Capitol West Boys and Girls Club helps kids with life skills in a safe environment

Story and photo by MELANIE HOLBROOK

Boys and Girls Club at Capitol West

The Capitol West Boys and Girls Club helps boys and girls in its community become productive and caring citizens in a fun and easy-going atmosphere. Located in Rose Park, youth of all ages are invited to spend their time doing various activities so that they can feel in a safe place.

According to the club’s website, the mission of the Boys and Girls Club is “to inspire and enable the youth in communities, especially those who need it most, to become caring and responsible individuals through guidance-oriented adult relationships and engagement in a variety of enriching activities within a safe environment.”

At the Capitol West Club, located at 567 W. 300 North, Teen Center Director Jessica Hill organizes activities, supervises staff and helps out with recreational games. Activities such as basketball tournaments or billiards are held at the club.

“We go on a lot of field trips too; we’ve gone river rafting. I’ve taken them camping and bowling up at the University of Utah,” Hill said.

Hill explained a lot of their programs are based off of drug prevention. A big goal of the club is educating teens on life skills and how to make the right decision in certain situations.

One of the strongest assets the Boys and Girls Club provides is its formula for impact, which consists of Five Core Program Areas.

Hill said those five areas are character and leadership development, education and career development, health and life skills, sports and the arts. These areas are offered to meet the needs of all types of kids who come in and out of the club. These areas can help kids reach their full potential.

“We really just want to focus on healthy lifestyles and academic success. We obviously want them to become educated so that they can have a good lifestyle and good future and contribute to society,” Hill said.

Although the boys and girls are learning things such as life skills and receiving help with academics, it isn’t a school. “We’re making learning a fun thing to do. We want them to come here because they’re having fun,” she said.

Hill said the club is extremely diverse in ethnicity and age; 50 percent of the club is made up of teens (ages 12-18) while the other 50 percent is made up of children younger than age 12. “We’re located in a very tight-knit community, so we have a lot of African refugees, along with a lot of Hispanic kids, a lot of Polynesian kids; pretty much kids from all of the world,” Hill said.

Javier Argueta is 13 years old and has been coming to the Capitol West Club since he was 6 years old. Argueta said he first went because he didn’t have much to do after school and heard about it from his friends in his class. He decided to stay at the club because he loved the people.

“I like the staff because they always talk to me if I ever have problems. This is my second house because I’m always here,” Argueta said.

He said he’s learned a lot at the club over the years. “I’ve learned to be nice to people and to encourage myself.”

Kids such as Javier Argueta became members after hanging around the club for a few days. Hill explained that by offering membership to kids they can feel a sense of belonging, something anyone wants in life. Membership entails simply having the child’s name documented and knowing a familiar face.

Hill explained at the club kids and staff have been able to make close relationships with one another, creating a high level of trust. Kids know they can confide in staff; people are there to help them out with anything, whether it be homework or emotional stress.

Generations divide the semantics of queer

Some see it as hate while the youth find empowerment

by CLAYTON NORLEN

The power of words is something a dictionary can’t define; people give power to words and decide their meaning. “Queer” is a word of hate and empowerment, and the meaning of queer changes with context and intent.

Queer began as an adjective that meant strange, different, weird, irregular or odd. In the 1960s it became a hateful word that was used against members of the gay community. In 1969, gay, bisexual and transgender people in New York City rioted against police brutality in the Stonewall Rebellion. Queer took on a new meaning then, when it was adopted word was now used as a derogatory stereotype against the lifestyles of gay or transgender people.

“There are a lot of people today who are still offended to be called queer, but there are others who will say, ‘Thank you very much,'” said Melvin Nimer, who is the president of the Utah chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans and is openly gay. “It’s all in how the word is used. If it is used as a put-down, as a slur, then it is hate speech. But often enough I hear it used as a term of empowerment by the youth.”

In the 1890s, American scientists created the term “homosexual” to describe men who were attracted to other men. Gay men were first described as inverts, and science suggested that the reason why men were attracted to other men was because gay men had a “woman inside them,” said Bonnie Owens, a senior majoring in gender studies at the University of Utah and an intern for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center on campus. Shortly after homosexuality was defined, the term “heterosexual” was created to define what 19th-century society perceived as a normal sexual attraction. After homosexuality was defined as the act of men having sex with men, an identity began to be imposed on men that labeled them as “others,” and a sub-culture began to take shape soon after.

With large numbers of people moving into the cities during the Industrial Revolution, children became less useful to families who no longer needed their children’s free help to maintain a farm. Women postponed marriage and were entered the work force. As intercourse became less about reproduction and more about pleasure in large cities, gay bars, clubs and bathhouses sprang up across the country to accommodate a growing gay-male subculture, Owens said.

During World War II, a mass movement of young men overseas into single-sex, volatile environments where they were taught to depend on and care for one another instead of competing. New relationships were presented for men who had never heard the term homosexual before, and some began to explore them. Back home, women were encouraged to work and taught to be economic and social equals with men. This allowed women to embrace they idea of being independent from their male counterparts. These events allowed people who were already questioning their personal identities and the structure of their relationships to further explore their sexuality.

“In the 1930s and 1940s, we saw homosexuality being used as an empowerment term, so people were identifying as a homosexual,” Owens said. “Then in the 1960s we [saw] the term gay being used and replacing homosexual. Then Stonewall happened and sparked the gay rights movement that led to the queer movement we have today.”

After Stonewall, the gay rights movement grew and took shape throughout the 1970s and 1980s, allowing people to openly identify with any sexual orientation and explore relationships that society still scrutinized as deviant or unnatural. The reclamation of the word queer began in 1990 with the publication of Judith Butler’s “Gender Trouble,” a book that explored and explained the numerous sexual and gender identifications that people were using to define themselves.

Now, in 2007, many teens and LGBT students on college campuses are identifying as queer-opting not to base their identity solely on their sexual orientation, but instead choosing to identify with the community included under the term queer. In academia, queer and gender studies courses have made queer identity and philosophy somewhat mainstream on campus, but these theories of inclusiveness haven’t become prominent among everyone in LGBT communities.

“Queer is a very liberating identity to me,” Owens said. “Queer is something that connects me to, and makes me part of, a community. The reason I identify as queer is because it encompasses my gender identity and my sexual orientation.”

Who is queer and who may identify as queer are perspectives that change depending on who is asked. To Owens, queer includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex peoples and their allies. Everyone is queer in an academic sense, because no one is truly normal or average; everyone has differences that make people queer. Sex beyond the purpose of reproduction is queer, Owens said.

The modern queer movement is only 17 years old, but because the new face of the gay movement is considerably young, there is an apparent generational disconnect between the youth and established LGBT communities across the nation. For many older LGBT individuals, their association with queer remains derogatory because it was a term that was used to divide and separate them from the norm on the playground and in the work place.

“I just don’t like the word queer,” said Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Utah, who is openly lesbian. “I can’t explain it, but part of it could be the history behind it. The word and use of the word queer, to me, makes it sound like you are goofy, that something isn’t quite right about you.”

Biskupski chooses not to use or identify as queer, but she said she knows people who do and use the term positively. She compared the LGBTQ youth’s struggle to reclaim queer to the black communities’ reclamation of “nigger,” saying that the same controversy applies. Many of the questions that arise out of these situations are, who can use the word? Who is part of the community? Whom is it empowering and whom is it degrading?

Semantics aside, Biskupski sees a growing number of youth identifying as queer instead of strictly gay or lesbian.

“I like queer because it is more than an identity — it is an ideology,” said Jose Rodriguez, and a junior majoring in social justice and policy at the U. “Anybody can be queer, and I like that you can queer anything-politics, society or culture, anything. Queer identity tries to reclaim spaces where LGBTQ people have been marginalized, so they can become safe again.”

The queer movement pulls away from identity-based politics and into coalition building through merging the LGBTQQIA community under one distinct, open title. Queer is a way for these diverse and separate communities to come together and stand behind one issue-human rights-while still being capable of supporting one another through synergy, Rodriguez said.

For these reasons of inclusion, Rodriguez doesn’t identify as queer because he sees it as a movement that is primarily white and devoid of racial and socio-economic consideration. Although Rodriguez recognizes many queer theorists are trying to overcome the exclusionary injustice toward communities of color, he instead chooses to identify as Xueer so his race, gender identity, sexual orientation and background can all be factors in defining him.

“As more and more identities start to get their own voices and as we move forward, we have to make that jump towards being inclusive-we have to open up ourselves,” Owens said. “We are so caught up on words and terms, and what we can say, but the point is that even if we didn’t identify under a single word, we’re always going to have to identify under the single term of ‘other.'”

The goal with the queer movement and identity is to make it so large that it will erase itself, Owens said. Her goal is to make every identity have the same value, so people don’t have to rally toward a certain goal such as equal rights. They could just assume that legislation would encompass everyone.

“I identify as a normal person. I’m gay, but that is normal to me, and I don’t look at myself in any other way,” Nimer said. “To accept the queer movement we have to realize we’re all different, and in a sense we are all queer. Everyone should be included in the queer community, but right now [queer] is just used to describe the gay and lesbian communities.”

Mundo Hispano: Uniting the community for 15 years and counting

by PHI TRAN

Mundo Hispano, once a small publication, has grown into Utah’s largest Spanish language newspaper. Sandra Plazas, the general editor and co-founder of the paper said it is more than just a newspaper; it is a bridge of understanding between the American and Hispanic communities in Utah.

Plazas said that Mundo Hispano believes that each community has something to say and through communication, people will learn from each other. It is “a mission of getting to know each other,” she said.

Mundo Hispano has become the voice of the Latino community. It covers the important aspects that affect the community such as legislative issues.

“It’s also a tool for us to help teach our kids,” Plazas said. “It’s hard for a lot of kids here to maintain their language because everything around them is in English.” Mundo Hispano can help people with their fluency in Spanish.

Plazas came to Utah with her mother, Gladys Gonzalez, in 1991 from Bogota, Colombia. At the time, Plazas was 20 years old and had just graduated from Universidad Externado de Colombia with a degree in communication.

Gonzalez had a business degree from Los Libertadores University and worked for Manufacturers Hanover Trust, now Chase Manhattan Bank. She also had three years of journalism experience.

Yet finding a job in Utah proved to be difficult. Plazas said employers would tell them that they were either over- or under-qualified.

They ended up cleaning floors. It was unacceptable, Plazas said they did not want to do this forever and they thought, “What could we do that will give us a future but is something that we enjoy doing?” This was the motivation behind creating Mundo Hispano.

Some people criticized the idea of creating a Spanish newspaper in 1993. One person told them, “You’re crazy! How are you going to do that? There is nothing Spanish in Utah.” A Salt Lake Tribune representative said, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life. The [Hispanic] population in Utah is never going to be big enough to actually support your newspaper.”

Plazas responded to these comments with a quote from one of her favorite movies, The Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come.” She and her mother decided they would take their chances because they believed the Hispanic population would grow and they were right. According to the 2006 U.S. Census Bureau, Utah’s Hispanic population is at 11.2 percent.

Although both Gonzalez and Plazas had an extensive background in journalism it was still difficult launching a newspaper because they had to do everything themselves. They reported, wrote and edited the news, designed the layout and even delivered the newspapers. Because they were so low on resources, they still had to work full-time jobs to pay their salaries and support their families. Plazas said they worked 52 hours straight without any sleep. “As hard as it was, I think it has been great because it has given me the opportunity to learn every little aspect of my business,” she said.

Mundo Hispano has gone from a mere 1,000 copies per month to a circulation of 10,000 per week. Seven freelance writers contribute articles as well as one correspondent in Mexico City and one in Colombia. The paper has a readership of 2.7 per copy, which means there are approximately 23,000 people reading the newspaper. Plazas said that they plan to expand the newspaper in the future. She said she would like to see Mundo Hispano distributed statewide with correspondents in Europe in the next five years.

In addition to Mundo Hispano, they own a marketing consulting firm called the Hispanic Marketing Consulting La Agency, which helps businesses by showing them how to target the growing Hispanic population. One important aspect that Plazas said the agency teaches other businesses to remember is that the entire Hispanic community cannot be boxed into one category. In fact, there are 25 different Hispanic cultures in Utah alone and Plazas said the challenge for most businesses is accommodating to all the different cultures.

Needless to say, this mother-daughter team has accomplished a great deal since they moved to Utah in 1991. Mundo Hispano is a family business that they created from the ground up. “It has been our baby,” Plazas said. People have put a lot of trust in the newspaper.

Newspaper struggles to achieve media diversity on U campus

by DAVID SERVATIUS

In a way, the name of the newspaper tells its story. Venceremos! It is determined and defiant, a rallying cry during the Cuban revolution and an echo of the U.S. civil rights movement. Literally translated, it means, “We will win.” Or, in some cases, “We shall overcome.”

Venceremos is the University of Utah’s Spanish-English bilingual student newspaper and, as the name suggests, its history over the years has been a struggle to simply stay in existence. In January 2008, the paper returned to campus after being shelved and abandoned for more than four years.

Editor-in-Chief Stephany Murguia, a senior majoring in mass communication, said in a recent interview that the first issue of the resurrected quarterly publication took more than six months to produce and that 10,000 copies were printed and distributed across campus. The issue focused on immigration, which dominated the news while the Utah legislature was in session this year, but also looked at crime and what Murguia called “other underreported stories.”

Murguia was born in Mexico and grew up in California. She has lived in Salt Lake City for the last seven years and graduated from Copper Hills High School before attending the University of Utah. She said Venceremos isn’t just valuable because it will publish stories others aren’t interested in, but because it can actually get the stories others can’t.

“We build up a trust relationship within the community,” she said. “We can get the sources to talk to us that other publications can’t. I know people at the [Salt Lake] Tribune who have trouble getting access to parts of the community, and especially getting pictures.”

She said she ultimately wants to expand readership beyond the student body and encourage community members from the larger Salt Lake Valley area to contribute stories in both English and Spanish on a regular basis.

“We want to create a space that’s really accessible,” she said. “We want to create a community space, something bigger than just us at the university.”

Venceremos was first created in 1993 by a small group of students in order to address what they saw as a dearth of coverage in the local media of the issues that concerned their minority communities. For almost a decade the staff at the paper worked to change that.

Then, in 2003, Venceremos was forced to halt production. Luciano Marzulli, who was an editor then and who advises the current team, said in an email statement that staff members at the time had become somewhat overextended with community activism and were suddenly asked to give up the space and equipment they had been using.

“The momentum of the paper was slowing down anyway and the loss of equipment and office space was like the final straw that pushed the publication into hiatus,” he said.

The paper may have gone on hiatus, but the need for it in the community did not. Marguia, who was in high school at the time and had written a couple of columns for the paper, said that she and Marzulli recognized this need and kept alive the idea of re-launching the newspaper at some point.

“Year after year it was a constant thought with us,” Murguia said. “There was a group of about four of us and we kept copies around and we kept saying to each other that we would bring it back.”

A 2005 study by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists looked at coverage of Latino communities and issues in American weekly news magazines. It showed that, in the few stories that were published about these communities, the coverage was focused almost exclusively on migrants as a problem for U.S. society.

A report on the study’s findings said the number of Latino sources in stories was too low, the word “illegal” appeared too frequently and hurtful stereotypes were rarely challenged. It concluded: “Sadly, such representations may often make it difficult for Latinos to also see themselves beyond these one-dimensional depictions.”

Marzulli put it more bluntly. “The driving force to re-launch the paper has been the consistent and steadfast anti-immigrant and downright racist reporting that takes place in the majority of, if not all, mainstream media outlets,” he said. “The importance of Venceremos is the voice and perspective that it offers to counter that racism.”

Last year Murguia was able to use a communication department internship to finally do what she and Marzulli had talked about for years. Venceremos is in production once again, but the small staff still struggles to keep the newspaper afloat. Murguia said the first issue had to be written, designed and laid out on her personal laptop computer. The staff shares space with the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs in the Olpin Student Union building.

She said they were able to get funding from the University Publications Council, which provided half of what they needed. Other sources, including the departments of humanities and social work, provided the rest.

“That was enough to just do the first issue, to cover the cost of printing and distribution,” Murguia said. “But it didn’t help us to get any equipment or our own space to produce the next issues.”

She said similar funding has been secured for the production of future issues and she is also selling advertising space.

“It’s frustrating starting from scratch again,” she said. “Not only raising money, getting funding, but also a lack of existing infrastructure. But it’s something I have to do.”

Sandra Plazas is the co-founder and current editor of local Spanish-language newspaper Mundo Hispano. She understands Murguia’s drive to make Venceremos a reality. Plazas and her mother worked alone for months in the dining room of their two-bedroom apartment to create their publication, and for many of the same reasons.

“You feel a sense of mission, a need to give voice to your community,” Plazas said during an interview at her office. “You also want to let people know the things that are important for them to know. You want to show what services are available and educate newcomers about what they need to do in order to live here.”

Murguia said the second issue of the new Venceremos will be distributed in late April and an issue will follow every three months after that. Eventually she would like to make it a monthly, or even a weekly, publication. At some point, if her plans succeed, Murguia may be forced to consider a name change for the newspaper — to something like Ganamos! We won.

Straight allies are voices, advocates of LGBT community

by YEVGENIYA KOPELEVA

“Allies are those who are willing to be vocal and advocate for equal opportunities,” said Whit Hollis, director of the Olpin Student Union, in a short video presented at the beginning of “The Straight Ally: Putting the A in LGBTQ” panel at the University of Utah on Oct. 17, 2007.

In support of the LGBT Resource Center’s Pride Week 2007, U students and faculty filled more than 50 desks in a classroom at the Union building to listen, learn and ask questions about what it means to be an ally of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community. “You have the choice to help everyone, but you don’t have the time or resources to save the world so you choose your passion,” said Esther Kim, a panelist and student at the U.

A straight ally is someone who accepts, supports and respects members of the LGBTQ community. An ally also can be someone who is an activist for equality, fairness and justice.

“As a student of color, I have always felt comfortable making connections with a minority group and my experience has been that I am the voice and advocate for the LGBTQ community,” Kim said.

While Kim appreciates the ally to be acknowledged as part of LGBTQ, panelist Matt Basso, a professor of gender studies, feels uncomfortable because it’s “normalizing” something. “It is a reminder for ‘normal’ individuals to remember to be activists, but the ally tag should remind me to not walk in life easily,” Basso said.

Allies can be some of the most effective and powerful voices for the LGBTQ community. Not only can they assist in the coming-out process, but they can also inform others about the importance of mutual respect and acceptance. “Allies are people who take the time to consider how other people affect them and their identities, and work towards a better understanding of people who might be different than themselves,” said Bonnie Owens, staff intern for the LGBT Resource Center.

When it comes to creating awareness of LGBTQ issues, Octavio Villalpando, a panelist and the associate vice president for the Office of Diversity, believes one of the failures in the education system is not exposing students to inequality and issues of diversity. “Students going to school for 12 years and still not knowing about LGBTQ issues until college is a problem,” he said.

Kari Ellingson, associate vice president for student development, shared a personal story with the audience. While driving her son and his friend to West High School, Ellingson overheard her son’s friend say “that’s gay.” When she pulled the car over and asked what the phrase meant to him, he was speechless and didn’t realize how his words had impacted someone else. “It’s for us parents to take action and advocate our children on issues they may not face or hear about in high school,” Ellingson said.

Panelist Becky McKean, who works as an administrative assistant for the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, believes everyone needs access to education without barriers. “I am LDS and when I accepted my current job, I was honest and asked permission to ask questions about the people I would be working with,” she said. “I discovered how many things I take for granted. For example, I rarely have to question being accepted or go to a place where I feel unsafe.” As an ally, she supports the idea of allowing individuals to be who they are and encourages people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes before making assumptions.

Although Pride Week is a step toward celebration and forming conversations, “there never is only one issue and if you open up conversations, you will get new ideas from everyone,” McKean said. Ellingson admits that there still are battles to fight, but she also recognized the LGBT Resource Center for doing a great job at reaching out to students, faculty and the community.

Basso believes it’s about finding common ground and knowing that you can somehow relate to everyone you encounter without having any expectations. “At universities, it is easier to be an ally and have those discussions, but we need to create more dialogue and awareness,” Basso said.

Owens says allies are a growing part of the community and represent new theoretical terrain for the fields of gender and sexuality. “I thought it was important to host the straight ally panel because it shows dedication and commitment to our ally community on campus and it reaffirms our relationship to academics and the growing awareness of our communities and identities,” Owens said.

SLC drag troupe raises funds, morale

by AMANDA CHAMBERLAIN

Forty-five-year-old Don Steward says he’s about as mainstream as it gets. The West Valley City resident has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public administration, owns a small business and attends church every week.

“If I was an ice cream flavor I would be vanilla – probably sugar free,” Steward said. “I’m that dull.”

Perhaps it’s Steward’s dull home life that makes his charity work seem even more intriguing. He makes it a priority to stay active doing volunteer work, and has traveled across Utah and Wyoming mentoring nonprofit organizations. But it’s when he stuffs his 6-foot, 230-pound frame into a curve-hugging, polyester dress and 5-inch heels that his charity work appears the most vibrant.

Meet Ruby Ridge, Steward’s alter ego. He transitions into this bearded drag queen – brazenly outfitted with loud makeup, fluorescent hair and a sassy attitude – when he appears with the fundraising performance troupe, the Utah Cyber Sluts. As one of the about 10 rotating members in the troupe, Ridge performs improvisational comedy and lends herself to charitable events within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, such as Pride and WinterFest.

Most recently, the Cyber Sluts kicked off University of Utah’s Pride Week on Oct. 15, 2007, performing a colorful show for attendees free of charge. On Nov. 29, the troupe will doll themselves up in the finest Deseret Industries dresses and attend The Red Party at the Hotel Monaco to raise money for AIDS awareness. Just one night later, they will unveil their Christmas performance “Cyber Night, Slutty Night, What’s in Your Stocking?” at the Paper Moon.

But perhaps the Cyber Sluts’ most famous fundraising effort is Cyber Slut Bingo. Each month, the merry bunch hosts a different-themed game night in order to raise money for the Utah Pride Center.

“The Pride Center has had a partnership with them for couple of years now, and one amazing thing about the Cyber Sluts is how much they do for charity,” said Jennifer Nuttall, the Center’s adult-program director. “Initially, the Center was having difficulty raising funds, and it was their idea to come and do the Bingo nights to help out the center. Now that we’ve gotten to a much better place financially, we’re able to split the proceeds to go to both the Pride Center and the Cyber Sluts’ other charities throughout the community.”

In September, the Cyber Sluts collected more than $2,000 from Bingo night alone. And according to Nuttall, who attends Bingo night to direct “the Pride Center side of things,” the number will only continue to grow. She said the game night fundraiser is attracting a bigger and “more diverse crowd,” and at $5 admission per person, that can add up.

Nuttall also noted that the Cyber Sluts plan to take the event “on the road,” hosting Bingo night starting Dec. 14, 2007, at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society (6876 S. Highland Dr., Salt Lake City) for the next few months, then moving it to another part of the valley.

The Cyber Sluts experience no shortage of Bingo, AIDS benefits and Pride weeks, but just how does one find himself performing in drag for charity? Steward’s story starts with the formation of the troupe itself, which was inspired by the Denver Cycle Sluts, a similar fundraising outfit. Two inquisitive Utahns, Rand Bodily and Chris Trujillo, caught a Cycle Slut performance nearly 17 years ago and felt inspired to mimic their antics and generosity, according to an article published in the November 2007 issue of QSaltLake.

Taking their concept back to Utah’s salty turf, Bodily adopted the name Lucky Charms, and Trujillo became Andromeda Strange. As they acquired more volunteers, the twosome blossomed into a full-fledged performance troupe, which they named the Utah Cyber Sluts — tweaking the moniker to slightly differ from the Denver group’s.

As one of their first charitable efforts, they started Camp Pinecliff Weekend, an annual camping retreat for people with HIV/AIDS, their family and their caregivers. And while the camp acts to bring hope to those with the disease, it also serves as the birthplace of Ruby Ridge, who now is one of the event’s main coordinators.

“I knew Rand and Chris, and we just got to talking one night in the lodge and boom! Ruby was born,” Steward explained. “They are great performers and sort of dragged me along by my boot straps until I learned the basics.”

Though founders Bodily and Trujillo have passed the leadership torch on to other Sluts, such as Ida Slapter, the current “Madame,” Ridge and the rest of the troupe continue to reach out to the LGBT community, and beyond.

“They really promote a sense of community,” Nuttall said, “and they’re a great and fun social outlet for both our community and the community at large.”

Just like the Sluts aren’t limited to raising funds for just one demographic of the community, Steward isn’t limited to playing Ridge only under the Cyber Slut name. He also flexes Ridge’s sharp-tongued wit as a columnist for the local LGBT news and entertainment newspaper, QSaltLake. Her column, in which she touches on current events amid a bounty of endearment terms (calling readers “muffins,” “petals,” etc.), has gained a steady following. According to Assistant Editor JoSelle Vanderhooft, Ridge’s column, “Rocky Meadows Mascara,” is one of the paper’s most popular features.

“I’m really surprised at how many people actually read my column,” Ridge said. “I always did it as a joke, but people really respond to it.”

In many ways, the same sentiment applies to the Utah Cyber Sluts. Though they joke with funny names, bad fashion sense and diva attitudes, they get the attention of many in the community at large, and it’s due to their unique and entertaining take on charity work.

Respect, accuracy key to coverage, GLAAD strategist says

by YEVGENIYA KOPELEVA

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation offered a presentation on media essentials on Oct. 16, 2007, in support of Pride Week at the University of Utah. Adam Bass, the Northwest media field strategist for GLAAD, encouraged aspiring journalists to recognize and write effective pro-LGBT messages.

“A good example of an effective pro-LGBT message could be something like this: University of Utah Pride is an opportunity to showcase our diverse student body and let every student know he or she is valued as a member of the community,” Bass said.

GLAAD’s media field strategy teams provide training to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people and straight allies illustrate more effectively the power of local media to encourage respect, inclusion and acceptance. In addition, the teams work closely with organizations and individuals to develop strategies and contacts, create news coverage and train spokespeople. Bass’ role is to be a community and media resource for whoever is writing or speaking about the LGBT community.

He encourages people to correct misrepresentations and factual errors in the media by responding with a message that will educate and inform others. “When you respond to a story or an article, do stay positive and be for, not just against something,” Bass said. “Don’t make it us versus them.” He believes it is vital to stick to what you know, since the message must match the messenger, but also said not to be afraid to be on the offensive. Bass told the audience to remember to reclaim facts and valuable statements with proper language and not to repeat the opponent’s negative message.

For example, when writing letters to the editor, Bass said it’s essential to respond to the defamatory coverage by clarifying the misconception or inaccuracy of an opponent. “The strategies for writing a letter to the editor are: making a strong affirmative statement, tell your personal story, support your statement with facts and strengthen the existing positive message of your organization,” Bass said.

Once you have created an effective message, the next step is knowing your audience. Bass said there is no such thing as a general audience; rather, individuals need to speak to the “movable media,” those who will be affected by the issue or subject. “It’s important to tell your personal story and to let your message come from experience, but to also know your boundaries,” Bass said. He encourages people to use “buzz” words like freedom, justice, democracy, love and commitment to build bridges with readers or the audience. The goal is to convince your audience that your position is reasonable and persuasive.

“It’s simply about taking the personal story and making it a universal message. For example, try using the Oprah effect; ask someone to sit on a couch and tell you their story,” Bass said.

On the other hand, the goal of writing an opinion editorial is to summarize an issue, develop a persuasive argument and propose solutions. The strategies behind writing an opinion piece are: Begin with your personal story, include facts and make the complex issue clear. “Whether it’s a letter to an editor or an opinion editorial, it’s essential to keep it short and concise, to be specific in the response and to not assume audience knowledge,” Bass said.

He said he approached the editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle at the U about publishing the word “homosexual” in a story. In response, the staff committed to altering their pre-existing style rules to appropriately address the LGBT community. “The explanation of the term as a scientific branding propagated by a number of anti-gay publications made it clear to me that we should include more specific instructions on use of the word in our own style guide,” said Matthew Piper, editor-in-chief of the Daily Utah Chronicle.

GLAAD, the third largest LGBT civil rights group in America, strives to change hearts and minds by altering the way media portray the LGBT community. “We are a media advocate and watchdog for the LGBT community,” Bass said.

The organization was founded in New York City in 1985 in response to the defamatory anti-gay media coverage during the beginning days of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States. GLAAD’s mission is “to promote and ensure fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”

GLAAD strives to meet people where they are and to foster broader conversations with anyone and everyone. “We talk about stories to open hearts and minds,” Bass said.