside someone who’d lived their whole life on the flat plains of the Midwest. 

A simpler example may be illustrated by an experience I had a few years back while in Phoenix, Arizona. My friends took me to a restaurant/martini bar called AZ88. I’d had a martini or three and excused myself to the restroom. When I entered the men’s room and the door closed behind me I found myself surrounded by more reflective surfaces and stainless steal than is healthy for even the gayest of gay men. I had a spiritual experience in that bathroom…after which, I couldn’t find the door to get out until someone else came in. Granted, the whole experience was enhanced by a little liquor, but I doubt that any of the people who frequent AZ88 on a regular basis appreciated it the way I did as a visitor.

A year from now I will be completing a degree that will enable me to find a job anywhere in this country, from the smallest town to the largest city. I’m currently city shopping, researching several cities that I think would be fun to live in. If in a year I decide to move I’d like to have a pretty good idea of where I am going and what draws me to a particular place. But I can assure you that if I do decide to pack up and go it won’t be because I think I am going to find any place better than Utah – different, of course, but not better. 

A friend brought to my attention the fact that many people will move from a place in order to “get away” from their past. Running from your past is like trying to lose your shadow, it’s easy in the sunlight, but a lot more difficult when night inevitably sets in. Pasts must be dealt with; they have to be laid out behind you in a way that doesn’t make you afraid to turn around. 

I’ve heard of people moving to a new place with the hope they will ‘find themselves.’ I’ve even heard people say, “I found myself in (insert name of city here.)” But the truth is that finding yourself has little to do with where you live and a lot to do with the way you live. 

We reflect ourselves in our surroundings, both people and places. If you look around yourself and don’t like what you see, then do everyone a favor and stop blaming it on inanimate objects and random strangers. Every day I believe more that we have to be the change that we want to see in the world. The truth of Utah is that some of the most amazing and accepting people ever to grace the face of the earth are found here, they’ve chosen to make this place their home. There is beauty in this state that is as uniquely breathtaking as anything in the world, even the highest peaks of the Andes Mountains in South America. (And I make the second part of that judgment on very good authority.) But it doesn’t really matter what I think of Utah. Everyone lives in a very personal reality. I just wish people would stop complaining about the perceived negative aspects of their reality and instead work to change them for the better.

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