Queer Girl City Guide: Salt Lake City

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Is Salt Lake City really the “Gayest City” as named by the Advocate in 2012? Not really, but I do think Salt Lake is an up and coming city that’s becoming more progressive year after year. Although I am sometimes frustrated about being queer here, there are also a lot of reasons why I love this city.

I think folks have many misconceptions about Salt Lake City so here are a few things that I think are important when it comes to building an understanding of this place:

Salt Lake is more progressive than you think. Although the dominant culture is still fairly conservative, white, Mormon, and middle-class, this creates a really interesting counter-culture. One thing that excites me about living in Salt Lake is that there’s still something to fight for here as a queer and it feels meaningful just to be “out and proud” and visible. As with many smaller cities, Salt Lake City also allows any queer to be a big fish in a small pond. For some people, that’s a perk but for others it’s kind of lame. It really just depends on what you’re looking for. Being queer in Salt Lake City seems to inspire activism because there really is a lot to fight for though I’ve definitely seen the city become more progressive within my lifetime.

The first question people usually ask upon hearing I’m from Utah: “Are you Mormon?” Were all the queers here raised Mormon? The culture in Salt Lake is unique because most queer people I know that are from here have had the influence of Mormonism somewhere in their lives. This might be because they were raised Mormon and are no longer practicing or one side of their family is Mormon or they have had a lover who is having trouble disengaging from the Mormon church. Many queer women and trans people here have experienced profound struggle with identity, self-acceptance and acceptance from the larger more conservative culture. However, I think the struggles that queers have faced create a more tight knit community. I think queers who have grown up here can relate to each other in a unique way that I don’t think is present in other places.

Although there are multiple bars and events for gay males, there’s not necessarily a lot that is overtly available for the queer women’s and trans community here. You kind of have to know someone to know what’s going on in the queer women’s and trans community here and where the queer women and trans people are. I think “The Advocate’s” evaluation of SLC as the “gayest city” is based on the gay male community, but not really the lesbian, queer, or trans community.

Being queer here is awesome if you’re at all into nature! Within a ten-minute drive from downtown, you can be in the mountains, hiking or skiing in one of the numerous and beautiful canyons surrounding the valley. In my opinion we have some of the best access to some of the most diverse natural areas in the nation. Arches National Park, Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon are also all within about 4 hours of Salt Lake City. And only an hour from Salt Lake are the Uintahs which offer some of the best camping on the West Coast.

Nightlife/Dating — Does Salt Lake City even have a night-life?

One major frustration I have with Salt Lake City is that nightlife for queer women and trans people is severely limited. If you’re like me you’ll spend a lot of time going to house parties or playing games at a friends’ house or going to straight bars in large groups. But if the bar scene isn’t really your thing anyways, no big deal.

Oh, and drinking in SLC is kinda lame… don’t expect to feel tipsy after only a couple drinks here. It’s not free pour and shots are measured so there’s no such thing as ordering a double or a side-car. Also, the legal level of alcohol here for beer is 3.2% which is the alcohol level you’ll get with beers at the grocery store and at convenience stores.

The Paper Moon
(3737 S State St 3737 S State St.)

papermoon

Paper Moon

In every city I’ve visited with a dyke bar, they’re all about the same: kind of dive-y, usually some pool tables, a selection of regular bar flies and bad lesbian fashion. The Paper Moon is no exception but also has a giant lipstick in the corner (which I love!), a pretty good sized smoking patio, dancing cages, a stage, and sometimes has bad fried foods in the back bar. Oh, and the cocktail waitresses carry around dollar shots that have such names as “Wet Pussy,” “Sloppy Pussy,” and “Sour Pussy.” Basically, amazing! I have to say though if you get a large group of friends and are significantly tipsy, it’s a really good time. It’s also an important staple in the queer women’s community here and I’m glad that it exists.

If you want to get your dance on, Saturdays are really the only nights where a lot of people go, although Fridays have DJ’s as well. The Moon also has poker and pool nights and karaoke. It’s usually pretty dead on karaoke nights, which is great because it means that you and your pals can sing as much as you want. Oh, and it’s basically the only place that hosts drag kings, so that makes it important for the queer community too.

The Piper Down
(1492 S State St.)

piperdown

Piper Down

The Piper Down isn’t actually a lesbian bar but you can usually find queer women hanging out at this place. It’s a traditional Irish pub and one of the managers used to own a second lesbian bar here, which has since shut down. I like this bar because they have a whole menu of different kinds of shots. Don’t expect it to be mellow here though. It’s usually loud and just gets louder and more rambunctious as it gets later. This bar also hosts queer events every once in a while.

Metro
(540 W 200 S)

metro

Metro

Metro has gay night on Saturdays and while this night has a higher percentage of gay males, it does seem to be becoming more popular with queer women and trans people. It doesn’t get very crowded here and the music isn’t great, but I think it’s still fun once in a with a group of friends. If you’re used to queer dance parties in cities like Portland or San Francisco though, you’ll probably be a little let down. Metro has been hosting an occasional dance party called “Lovely Ladies Night” just for lesbians, so hopefully that will continue.

Gay Bars

Salt Lake City has a few different choices for gay male bars, but you’ll usually find a few queer women at these places as well. Club Jam (751 N 300 W) is a friendly neighborhood bar with karaoke and dancing. Club Sound (579 W 200 S) has a dance night every Friday called PURE for younger LGBT folks 18 and up. I loved it when I was younger but even if you’re in your mid 20s you’ll start to feel like you’re too old for that crowd. One gay bar that I really like is Try-Angles (251 W 9th S) I mean, the name itself says how great it is. It’s a comfortable place to have a cheap drink and play pool. The owners of this bar also own the coffee shop next door called Off Trax (259 W 900 S) which is open late on the weekends.

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Try-Angles

Hipster/Dive Bars

I also enjoy some of the local dive and hipster bars and a few queers can usually be found at these places too. Twilite Lounge (347 E 200 S) is a popular choice amongst hipsters and can get pretty crowded but is comfortable. Due to the vinyl booths, stone décor, and fireplace it feels kind of like drinking in your Grandma’s basement. They also have a free juke-box and a photo booth.

Junior’s Tavern (30, E Broadway) and X-Wife’s Place (465 S 700 E) are also hipster-y, dive-y bars that are comfortable for queers. Both have pool tables and smoking patios and while both can get crowded, there’s also a more relaxed, no-pressure vibe.

Dating

Hmm, dating is something that is definitely more difficult here. I have friends who have had some success with Okcupid but knowing how to meet new queers can be difficult. As with most queer women’s communities, I find it to be small and fairly incestuous. I have mostly met people I’ve dated through mutual friends. There are a few social groups for queer women such as a popular meetup.com group called the Rainbow Girls but honestly dating here doesn’t really seem all that easy to me.

A friend of mine who is trans has also said that dating is really hard for them. They said: “Most people have no idea what I mean when I say I’m a trans queer person (let alone getting down to the genderqueer, sexually fluid, granola dyke fag boi true-ness of my identity). Kinda a downer but dating for me as a queer person is limited to just friends of friends, like you were saying.”

One thing I do appreciate about dating here is that as a polyamorous person, I would think it would be hard to find other queer folks practicing non-monogamy. However, I belong to a very active group of queer and polyamorous identified folks and the majority of my queer friend group practices non-monogamy. Maybe it’s in our polygamous roots… ha! (Don’t take that too seriously!). I think that in the more traditional gay and lesbian scene here though, monogamy is still alive and well.

College Life

There are several colleges in the area and for me, college has been a great way to meet other LGBT people.

When I attended Salt Lake Community College (4600 S Redwood Rd.) I was really involved in their GSA called “Coloring Outside the Lines.” I joined that group after I first came out and met many good friends that I maintain friendships with even now. The group is still going strong and is a great place for LGBT people to meet and feel supported.

The University of Utah (201 Presidents Cir) has a queer group called Queer Students of Color, which was non-existent for a while but is working on re-establishing itself. As with many colleges a popular place to meet other queers is in the Gender Studies or Women’s Studies programs and this is definitely the case at the University of Utah, which has a thriving Gender Studies department with nationally recognized queer theorists such as Kathryn Stockton. However, in my major (Anthropology) and in a lot my other classes I’ve felt like the only queer most of the time, even though I know there are others on campus.

The LGBT Center (200 S Central Campus Dr., Rm. 409) at the University of Utah has many resources for queers including a mentoring program. They also put on various events throughout the year such as University of Utah Pride and various panels. The Women’s Resource Center (200 Central Campus Dr, #411) at the U also hosts a lot of feminist events and has a queer women’s support group as well as free and low cost counselors.

Westminster College (1840 S 1300 E) a private liberal arts school in Salt Lake City also has a gay straight alliance called Alphabet Soup. Although the group is not super active, students and faculty at Westminster tend to be queer accepting and queer friendly.

“This is the Place” for Queer Sports!

Seriously, if you love sports there are tons of queer sports teams here happening year-round. Not to mention that Utah contains five national parks, a number of state parks and tons of opportunities for biking, hiking, climbing and camping that are all within minutes of Salt Lake City!

Salt Lake Pride Softball League

Everyone knows queer women and softball go together like bread and butter and Salt Lake City offers abundant opportunity to play with the Pride Softball League. Games happen every Sunday throughout the summer and are mostly casual and not very competitive. Even if softball isn’t your thing, it’s still fun to go and watch the games and cheer your fellow queers on. Besides softball, Queer Kickball also happened this past summer.

QUAC (Queer Utah Aquatic Center)

Although the number of women on the team tends to be much lower than men, QUAC maintains a solid position in the LGBT community here. Not only do they march in speedos and bikinis in the Pride parade every year, but they also attend the Gay Games each year! Their water polo team also won the world championships of queer water polo in 2010.

Wasatch Roller Derby

One of my favorite things in the world has to be ladies on roller skates wearing fishnets and knocking each other out of the way on the path to glory. These ladies are tough! Although not specifically a queer league, I have known a bunch of queer women and a few trans people on the team over the years.

Lambda hiking group

Due to its’ many mountains, Utah is great for hiking. Lambda is a gay hiking group that organizes hikes for the LGBT population throughout the Wasatch front.

Goodtime Bowling League

You can’t go wrong bowling and drinking with friends and the Goodtime Bowling League offers opportunities for queers to do just that. The league is for queer people and their allies and all proceeds from the 28 week bowling season go to charities that the league votes on.

Utah Jynx Women’s Football

The independent Women’s Football League has recently added the Utah Jynx to its membership, which is pretty exciting for the team. The team provides an opportunity for women to play full contact football in a competitive and supportive environment. Hot!

Restaurants/Cafes

Café Med
(420 E 3300 S)

Café Med is owned by the gays and offers a variety of delicious Mediterranean dishes. It’s honestly some of the best hummus I’ve ever had.

Meditrina
(1394 S West Temple)

meditrina

Meditrina

Meditrina is a cute little small plates eatery that has a focus on Spanish tapas and a great selection of wines. It’s owned by a couple of queer women and they occasionally host wine tasting nights.

Pig and A Jelly Jar
(401 E 900 S)

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Pig and A Jelly Jar

This place has the same owner as Meditrina but focuses on creating new twists on comfort food. It has quickly become one of the more popular breakfast places and has an excellent bloody beer.

Eva
(317 S Main St)

Eva

Eva

If I ever want to take a cute queer on a somewhat fancy date, this is where I take them. It’s a really nice atmosphere and in the summer the back dining area in a brick alley strung with lights is perfect for woo-ing. There are a variety of creative cocktails and small plates options and I’ve never been disappointed with what I’ve ordered here. In fact, this place is so cool it makes me feel like I’m not even in Salt Lake City anymore, ha ha.

Café on 1st
(39 I St)

If ever I’m in the mood to run into all the queers I know, this is where I go. It’s a comfortable coffee shop with lots of seating for either doing homework or socializing and has decent food and drinks.

Vertical Diner
(2280 S West Temple)

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Vertical Diner

One of my queer lady friends said of Vertical Diner: “You can’t swing a hunk of tempeh in there without smacking a queer” and it’s so true! Every time I go to this place I see cute queers and am always surprised by the cute queers there that I don’t know (yet!). It is an all vegan place that even meat eaters will enjoy.

Health Services

Unfortunately Salt Lake City does not have a specific health center for LGBT people. However, as with most cities Planned Parenthood (654 S 900 E) is a good resource for queer people. The Metro Health Center (160 S 1000 E Suite 120) run by Planned Parenthood offers LGBT health services including education, services referral and support groups.

The Utah AIDS Foundation (1408 S 1100 E) offers HIV and STI testing for free or low cost rates. The Utah Pride Center (255 E 400 S) also offers HIV testing and has a directory for LGBT friendly health care resources that can be found on their website. The website also includes resources for mental health and support.

As for trans and queer friendly doctors, Dr. Rixt Luikenaar, a general OB/GYN, comes highly recommended by many queers in Salt Lake City. Besides being queer/trans friendly, her staff have all gone through safe zone training and have a good understanding of LGBT healthcare.

Gayle Stewart (MD, OBGYN) is another doctor known for her excellent care of LGBT folks. Gayle doesn’t discriminate with whom she will inseminate and will help healthy gay couples get pregnant.

One might have the misconception that because this is Utah, queer and trans people would need to go outside the state to seek top surgery. However Dr. Cori Agarwal, a skilled plastic surgeon, specializes in chest wall reconstruction for trans and queer patients and has been given excellent reviews for her courtesy and compassion.

Activism/Feminism

Equality Utah (175 W 200 S Suite 3001) is probably the biggest local LGBT activist group. During the legislative session each year Equality Utah lobbies at the state capitol about bills affecting LGBT people. They also sponsor bills and oppose negative legislation. Each year they have a popular Allies Dinner honoring LGBT people in the local community and allies that are doing work to further LGBT equality in the state. They also educate the community about LGBT issues and endorse LGBT friendly candidates.

Inclusion Center for Community and Justice (14 Heritage Center) does really important work in the community and many queers I know have been involved in this organization. Their goal is to promote respect for everyone through education, advocacy, and conflict resolution skills and to help end bigotry and discrimination. They have retreats and workshops that discuss such issues as racism, classism, sexism, homophobia and gender.

Although Peaceful Uprising (362 E 300 S) is not a specifically queer organization, many queers that I know are involved in this organization, which is a local climate justice activist group that advocates for sustainable environmental practices. Peaceful Uprising is involved in the Tar Sands Resistance movement, and runs “Bold Schools” on such topics as post-capitalism economics, radical inclusion and basic organizing and lobbies at the capitol for sustainable environmental practices.

Support groups for queer and trans people are listed in the next section.

Pride Center and LGBT Family Support Groups

The Utah Pride Center (255 E 400 S) has tons of resources for LGBT people and their families. Groups at the Pride Center include TransAction, a social and support group for younger trans or gender queer people and their allies, men’s and women’s support groups, a Transgender Adult group, a group for older LGBT people called SAGE, and many other social and support groups. Information about Neighborhood Pride Potlucks can also be found on the Pride Center’s website.

Besides programs for teens and adults, the Pride Center also offers a play-group for gender-exceptional children and children of gender exceptional parents called Kids Like Me where kids can meet and play with others who may have a similar background.

The Utah Pride Center also offers a Family Preservation Program that partners with PFLAG Utah in facilitating trainings, support groups, community gatherings and advocacy efforts for LGBT families. The program offers LGBTQ cultural competency trainings that help educators, family physicians and parents and guardians in building acceptance and awareness into their classrooms, practices, families, and homes.

Neighborhood/Community

The Avenues

“The Aves” as they’re popularly called contain a multitude of queers. All the houses in this neighborhood are older and pretty unique and there are a variety of cute apartment buildings and really expensive houses. There are some cute cafes and businesses scattered throughout the aves, like the afore-mentioned Café on 1st. Also because it’s close to the University of Utah, lots of students tend to live in this area.

Capitol Hill/Marmalade

Capitol Hill is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Salt Lake and has some of the most interesting architecture in the city. The area just to the west of Capitol Hill is a part of the city that’s becoming more developed and which is now being called the Marmalade neighborhood. Although it hasn’t taken over as any sort of recognizable “gayborhood” more businesses (such as the gay bar called Jam) and more queers are starting to move into this neighborhood.

Downtown

Although it doesn’t have the best nightlife, downtown does have a lot of cool things which still make it a lot of fun. Aside from all the bars and restaurants downtown, The Pride Center recently moved to their new, more accessible downtown location. It’s now located across the street from the main branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 E 400 S), which is honestly one of the most awesome libraries I’ve been in due to its unique design and great collection and also employees a lot of LGBTQ folks.

One area of downtown that can be contentious for queer people is Temple Square (50 W North Temple), which is where the heart of the Mormon church is located. Unfortunately the Mormons own a big portion of downtown including Temple Square which is several city blocks and some businesses including the new mall called the City Creek Center (50 S Main St). I’ve never been harassed in these areas but know queer people who have or who have been made to feel that their presence wasn’t wanted. Not parts of town I avoid personally, but also not my favorite.

Glendale/Rose Park

Glendale and Rose Park are on the West side of Salt Lake City and still fairly close to downtown. These neighborhoods tend to have cheaper homes and rent and are the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. Many Hispanic people live in this area and there are lots of Hispanic markets, restaurants, and other businesses in this part of town. You won’t want to miss out on the Red Iguana (736 W North Temple). It’s seriously the best Mexican food I’ve ever had and they have 9 different kinds of mole sauce! Many queers are starting to buy houses in this area due to lower costs of housing in this part of town. There’s also a lot of cool stuff going on to build community in this area, like community gardens and such.

9th and 9th

This neighborhood is the only neighborhood I’ve heard referred to as the “gayborhood.” Although there are lots of queers in this area, I would say that gay males are probably more prevalent in this area over trans people or queer women. It is a super cute area though. The Tower Theater (876 E 900 S) is an old theater that plays only independent films and also has a pretty good library of indie films that can be rented. Whenever I go into the Coffee Garden (878 E 900 S) next door, I see lots of beautiful gay men and inevitably end up running into some queer I know. Cahoots (878 E 900 S) is a novelty and sex shop that shares a building with the coffee shop and is a great place to find unique gifts as well as gifts for the bedroom. There’s also a great queer owned yoga studio in this area called Centered City (926 E 900 S).

Sugarhouse

This part of the city used to be more of the hippie/artsy part of town. It still is but is slowly being taken over by chains rather than local businesses and is starting to become gentrified. However, there are some fun bars and restaurants in the area and some cool local businesses. Finn’s Café (1624 S 1100 E) has really great breakfast that’s a unique combination of Scandanavian and comfort food and Omar’s Rawtopia (2148 Highland Dr.) has an all-raw menu that is healthy and delicious.

Hair/Body Mod/Tattoo/Nails

Not only is Butterfly Jac (1310 S 300 E) owned and operated by empowered queer women, but they give top notch cuts and colors as well as above and beyond customer experience. They really want to get to know you and make you feel appreciated.

The House of Gorgeous Jared at Image Studios (1850 S 300 E) gives awesome, alternative queer haircuts. Known for his fierce-ness and confidence, Jared is also a great conversationalist and will completely transform your hair into something you’ll truly love.

Lunatic Fringe (1790 S 1100 E, 2545 Parleys Way, 1511 E 2100 S #B), much like its unique name, is known for giving great alternative cuts and color. All the stylists are extremely talented and know how to give a cool queer cut and are friendly besides. My favorite queer stylist there is my friend Nick Hemsley (at the Parleys Way location) who won the North American Hair Award’s People’s Choice Award in 2012.

As for tattoo artists, Wee (Wendy Hardman) is the owner of a tattoo shop called Illustrated Life (824 4th W b119) Not only is she queer but she has been in the business for 14 years and gives beautiful and intricate tattoos. She is also well known for doing tattoo fundraiser events for charities.

Books

Although SLC doesn’t have any specifically queer or feminist bookstores, there are a variety of cute, independently owned bookstores with pretty good LGBT sections.

The Kings English (1511 S 15th E St) is a great little bookstore with pretty awesome deals and knowledgeable staff and also hosts monthly “Lesbian Book Club” meetings. Weller Book Works (665 E 600 S) is also a cool bookstore housed in a cool old mall known as Trolley Square. They have a pretty great selection of rare books. Ken Sanders (268 S 200 E) bookstore specializes in books about Utah and its history and is right downtown with pretty great deals.

Arts

Plan-B Theatre Company (138 W Broadway) puts on many plays on LGBT and feminist topics. They have put on such well-known plays as “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” 70 of the theater’s 94 plays have been world premieres, including “Facing East” by Carol Lynn Pearson, a play about a gay Mormon teen who committed suicide which was transferred off-Broadway to New York and toured in San Francisco.

Pygmalion Productions is a theater company that aims to show women’s voices through a variety of artistic media. Their plays have explored such topics as the challenges female veterans face when returning from war (“Welcome Home Jenny Sutter”) to Western women’s issues with body image (“The Good Body” by Eve Ensler) as well as other controversial issues.

Events

Genderevolution is TransAction’s annual Gender Conference. It happens in November and is the main event in a month of trans-awareness events throughout the community. The purpose of Genderevolution is to build community among trans folks and allies, to educate both trans and cisgender folks about gender, and to celebrate trans people.

Held in late April, Queer Prom allows LGBTQ youth from ages 14 to 20 to have a safe space for both affirmation and celebration. Over 700 youth attend the annual event.

The Red Rock Women’s Festival happens every August and in my opinion is one of the most fun events for queer women in Utah. Not only is it held in beautiful Torrey Utah (a small Southern Utah town with red rocks) but it’s attended by over 600 women (and a few men) each year, most of whom are queer. Although the festival is mostly folk music, there are other acts as well. I have seen Andrea Gibson perform here as well as Goddess and She. A big group of my friends usually go each year and volunteer at the festival and camp in one of the surrounding canyons.

Quac Ski and Swim is held each year in February by the Queer Utah Aquatic center and is a weekend long event that includes swim meets, skiing events, and various social events. It tends to be an event that is more gay male centered but is a good opportunity to swim and ski with the gays in the “best snow on earth.”

The University of Utah also has many annual events for queer people including Bi-Awareness Week, Ally Week, and Pride Week. More information about their events can be found on the Women’s Resource Center website and the LGBT Resource Center website.

Pride

Each year I attend SLC Pride I’m always surprised by all the gays coming out of the woodwork. Like, seriously, where are they the rest of the year? Especially the women? SLC actually does have one of the largest Pride festivals in the West and many people from smaller towns in Utah and bordering states attend. Although there are a plethora of events happening during Pride, most events at bars tend to be pretty gay male centric. However, the Paper Moon (3737 S State St 3737 S State St) does have two really well attended parties for women, The White Party on Friday night, which is always crazy packed and out of control and the Rainbow Party on Saturday which is still super fun but not as crowded.

The actual Pride Festival is your usual fairly corporate event but is still fun because you get to hang out with your friends and will run into all the gays you know. The Pride festival here is expensive though — most other Prides I’ve been to or know of are free or on a donation basis but the festival here is ten bucks a day. Ouch! And no discounts or freebies for teens, which I think is a huge bummer considering 40% of the homeless teens in Utah identify as LGBT. Teens in general could probably really benefit from feeling a day of acceptance here in this conservative state.

One thing I always enjoy every year is the Dyke March and Trans March. Although I hate having to choose between the two marches, I think it’s cool that both happen here. Last year it was really neat because the marches started at different spots but then met up and everyone in both marches walked into the festival together.

Another cool thing is the Pride Parade. Lots of people attend and both the parade and the crowd are great for people watching. Last year the largest group walking in the parade was a group of Mormons who were showing their support of the LGBT community. Although I think the Mormon church still has a long way to go when it comes to truly accepting and embracing LGBTQ people, it was touching to see members of both groups not only recognizing one another but literally embracing. I saw lots of people from both groups in tears and it seemed like a step in the right direction.

Diversity

You probably guessed that Salt Lake City is not the most diverse place, and you’re right. There’s not really a lot of racial diversity here.

To me it seems like there are tons of queers here, although I feel like I don’t really see them out and about as much as in other cities. Salt Lake is actually pretty gay, with about 8.5% of adults in SLC identifying as LGBT, which is double the 3.8% of adults nationally. So although we may not be the gayest, we’re still pretty gay.

In regards to gender identity, although there is not a huge number of trans people here, there is a pretty tightly knit group of trans people of different genders.

Safety

As a queer person here, I’ve always felt pretty safe. As a woman, I feel pretty safe walking almost anywhere in the city alone at night. However, I present fairly feminine and am probably most often mistaken for a heterosexual female. I know that my friends that are not as gender conforming have faced verbal harassment and discrimination.

There was an event back in September of 2011 where a gay man was beaten outside of one of the gay nights here. There was also another event that made national news when a gay couple kissed at Temple Square and were separated by security guards who then wrestled one of them to the ground. The Mormon church says it was because the men were aggressive but by watching the video (which made the Daily Show) you can tell it was more because they were gay. A nasty incident for both LGBT folks and the Mormon church, though I think the Mormon church came out looking the worse for it.

I would recommend maybe not hanging out on the Mormon Temple grounds and maybe not leaving gay clubs or gay nights alone at night, but I think you’ll probably have less to fear here than you think. However, I’m also not a person who appears gay or trans so realize my experience may be quite different than another queer person’s experience here.

Queer-friendliness of the city

Besides the talk about safety in the paragraph above, I would say that Salt Lake City is probably the only place in Utah that I feel really safe as a queer person and don’t really like to spend time in towns in Utah that aren’t Salt Lake. Moab would probably be the only other place I feel really comfortable as a queer person and I would definitely recommend checking out this southern Utah town. It’s about a four-hour drive from Salt Lake and is where Arches National Park and Canyonlands are located. It’s soooo gorgeous!

Laws/regulations affecting queers

As you may have heard, Utah has been playing tug of war over gay marriage lately. On December 20th 2013, Utah became the 18th state to legalize gay marriage, which came as a huge shock to me. I definitely didn’t think that we would be one of the first states to do so, especially over more liberal states such as Oregon. However, on January 6th 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court granted Utah an emergency stay (which two lower courts had denied) and gay marriage in Utah came to a halt. On the plus side, the federal government said it would recognize same sex marriage performed during the brief window and the ACLU has filed a lawsuit suing the state for recognition of gay marriage. So as of now, it’s still up in the air as to when gay marriage will become law again in Utah.

In other laws that affect queers, unfortunately Utah does not have a statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in housing or in employment. This is especially disheartening because surveys conducted by Equality Utah have shown that 43% of LGB folks and 67% of transgender folks have experienced discrimination in employment because of gender identity or sexuality. However, many individual counties (including Salt Lake County) do actually have nondiscrimination ordinances.

Another interesting thing is that if you are a trans person and want to change your name and gender marker it’s actually pretty simple (at least legally); probably because it’s not something that’s on the radar of most legislators here. For a gender marker change, all you need is a letter from a psychologist and no surgeries or hormones are required.


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26 Comments

  1. yes slc ilu

    also. also also
    this greasemonkeyfemme can’t live w/o
    wednesday’s women’s night 5-9p
    every week @ the SLC bike collective:
    learn how to fix/build/tinker w bikes
    & hang out with at least three cool queers,
    earn a bike, volunteer,learn useful stuff

    & tell cishet bros that they aren’t welcome <3

    i will buy you fries from vert diner afterwards
    if u stop rewatching oitnb and come get dirty w us

  2. Oh man where was this post when I was at BYU! I never got the chance to really explore the SLC queer scene, in part because I didn’t know where to look. I’m glad that this exists now for future generations who come to Utah as a devout Mormon university attendee and end up GAY AS FUCK like I did.

  3. I had to finally stop lurking and make a profile just so I could comment that I’m a student at Westminster College and it is super queer up in here. There are queer employees at all levels of the staff, faculty, and administration. Plus most (basically all? I might be exaggerating but I really don’t feel like it) of the straight humans employed by the college are allies. This is not to say that there are no ignorant cishet dudes roaming around, because there are. But also the college really cares about the queer voices on campus and listens and tries to improve when they fuck up.

    Basically, I go here and I have a lot of feelings and most of them are quite positive.

  4. Two things – first I want to make a plug – there actually is a health center specific to “LGBT” needs – I actually work there! It’s called Rebirth OB/GYN (rebirthobgyn.com). Dr. Luikenaar opened her own practice in March this year and we focus our efforts on providing care to trans* and transgender folks, queer identified, and intersex people. We provide HRT and primary care to many of Salt Lakes’ and the neighboring town/states’ communities. We also see many refugee patients. We accept medicaid, medicare, and all major insurances except Altius and Select Health Plans. For those who do not have insurance, we have self-pay rates that are generally affordable. We offer free pregnancy tests and assistance getting on insurance if people do not have insurance. Please follow us on Twitter (@rebirthobgyn) and Facebook (link below)!
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luikenaar-Rixt-Anna-MD-Ob-Gyn-Rebirth-ObGyn/161803093849763?fref=photo&sk=photos

    Second, it’s cool to read about your view of the city. As a QPOC identified individual who loves going to see shows and enjoys hip hop, I was pleasantly surprised when I moved here. The scene is poppin and in places that aren’t explicitly labeled LGBT/Gay/Queer, etc. Urban Lounge is one of my favorite spots and often meet a lot of chill QPOC people there. I also frequent Club Elevate downtown, which has become a spot for QPOC cruising, hiphop and latin dancing. There are tons of social opportunities within the activist community as well and I’m glad you mentioned sports! I was on the rugby team at Smith College and was super stoked to learn there’s a women’s rugby team here too called the SLUGS. We practice at Sugarhouse park on Thursdays and play matches on Saturdays.

    I could go on and on about Salt Lake…

    Great article, Nicole! Cheers!

  5. Thank you for sharing Nicole. As a longtime SL Rainbow girl on the meetup site, I appreciate the shout out. Please kindly note that the Rainbow girls is actually not a dating services. We’d be happy if you put us under college life/community/support/events. Events welcome singles and couples to participate/suggest social events we can all enjoy.
    I shall also plug our site shamelessly for any ladies in Utah who would like to join a fun group of people to hang out with (but not for the sole purpose of looking for a hookup):
    http://www.meetup.com/RainbowGirlsSLC/
    Keep it up Nicole! I really enjoyed the article as at 15 yr Utah resident!

  6. I’m an openly QWOC who has lived in Salt Lake City for about 17 years now, and I have to say that this article is a pretty accurate description of the local queer community. The Inclusion Center is a fantastic organization that focuses on building relationships in the community and social justice issues. One fact that needs to be updated is the laws regarding same-sex marriage – it is now legal in the state of Utah as of October 2014. Also, the Moab Pride Festival, which is held annually in September, was not mentioned either.

    I also want to attest to the point made about dating for queer women in SLC and Utah in general – it is basically nonexistent, especially for QWOC. Again, I’ve lived in SLC for 17 years, openly for 6 six years, and I’m very active in the community. Yet, I have never been in a relationship with a woman. A few other QPOC that I’ve known or been friends with have had similar experiences when it comes to dating, and have either moved to a more diverse city or are making plans to move out of Utah in order to increase their dating opportunities and to feel more accepted within the LGBTQ community. Sadly, the LGBTQ community is predominantly white in Utah, and subsequently does not value anyone who does not conform to white standards of beauty, nor certain standards of what queer is supposed to look like. So if you are not white, not skinny, and/or not butch chances are dating will be a bit of a challenge.

    Speaking of the MeetUp group, two of the original founders of the Salt Lake Rainbow Girls group both moved out of state within two years of starting the group due to lack of a diverse community lesbian community and dating opportunities. That should tell you something.

    If you must move to Salt Lake City whether it be for employment or a relationship (the only two reasons people really move here), then the author has provided some excellent suggestions to find other queer folk and some sense of community. As for myself, I am on my way out and making plans to move back to my hometown of Long Beach, CA – arguably one of the best cities for lesbians and QWOC in particular, and undoubtedly much better than Salt Lake City.

  7. Hi My name is JJ,, I don’t know exactly what I am, I love a pretty girl, or Feminine face, but from neck down, all guy, I love cute male crossdressors, Cute Femboys, Sissyboys,, so I am gay but love the Feminine face,, where do I go to meet, date, dance, and romance,, please give me some help thank you… I don’t what to pay for escorts, I want a relationship, sincerely JJ

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