'Alternate Routes': Tradition And Change In Utah

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Rachel Rohr, Here & Now’s digital and social media producer, is on her way back home, after a month on the road as part of her cross-country road trip ahead of the midterm elections, "Alternate Routes."

Last time we checked in with her, she was in Window Rock, Arizona, the seat of the Navajo Nation which was gearing up for midterms and tribal government elections.

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After that, Rachel went on to Utah. Her visit coincided with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear any same-sex marriage cases, making Utah's law banning same-sex marriages unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage was an important issue to the young people she met in Utah, including gay and trans activists, and Mormon students she met at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

"The church stance is that it does not condemn people who are attracted to people of the same sex – but it does prohibit acting on that attraction, so it's against same-sex relationships and marriages," Rachel said.

Rachel met 31 year-old law student, Morgan Brungard who said she want same-sex couples to be able to get married under the law, but that she wasn't sure if same-sex relationships should be allowed.

"She did say though that she supports her gay friends in whatever they decide, even if they leave the church to have a family," Rachel said.

Rachel also met transgender activists in Utah, who hoped that there would be more focus on transgender issues since same-sex marriage was legalized.

Owen Smith, a 32 year-old trans activist, told Rachel:

“It’s really warm and fuzzy to talk about love and relationships, and people get to watch romantic comedies, and all those things. So it’s more fun to talk about than the trans woman of color who was murdered, right? It’s not as fun, it’s not as heartwarming. It hurts to talk about those things. It hurts to see that side of humanity. So I think that a lot of emphasis is put on marriage because it’s just easier to talk about.”

Smith says there have been 25 acts of violence against transgender people in Salt Lake City so far this year, and transgender people of color are most at risk.

Through Smith, Rachel met 20 year-old Gabriel Glissmeyer, a black transgender college student and activist, who was adopted and raised by a white Mormon family in Utah.

Rachel asked Glissmeyer what the biggest issue is that he’s working to combat:

“The biggest thing that I’m combatting every day is just staying alive at this point. It’s terrible having to leave my house and just being like – this could be the last time I see my family and this is the last time I could see my friends. And so just leaving my house is terrifying for me at this point, but I still do it because there’s so much work I need to do, and there’s so many lives I need to change and people who need to hear me.”

"Gabe told me that he fears for his life every day not because he’s perceived as transgender, but because he’s perceived as a black male," Rachel said. "He wants what he calls 'real world issues' like police brutality, gun violence and domestic violence to be part of the LGBT conversation."


  • Rachel Rohr, social media and web producer for Here & Now, and host of the podcast “Alternate Routes.” She tweets @LionTalk.

This segment aired on October 16, 2014.


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