Saturday, September 20, 2014

Troy Williams: A balanced activist

By: Mallory Jesperson

SALT LAKE CITY—Growing up a closeted Mormon from Eugene, Oregon, serving a Mormon mission in Great Britain, and eventually being dubbed the “Gay Mayor of Salt Lake City.” It is safe to say that Troy Williams’ life journey has been anything but ordinary, but also nothing short of impressive.

Williams was an integral part during this year’s session of the Legislature here in Utah, helping move forward the narrative for members of the LGBT community. SB100, a bill that would have included sexual orientation and gender identity among the list of ways Utahns would be unable to discriminate against in housing and employment practices, never made it to the committee room floor to be heard among legislators. But, this doesn’t mean that Williams didn’t fight till the very end. He was even arrested for his efforts in furthering the bill.

 Everyone should get arrested once in their life for something they believe in,” Williams said.

The most interesting aspect about Williams though, is his unique perspective. He has been on both sides of the spectrum. He has lived a Mormon lifestyle, but understood soon after his mission that he had what he calls, “this lurking weirdness” inside of him. He attributes much of who he is to the church and accepts that he would not be who he is today if it were not for the influence of the church’s presence in his life.

 “Without Mormonism, I wouldn’t exist,” said Williams.

He even contributes his inborn activist ethos back to his religious past.

“You really are cultivated with this sense that you have a responsibility to make the world better, to preach the gospel, to be a missionary, to proselyte your ideas. I think those elements are still deeply internalized within me,” Williams said

This is one of the reasons why Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, an openly gay Senator who has worked alongside Williams for about 10 years, believes that Williams is so effective.

“Troy has an interesting position because he has a platform on the radio, because he's so passionate, but he also has a common sense streak in him that some activists don't have. He knows when to compromise and when to stay firm, that's a hard thing for a lot of activists to be able to draw that line,” Dabakis said.

Williams not only works to promote gay rights, but has also been able to accomplish a great deal in his life so far. He graduated from the University of Utah with two degrees, one in film studies, and the other in anthropology. After graduating college he began volunteer work for the only radio station in Utah, at the time, that was challenging the narrative regarding the war, KRCL 90.9 FM. Troy was only a volunteer a few short months before he was asked to produce the radio’s show, RadioActive. William still currently works for KRCL and even recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with the radio station.

Williams’ influence doesn’t stop at radio, but has moved to other media spectrums. He was sought out to produce television shows with Mormon themed content. The result of his pitch of various ideas led to the TLC show, Breaking The Faith, and he is currently working on a few more projects with the company as well that will be released in the near future.

“I just like platforms for telling people stories. Ultimately the issue is how do we build empathy for people who are marginalized, who are different from us and different from the mainstream? That's what's been important to me,” Williams said.

His desire to be a voice for the voiceless derives from his closeted Mormon lifestyle while in his hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Williams endured teasing and torment for his religious beliefs while growing up in Oregon, but he recognizes that it helped build his overwhelming sense of compassion for others who experience persecution.

He has worked directly with Equality Utah, a non-profit organization whose sole efforts are to create a fair and just environment for all LGBT Utahn’s and their families.

“I have always respected Troy for his incredible passion and dedication to uplifting the marginalized, regardless of the reason for marginalization. He is not a single issue person, and he has done an extraordinary job of engaging other people to understand the importance of working across issues and across "groups" to build a better world for us all,” Brandie Balken, executive director of Equality Utah, said.

This has become Williams’ greater purpose. He is adamant that he is fighting for empathy and understanding. His Mormon roots have helped create him and he understands why many in the Mormon community fear that his efforts are in order to change “God’s Law,” but he assures that he has no interest in rewriting the Mormon religion.

“What the gay community wants is equal protection under civil law, and that’s it,” Williams said.

This understanding of the hesitations displayed by religious leaders and members of the community is why Dabakis says it has made him such a balanced community leader.

No matter how far Troy Williams ventures, he always comes back to Mormonism, but his desire to make Utah a better place for LGBT members along with their family members supersedes everything.

“Troy's engagement stems from his profound commitment to bettering our community, as well as his deep understanding that when one group is excluded, harm extends well beyond that group in and of its self. That harm is felt by families, neighborhoods, communities, and our collective sense of who we are, and how we behave,” Balken said.

Troy Williams has accomplished a great deal in a short time, and plans to continue to make the world fair and just for all who feel marginalized or feel as though they are second-class citizens.

“What I want BYU students to understand is that the only thing LGBT people are asking for is equal protection under the law, the right of due process, and equal access to public accommodations. Those 3 things. And this is the thing; we want you, Mormons, to enjoy those same rights as well. That's how we end the culture war. That we have full equality for all people, that's it. That includes Mormons, and gay people, everything,” Williams said.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Hideaway

Here's what you've all been waiting of my glorious room. Eh. Not really. I'm no interior design master like my sisters are, but I've made by little room pretty cozy. Still more that I'd like to do, but it'll do for now. Let me know what you all think :)
- My desk looks pretty drab unfortunately -

-I have my own private entrance-
-Still need to get something cute to cover my closet-

- I keep my record player/records in a cool suitcase I thrifted -

Saturday, August 30, 2014

2 Legit. 2 Legit 2 Quit.

Yesterday I had my first story published online with the Salt Lake Tribune. My first article was chicken limits. Now, I know what you're thinking. How did they trust such a newbie journalist to cover such a wide reaching and vitally important topic as pet chicken limits, but I'm just THAT amazing. (link to my Trib article if you haven't read it yet!)
!!!!! SO LEGITIMATE !!!!!

I attended a Riverton city Planning Committee meeting on Thursday night where I heard from the city's officials and only two community members, but it's still pretty cool to see my name associated with the Salt Lake Tribune because I really respect the kind of news they cover in Utah.

I never wanted to intern with the Deseret News because I feel like being a BYU student I already have that stigma of being Ultra Conservative Queen, and I just want to be known for my journalistic talents, and now for who or what I vote for. I want readers to appreciate the work I put out because it's good, and not because they agree with my political views. I'm a girl, so being mysterious is something we should always deem important. If you can figure me out in a few minutes I'll feel like a failure.
My sister brought my niece to visit me at work!

On top of being a legitimately published journalist, I finally quit the homeless existence I had come accustomed to and moved into my new home! I love it! I've spent the past two days unpacking and organizing. Humans collect way too much unnecessary junk, but I'm so excited for this new place! Especially because I'm surrounded by very good company. I can't wait to be able to have weekends to chill out and especially to be able to always go to church on Sundays!

Last semester I worked with special needs adults at their group home and a lot of the time I drove them to church on Sundays, missing church, or worked the full day on Sunday and missed activities, but this semester all of my jobs will be during the week. That's right, I said jobS! Plural!

Not only am I a part-time intern with the Trib, but I'm also the web content editor for BYU's 11 News and the opinion editor for BYU's newspaper, The Universe. I'm going to be a busy girl, but I can't wait for it all to start, and especially to be surrounded by my journalism friends again!!

2014 has definitely been my year.

p.s. I'll post pictures of my room once I'm all finished decorating and beautifying.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BYU: The start to my future finish line.

If you would have had a conversation with me a few years ago about my future and what it held for me, it would not have been a very enthralling dialogue. How interesting to come to the realization that good things truly do come to those who not only wait, but get out there and put forth the effort. My life is starting to become a true testament of just that.

I never expected to even get into Brigham Young University, and even after I did I wasn't quite sure if I was even interested in attending. I knew that if I graduated from a religious institution, such as BYU, that there would undoubtedly be a stigma attached to my degree of being overly conservative, and as a journalist, that was NOT something that I wanted.

But, I was prompted to attend BYU. After my first semester I knew I was in the right place, but I wasn't able to take core classes for my major (broadcast journalism), and it really just led me to continue to be unenthusiastic about living in Utah and my future. I felt I was guided to BYU for a reason, but I had never felt more alone or uninspired by my surroundings. Why had my Heavenly Father dropped me in this place and then forgotten about me?

Capital West News Team
Everything changed after I was able to take classes in Salt Lake City and cover the Legislature at Utah's Capitol building (CapWestNews). I've never been known for my deep investment in politics, but after being able to cover all bills, rallies, and meetings affecting the LGBT community it just truly sparked my desire to become a serious journalist. The connections I made with my classmates as well as my professors helped me to finally realize why I moved to Utah in the first place. It finally clicked. I had made true friends, and loved getting up in the morning and being surrounded by such inspiring people whose goals in life mirrored that of my own.

One of my classes was taught by a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune and it was because of this class that I was able to be suggested for the internship that I was blessed with less than a month ago. I landed a part-time paid political desk internship at the Salt Lake Tribune which I have been doing since the beginning of August helping with their political blog, Political Cornflakes. I just received my first real writing assignment and I'm so incredibly nervous, but just so excited to learn from veteran journalists who have so much to teach me! Like I said, I've never been the queen of politics, but when amazing opportunities fall into your lap you just take advantage of it and enjoy the extraordinary experience.

I really look forward to soaking it all in. This time in my life has been the most difficult, but also the most rewarding. It's taken me longer than most to realize what I wanted to do and be, but now that I know, I plan on putting in more than 100 percent. For those that took the time to read this far, just know that it's really never too late to go after your dreams. I won't graduate till 2016 when I'm 26, but I know I'll be happy and further than I would have been if I had stood still in my comfort zone back in San Diego. Having direction in my life has become one of the best gifts I've ever been given. Finally knowing where I'm going and what I truly want is literally the best feeling in the world, and I hope you all feel like you're in the right place at the right time because there's really nothing better. Let the learning begin.