Coven DC 2016
Photos: Coven DC
July 13, 2016
A Salute to the Lezbros, Tagg Magazine
Feature: Lezbros Stand For Pride, Progress, and Peace
July 15, 2016
Tinder Across America

Pittsburgh – July 20

Sara and TimothyWe made it! Pittsburgh, PA was our first stop – a lunch stop.  I (Sara) was admittedly anxious/nervous to see who would show up to our first meet-up.  We had collectively matched with about fifteen local LGBTQ people in the greater Pittsburgh area, but as we came closer, we found that less and less people were confirming their attendance. (asking people to meet for lunch on a work day is a lot). However, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive and meet Wyatt, one of Timothy’s Tinder matches, at local lesbian-owned Square Cafe. Wyatt is a 38 year old small business owner with the flexibility to skip out for lunch (he is the owner after all). Wyatt really set the tone for the trip – insightful, honest, and seemingly well connected in the local LGBTQ scene. We’re so grateful for Wyatt taking a chance being the first brave soul to meet up with us.

Sara: My biggest takeaway from our conversation with Wyatt was the politics of Pride, that I think ring true in any pride event hosted in a large(r) city. Pittsburgh has two major LGBTQ non-profits that have gone back and forth with who has ownership over Pride, as well as who Pride serves – is it for young, sex positive, queer people who are looking for a good time and a connection (maybe for a night, maybe for more) or is it for families, LGBTQ organizations/service providers, etc. to network?

Timothy: I was interested in hearing about the gender segregation within the LGBTQ community in Pittsburgh. For a smaller city, I would think that the community would be more intertwined and would share spaces, but Wyatt talked about one bar that everyone enters the same door but the lesbians hang out upstairs and the downstairs caters to gay men in the leather scene. The other memorable tidbit from Wyatt was the ‘Fruit Loop,’ which is located in Schenley Park. The Fruit Loop is a popular cruising spot for older gay men in the area (the original Grindr, if you will). Older gay men will sit naked and wait for others to roll up and flash their lights, indicating their interest in hooking up. Thinking about the technology we use now to essentially do the same thing, it’s really interesting to hear old practices are still happening.

Columbus, OH – 7/20

Columbus, OH was our first overnight stop. My (Sara) college friend, Barret, graciously hosted us for the night. Once we arrived at her place, we spent some time enjoying a beer and chatting with her, a graduate student at OSU, about the LGBTQ scene in Columbus. She shared that Columbus, like many cities, caters to gay cis-men and it’s hard to find spaces that cater to others within the city. There is one lesbian bar, Slammers, that is located further away from the main strip of gay bars, LGBTQ community center, LGBTQ thrift store, and LGBTQ-friendly sex toy shops. The separation of that space is felt not only figuratively, but physically and literally.

We had many matches in Columbus and about 2-3 people that had shown great interest in meeting up with us, most of which had recommended either Slammers or Union. Union was more convenient location-wise (see above), so we decided to go there. About thirty minutes after we arrived, sure enough we each had a Tinder match there and ready to chat. My Tinder match was Krista, a vet tech, originally from Cincinnati, OH. Timothy’s Tinder match was Mark, an HR Director, originally from Houston, TX.

Sara: First and foremost, the prices at Union were on point – $3.75 for a beer (I’ll have two!). Aside from that, after chatting with a group at the bar, it was clear that the coming out experience as we traveled further west was harder and harder (not to say that elsewhere it isn’t hard). I’m originally from New England, which tends to be a more liberal part of the country, so the hardest person to come out to was myself; it was a non-issue to everyone else. Hearing the coming out stories from people at Union, it was a really tough reminder about the risk LGBTQ people take when they make the decision to come out to those around them; especially with family members and close friends, there is a very real risk of losing those relationships. I’m so grateful for those who opened up and shared their stories and experiences. Thank you, Columbus!

Timothy: Columbus reminded me that smoking is still a thing – everyone at Union smoked. In DC, there are of course people who smoke, but usually a smaller minority with specific areas designated, typically outside of establishments. Union also had an atypically heavy pour (thanks bartender Ian). What I thought was a single shot, looked more like three (they call it a Union shot). From the conversations, what stood out most to me was again the segregation within the community, both what physical spaces are created for people of specific identities and also the felt sense of the community based on what identities people held. Many of the gay men I spoke with at Union were in unanimous agreement about Columbus’ gay scene being “amazing,” while many of the lesbian women had more tempered views. On some level, it doesn’t surprise me because there are separate histories and experiences, but on the other hand I wonder why we as humans feel the need to continually separate.

Bloomington, IN – 7/21

Executive Director of Bloomington Pride

Sarah, 31, Executive Director of Bloomington Pride

Bloomington, IN was our second lunch stop of the trip. We unfortunately weren’t able to convince any of our Tinder matches to skip out on work/school to meet us at The Owlery Restaurant (LGBT-owned). We did, however, get in touch with Sarah, the Executive Director of Bloomington Pride, who not only recommended The Owlery and dessert at Rainbow Bakery, but joined us at both locations to chat a bit more about the town of Bloomington, spaces for queer women, LGBTQ films on Netflix, the Bloomington PRIDE Film Festival, and more! The Back Door, the only gay bar in Bloomington, was not open during the day, but I (Sara) have been there before and it brings in a mixed crowd. With Indiana University’s flagship campus located in Bloomington, as well as their famed Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction.

Sara: Having been to Bloomington a number of times, I knew the scene somewhat. What really surprised and impressed me was that Sarah had basically started Bloomington Pride from the ground up. She started with a $3,000 seed grant and has brought the organization up to over $100,000 in just a few years. With only one gay bar in town, the events, programming, and activities are more diverse than pride in other cities. I mentioned to Sarah that I had been to her film festival before and we chatted about the need for trans* films to be screened by more than just the trans* community. Way to go, Sarah! Keep up the good work you do for the LGBTQ community in Indiana!

Timothy: This was my first time in Bloomington. After eating, chatting with Sarah, walking around town, and eating some more (a vegan peanut butter cookie, thanks Rainbow Bakery), I found myself not wanting to leave; however, Sara is great with keeping me focused and on schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat with Sarah and learned so much about what is going on within the queer community in Bloomington. I found it interesting that she said their queer youth group is over 60% comprised of gender expansive/genderqueer youth. Having run Rainbow Youth Alliance in Rockville, MD for several year, I shared with her how we’ve seen a similar trend. When RYA started over 10 years ago, it was primarily comprised of LGB young people. Now, the majority of youth that come to support groups are gender expansive/genderqueer. Are we, as a society, more affirming of LGB orientations? Are LGB youth feeling more safe in their communities and not needing as much additional support? Is society creating more space to talk about gender identity? So many questions. Thanks Bloomington for giving me more to think about.

St. Louis, MO – 7/21

Tinder Across America

St. Louis perhaps provided the most fascinating discussion of the trip so far. We met up with Caroline, one of my (Sara’s) Tinder matches, her friend Emilie, and Martine, a high school friend of Timothy’s at Rehab, a local gay bar in the Grove. Our conversation almost exclusively surrounded race in St. Louis and racism within the LGBTQ community, which was interesting given that the bar we went to provided the most diverse (albeit small) crowd yet. Martine provided some background on the demographic/geographic breakdown of the city and highlighted how truly segregated the city was. One of the big insights that Caroline provided was that St. Louis lesbians exist in pockets (mainly along cat owner or dog owner lines), and the only way the two mix is if one owns a cat AND a dog (which is how Caroline was able to meet Emilie).

Tinder Across America, Tagg Magazine

Timothy with Martine

Sara: Racism is alive and well, ya’ll. I already knew that, of course, but the stories from St. Louis and how they trickled down into the LGBTQ scene made it ever so clear. Each person who we met independently brought racism up in conversation as something that disappointed them and was frustrating about the LGBTQ community in St. Louis. The stories of the comments that came out of the only lesbian bar, which has a predominantly white, blue collar, butch clientele, regarding race (and the trans* community) were, to be perfectly frank, horrifying and really disheartening. I left Rehab feeling sad and helpless about the state of race in America. Thank you to everyone for sharing their experiences, and Emilie, if you’re reading this, call me. 😉

Timothy: So I’ve been to St. Louis before visiting both my cousin Chris, who lives in St. Charles and whom we stayed with while visiting this time, and my longtime friend Martine. However, this was the first time I had the chance to really explore the queer scene in the Grove. I was again reminded that while gay bars may have great drinks, on-point playlists and good dancing, they are not the place to go for food. The bartender chuckled when I asked for the bar burger done medium rare – his response “oh honey, the burgers come one way here.” It was tasty nonetheless. I would have to echo what Sara said about being acutely aware of race. While perusing the sex store inside the bar (yes, apparently St. Louis has sex shops in their gay bars), I asked the lady working the counter what else were “must do’s” tonight in the Grove. Her response shocked me as it was dripping with blatant racism. And she didn’t even blink an eye. Needless to say, I walked away from that conversation as quickly as I could.

St. Louis – thanks for having us. And a big thank you for Chris, Martine, Emilie, and Caroline for joining in our adventure.

Topeka, KS – 7/22

First stop on day three was Topeka, KS, where we were on the lookout for local barbecue. We unfortunately didn’t have any matches in Topeka, but did get a chance to meet up with Alisa, a friend of Timothy’s. She recommended we try Herman’s, which was great for a quick, cheap, bite. According to her, Herman’s is a new, local restaurant, which needed all the support it could get. She explained how locals find comfort and complacency with what they know and don’t often support the local, smaller restaurants in town. Much of our conversation with Alisa surrounded the Equality House and the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). We were eager to know what the locals thought about the WBC and how their image affects the Topeka community at large. Alisa mentioned that there isn’t an LGBTQ scene in Topeka, but overall the residents were embarrassed by the WBC’s presence in their town and would much rather the tourism and attention that the Equality House has brought in. After lunch, we had an opportunity to visit the Equality House and WBC, where Alisa reminded us that while we were free to walk right up to the Equality House, we shouldn’t even step on the sidewalk outside of the WBC for our safety. This was a hard reality check that while we sometimes laugh off hate groups like the WBC, they are a very real threat to our community.

Sara: The most interesting part of our lunch stop in Topeka was visiting the Equality House and seeing the WBC compound across the street. I was shocked to see both a rainbow flag and trans* flag on the WBC’s compound; granted they were hanging upside down, but my opinion was more visibility is visibility and at the end of the day…you’re still flying the damn flag! There was also an eerie feeling when a woman pulled up across from my car (on the side of the WBC), got out and just stared at us while she smoked her cigarette. Once the cigarette was done, she got back in her car and drove off. Alisa mentioned that the Phelps family does regular patrols of the property. I’m not sure if that was who this woman was, but it left me feeling very uneasy and like something could happen at any minute.

Timothy: I love catching up with friends, even more so on our current adventure. A BIG thank you to Alisa for driving over from Kansas City to join us for lunch and chat. It was fascinating to hear about Alisa’s experience growing up in Topeka and becoming, in some way, numb to WBC. She said that it was just known that they were there and you ignored them; the community saw them for what they were – bigots and haters. When we arrived at the Equality House, I could hardly containment my excitement. You can see me frolicking in the front yard HERE. I saw the WBC, but the significance of this space didn’t land until Alisa cautioned us about safety. This comment was sobering – all of a sudden a wave of emotions came over me. Gratitude and bravery for the Equality House  in taking a public stand. Sadness and fear sitting with the knowledge of WBC’s continual message of hate. Holding these and many other emotions left me tired. But I had enough energy to dance-protest! So glad to have gotten the opportunity to experience this place.

Omaha, NE – 7/22

Let me (Sara) just say that Omaha was the most fun city so far and I am shocked that I’m saying that. From the moment we pulled into Martha‘s driveway, we were greeted so warmly and immediately delved right into conversation about Omaha, LGBTQ health, suicide prevention, as well as HIV/AIDS work locally. After our introductory conversation, we were ready to delve deeper with a larger group we were meeting for dinner at Dixie Quicks, an LGBT-owned restaurant in Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the river from Omaha). There, the three of us met up with James, Addie, Michael, Peter, Bernice, and Briana. The conversation, food, accommodating waitstaff, and atmosphere made for an amazing dinner filled with laughs, sincerity, and openness. The night didn’t stop there, we shut down Dixie Quicks (we left after they technically closed) and headed out to meet Amber at The Max, Omaha’s only self-proclaimed gay bar. Timothy and I were expecting a small town gay bar, but instead were pleasantly surprised to find a megaplex of sorts with a totally different scene in each level/room/space of the bar. We talked more, then danced the rest of the night away. Thank you to everyone who made Omaha such a memorable and welcoming stop on our journey!

Sara: Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised by Omaha. It was easily the most amazing experience so far on our trip – from the people, to the food, to the conversation, and the scene, everything was wonderful. My biggest takeaway from Omaha was a conversation I had with one of the aforementioned folks about their personal journey. They had just come out to their family this week, resulting in homelessness and being disowned by much of their family. I’m so grateful to have shared space with this individual and that they felt comfortable enough to open up to me about their experience, current struggles navigating through life, and what they were looking forward to in terms of being a more active member of the local LGBTQ community. This is an extremely brave individual and I’m cautiously excited for their new life. Best of luck, friend – I’m rooting for you.

Timothy: If I could turn back time (full credit given to Cher) and relive experiences, Omaha would have been the place to do it! With so many people, wonderful places, and intriguing stories, one night was not enough time for me. I remember one point during the evening looking at my phone and being completely shocked that HOURS had passed without my notice. It was just that kind of night- full of genuine connections, real people and experiences, and thought provoking conversations.  Having met a fellow mental health therapist, I immediately dove into deep conversation around their experiences navigating roles and identities here in Omaha. I found it fascinating to hear that many of the mental health professionals in the Omaha area that work within the LGBTQ community don’t necessarily identify as part of the community. As an openly gay therapist working in DC in a huge community of other queer-identifying therapists, its hard for me to imagine my role without that community of support. Again, I am humbled by individual’s willingness to share very personal parts of their lives with us. My heart sings gratitude for each of you. Know that I will carry your stories with me long after this trip is over.

Lincoln, NE  – 7/23

Lincoln was a quick breakfast stop for us as we traveled west to Denver. We met up with Michael again that morning to visit Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, which is the burial site of Brandon Teena. (We had driven past Humboldt, NE the day before, the town that Brandon was murdered in back in 1993.) On the way to Omaha we were trying to think of what we could leave at the grave site in memory of Brandon. We eventually settled on the Jewish tradition of leaving rocks to indicate our respect for Brandon’s life and memory. Given that Brandon is buried as “Teena R. Brandon,” with the words “daughter, sister, friend” listed below, Michael brought along a rainbow flag to leave, as well, acknowledging respect for Brandon’s true identity, even in death. After the visit to the cemetery, we stopped by The Mill in downtown Lincoln for coffee and to talk a bit more about trans* health and trans* resources within Nebraska and throughout the country.

Sara: Anger. That’s the emotion I felt when we walked up to Section Z in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery and finally found Brandon’s grave. The idea that even after his death, his family buried him as Teena Brandon with clear gendered language on his gravestone, is maddening. Not to mention that the Nebraska State Penitentiary across the street from the cemetery is where John Lotter, one of the men convicted of Brandon’s murder, is serving his sentence. I’m so glad that Michael brought the rainbow flag for us to leave something to recognize that we see Brandon.

Timothy: Overwhelming sadness. That was the predominate emotion taking up space for me this morning. Sadness around Brandon’s tragic death; sadness that his life was stolen and he can’t share it with others anymore; sadness that so many in our trans* community still live in the reality that similar acts of violence and hate are occurring in 2016. Tears crept down my face as we drove out of the cemetery and past the State prison – so much hate in this world. In my practice as a therapist, I often ask clients to tune-in to the messages tears carry with them – if you could  shrink down and stand right next to them, listening with intention – what would they say? I asked myself that same question today. Here is their message: “Hold Brandon in your heart, thoughts, and actions. Share his story. Show love to everyone, every moment of every day. Challenge yourself to be better.” Rest in power, Brandon.

Denver, CO – 7/23

Tinder in Denver was overwhelming – so many people, so little time! Unfortunately, all said people were away on kayaking, camping, biking, hiking, etc. trips when we arrived on Saturday. We tried to convince a couple of our matches to come out and meet up, but to no avail. Instead, we ended up going to M Uptown (formerly known as Hamburger Mary’s), a local gay bar, to grab some food and just chat up whoever was there. We talked briefly with our server, Derek, who shared that Denver is affectionately known as “Menver,” because of the plethora of chiseled, active, successful gay men that live in the city. He also mentioned that the Denver scene in general has changed since the legalization of marijuana. Denver used to be a much more chill hidden gem that’s now turning into a major metropolitan area attracting people nationwide, becoming akin to that Silicon Valley’s cut-throat mentality. After a quick bite and brief chat, we decided to call it a night and get some well-needed sleep before heading up to Laramie, WY the next morning.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we woke well rested (8 1/2 hrs never felt so good) Sunday and drove up to Johnstown, CO to meet with my (Timothy’s) friend Kody at Johnson’s Corner – famous for their abnormally large cinnamon rolls. Kody shared his personal experience running the LGBTQ Advocacy Center for Northern Colorado while attending grad school. He shared how humbling of an experience it was, how much personal learning he did right along with advocating and connecting people with resources, and how closely he was forced to examine his own identities while filling this role. We also got a chance to hear about his experience working back at his own middle school in Colorado Springs and the visibility of being the first and only out teacher in the school’s 50 year history. Kody – thank you for your genuine and positive energy, sharing your stories and experiences with us, and for the work you do every day!

Sara: I’m a little disappointed that we weren’t able to meet up with any locals in Denver proper, but was glad that Derek took some time to chat with us (and snap a photo with us!). Kody’s story, focusing much more on northern Colorado, was really interesting. We chatted about the “pray the gay away” groups in Colorado Springs and their influence on local LGBTQ people. He mentioned that one of the churches in Colorado Springs calls their “pray the gay away” program “The Furnace,” which sent chills up my spine. Kody’s advocacy work is clearly having an impact in the Colorado Springs community and nationwide. It was a good reminder that visibility is power. Big thank you to our host, Cari, for allowing us to crash!

Timothy: Denver was beautiful. No wonder it attracts beautiful men! I thoroughly enjoyed M Uptown – kind of wished we both had the energy to do a bit more exploring after dinner. Apparently on Thursday and Saturday nights, Charlie’s (a local gay bar with a country twang), hosts 2-step dance lessons. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a recent convert to the boot-stepping, cowboy-hat wearing world of 2-step. Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to swing by Charlie’s and their dance floor. What stood out to me about our conversation with Derek was how the community is changing and becoming a bit “tired.” He mentioned several times how he is ready for something new. Our time talking with Kody reminded me how important it is to constantly push ourselves to learn. He shared a story about how his ignorance showed in a real way when he began working with the LGBT Advocacy Center and how it forced him to adopt the mantra “I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out together.” Such wise words we should all take to heart. Thank you Colorado. I’ll be back!

Laramie, WY – 7/24

We stopped in Laramie, WY en route to our final destination of Salt Lake City, UT. This was a very important and meaningful stop for both of us on our drive cross country, a place that neither of us had been before. As you may know, Laramie is the town where Matthew Shepard lived and attended school before he was brutally murdered in a hate crime in 1998 just outside town. There isn’t a memorial or grave site for Matt in town, but we did find that there is a bench dedicated in his memory at the University of Wyoming. We were able to find this bench on campus (someone had recently left a bouquet of flowers), take a moment to reflect, and place stones there, as we had done at Brandon’s grave in Lincoln.

After we left the University, we stopped at Turtle Rock Coffee, a small cafe just across the street from campus. We didn’t have any luck with meeting any Tinder matches, but decided we needed to talk to someone in Laramie, WY, so I (Sara) decided to chat a bit with the staff at Turtle Rock. I didn’t want to jump right into Matt Shepard’s murder, since I was sure the community still felt that open wound, so I simply asked “What do you think people outside of Wyoming think of when they think of the town of Laramie?” Their answer left me dumbfounded: “When people think of Laramie, they think of the University and the mountains,” said one staff member. “Oh, and the crappy weather,” mentioned another. They also took some time to explain the movie The Laramie Trail, a murder mystery movie from 1944. No mention of Matt or the national spotlight Laramie was thrust into upon his murder.

Sara: This was a very powerful stop, similar to Brandon’s grave site just the day before. Visiting the bench was sad, but I was somehow comforted knowing that it was seemingly visited quite often by members of the campus, local, and/or LGBTQ community, given the items that were present when we arrived. Reflecting on that space dedicated in his memory surrounded by such the incredible beauty of the University of Wyoming’s campus left me with a quiet comfort. When we crossed the street to the cafe, still processing the history behind that bench, I was left speechless by the staff’s response to my question. I’ve gone back and forth about why they gave me the answer they did – Is it because the town is trying to distance itself from that association? Is it because they were too young to know that piece of its history? Is it because it wasn’t important to them? I’ll never know, but the interaction will stick with me.

Timothy: Driving off the highway and passing the welcome sign to Laramie was surreal. I’ve seen depictions and read accounts of this from other people through The Laramie Project and other writings about Matt’s death; however, it became more real for me as Sara and I drove past. Searching for the memorial bench for Matt, I found myself surround my a palpable peace. The University of Wyoming campus was beautiful, the weather was the most gorgeous we had encountered the entire trip, and the serenity of that space was felt deeply for both Sara and I. In some ways this peace surprised me; it wasn’t what I expected. When we finally found the bench, seeing fresh rainbow-colored flowers brought me a deeper comfort. After placing our rocks, we both sat in silence on the bench – holding space for Matt, his death, and significant impact on our LGBTQ community.

As we were leaving the cafe after visiting the bench, several young men walked in wearing boots, Levi jeans, tucked-in plaid button-up shirts, and large belt buckles. They were tall and lanky, and their resemblance to the depictions I’d seen of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson (Matt’s murder’s ) was striking. All the muscles in my body tensed and I involuntarily held my breath. Did they read me because of my queer haircut? Did they noticed I was wearing a Pride t-shirt? Would something happen? As we drove out, I reflected on these reactions and it shocked me. There was nothing in those moments to say that these individuals were not affirming or dangerous. Potentially they were even part of the community – but my body still froze. I was struck with how real that fear was for me visiting Laramie.

Salt Lake City, UT – 7/24

Tindering (yes, I made it a verb) in Salt Lake City was interesting for both Sara and I (Timothy). We were finding many of our matches had children and were very open about this on their profiles.  In talking with some of our matches, we learned that Sunday was Pioneer Day, a State holiday commemorating when the Mormon leader Brigham Young lead the first Mormons to Utah. For those not religious (which was most, if not all, of our matches), they celebrated “Pie n Beer” Day. It took me until almost midnight to realize the play on words. After talking with several people, we narrowed our meeting space to Sun Trapp, a local LGBT bar with a large back patio. Interestingly enough, this bar was named in honor of two of the first LGBT bars opened in UT (both now closed). Both Sara and I had a match meet up with us to chat, Chad – former Mormon, father, social worker, and aspiring author; and Maggie – fierce advocate for racial and social justice in SLC.

Sara: I was interested to hear about the racial justice work Maggie was doing in and around the SLC community and how her own identities feed this work.  Not only is she dealing with being a queer person in a religiously conservative state, but as a person of color she also faces active and pervasive racism daily. She shared about a hate group that is currently in UT targeting women of color. This hate group actively goes around looking for women of color and raping them as a way to show dominance and control. I asked Maggie how she was able to keep on going given the realness of groups like these and the devastating on-going events arcoss the nation. Her response was frequent solo retreats and solitude hikes. She explained that during these times of being with nature and herself, all the social constructs that impact her fall off. She finds peace and a place to recharge her emotional batteries. She also shared that writing is a way for her to express all the emotions that come up in her work. She was gracious enough to give permission for me to link to one of her recent writings titled Waking Up as an Act of Resistance. Thank you, Maggie, for sharing your story and your writing. And for doing this much needed work in SLC.

Timothy: Coming to Salt Lake City, I was most interested to hear the intersection of LDS (Mormons) and the LGBTQ community. I was hoping to get the opportunity to speak with someone who had first-hand experience walking this very precarious line. Having several friends currently in the church, my impression was that LDS as a whole was becoming more supportive of its LGBT members. Unfortunately, my perception changed. I was shocked to hear that the LDS leadership consistently shuns and discriminates against LGBT people – but do it with veiled compassion. The most recent was in November 2015 when the church leadership stated that LGBT individuals married to a same-sex partner would be considered apostates, an excommunicable offense. Even worse, children of gay or lesbian parents would be denied religious rite ceremonies until their 18 birthday and would then be allowed to partake only if they disowned their parents, moved out of their house, and made a special request to rejoin the church.  If that weren’t bad enough, several months later the church reminded everyone that those previous sentiments came directly from god – a proverbial nail in the coffin. Since 2013, the number one cause of death for children ages 10-19 in Utah is suicide. So sad. And so preventable. So much more was discussed, including why many single LGBT individuals are also parents in SLC (many marry someone of the opposite-sex early in life, have kids, and then come out later), however, what stuck with me the most was how much damage organized religion and other groups can do in the name of a higher power and love. If there is a god, I find it hard to believe they would endorse any of this.

Reno, NV – 7/25

Being our last city stop before arriving in Sacramento, both Sara and I (Timothy) were hoping to match with some locals. We arrived in Reno around 2 – by far the earliest we’d arrived in any over-night city on this trip. After showers, a nap for me, and watching some of the DNC (#Michelleforever), we ventured out to grab some food and explore the town. Reno was – how shall I put this – interesting? The city streets were ominously empty, and those we did see were characters – in the way that left Sara and I looking at each other and scratch our heads. We were pleasantly surprised by the river walk in downtown Reno. Walkways and steps led down to the rivers edge where children and adults alike were dangling feet and playing in the quite rapids. Later that evening, we meet up with two of Sara’s matches Jodi and Molly at The Patio – one of the two LGBT establishments. Even though I didn’t get any matches to meet up, I was able to connect with someone from my past – Jodi and I attended high school together. What a small world!

Sara: I found it interesting knowing how small Reno is, and smaller still Reno’s LGBT community, that Jodi and Molly had never met. Throughout our conversation, it became clear that they were connected in with two different circles, and if it were not for this adventure, they both would probably have never met (thanks Tinder for making connections). Its interesting that even in a space as small as Reno, there can be isolation. For me it highlights the continual need for places and spaces that LGBT people can meet each other – places where groups that might not otherwise cross can connect. I was happy to hear that Reno had recently opened their first LGBT community center – Our Center. Apparently the group had been around for several year, but just opened a new space that provided resources and connections specifically for LGBT youth in Reno.

Timothy: There were many things that I was expecting on this trip, and still more that I wondered if would happen. But meeting up with a match that I had gone to high school with never crossed my mind. At first, neither Jodi or I could remember why the other looked familiar. After uncovering many clues that could potentially link us (she lived in DC, we both frequented the same local spots, we both in a helping profession), we finally turned to Facebook. Upon seeing that all of our mutual friends were from high school, we finally made the connection. The night was very pleasant hearing more about the local LGBT community – especially the excitement of Reno’s Pride that had just taken place the previous day. According to both Jodi and Molly, this year was by far the biggest and best Pride Reno had seen. They also mentioned that more LGBT teens attend this year. Glad to hear the community has the new Our Center space and is increases services for its youth.

Sacramento, CA – 7/26

We arrived in Sacramento by 9:30 AM and jumped right in to unpacking and moving Sara’s things into her new apartment. After several trips up and down the stair of her new place (it was legs, arms, and core day!), we both decided that neither one of us had the energy to go out and explore the LGBT scene tonight. Content with that decision, we opted to get some beers, grapes, carrots, and frozen pizza and take it back to Sara’s for dinner. While eating, we reflect on the trip. And talked about future adventures. The South, we’re coming for you…