Everybody Tattoo Studio: A safe space for ‘everybody’ in Salt Lake City

Story and photos by ASIA BOWN

There’s a steady buzz in the studio from tattoo guns. Overlapping this white noise are conversations between artists and their patrons, discussing favorite restaurants, clothes and swapping personal stories. It’s noon and the walls are bathed in sunlight streaming in through the large east-facing windows. The small studio is decorated in pastel decor, a pearlescent couch, white room divider and clippings of each artist’s designs above their stations. The ever-so-slightly slanted floors point to a large mirror at the back of the studio, where customers and artists alike check out their new tattoos.

Above the noise and general chatter, the artists can be heard routinely checking in with their guests. They ask how their clients are feeling, if they need a break, if they’re comfortable, and provide numerous opportunities for customers to voice their concerns or desires. 

Located at 401 N. 300 West in Salt Lake City’s Marmalade District, Everybody Tattoo is a beacon for people of all backgrounds. Ensuring comfort is of paramount importance to the artists who work there and is a core part of the shop’s culture.

Before Victoria Minji Lee took over as shop owner, Everybody Tattoo was owned and run by Gheybin Comish, a local tattoo artist. Comish established the shop as a hub for self-taught and community-taught artists who chose an alternate route into the tattoo industry. 

Generally, becoming a tattoo artist requires a lot of training, research and an apprenticeship. This process is championed by artists who have gone through it, though it can be degrading, exhausting and financially draining work. Because of this, many artists have decided to carve out their own paths consisting of extensive sanitation and safety coursework followed by practice on themselves and friends.  

Comish welcomed artists on non-traditional paths and curated a similarly non-traditional environment in the shop that focused heavily on artist individuality and respect between artists and clients.

Currently six artists work permanently in Lee’s studio, including herself. Each artist’s work is unique and diverges from the traditional American tattoo style in some way. Lee specializes in animal- and plant-themed tattoos. Resident artist Mikki Reeve’s work is whimsical and heavily features skeletons, cherubs and animals. 

Long-time residents Hallie Rose Taylor and Logan Law’s designs tend to be bold. Law’s work is psychedelic, with thick line work and patterns. Taylor’s work is more abstract, consisting of natural elements and fantastical imagery.

Sam Walker, the studio’s newest resident, creates designs based on nature, cartoons and abstract images. Walker’s work is more colorful, and utilizes complex line work and designs are often scaled to larger sizes.

Hiri Sung specializes in hand poke tattoos that range from cartoon characters to fairies to abstract linework. In the hand poke tattoo method, the artist uses a needle with a handle to create designs using dots, much like pointillism art. Machine tattooing involves a small handheld machine with needles on the end used to create lines using small strokes. 

Artist Hiri Sung is free-handing this client’s extensive branch handpoke tattoo.

Most of the artists in the studio take custom tattoo requests and flash requests. An artist’s flash designs are their own artwork that they usually tattoo as-is, though sometimes they will make small modifications for a client. 

The Client Experience

When Lee took over in 2020, she continued to build the best environment for the shop’s artists and clients. To her, everybody in the shop should feel welcome and safe, and as such the shop consists of female and non-binary artists of different ethnicities. 

Getting a tattoo is, after all, an intimate experience and necessitates trust between the artist and client. Everybody Tattoo artists make it a point to provide opportunities for their clients to express their desires and collaborate in the process. They want to see their art on someone who is just as obsessed with it as they are.

In between appointments, resident artist Hiri Sung enjoyed a drink at Blue Copper Coffee 2000 next door and elaborated on the Everybody Tattoo experience from a client’s perspective. 

“You’re never going to come in and feel like we aren’t listening to you. That’s a huge thing that I feel like is different about the shop. We’ll actually listen to you, we’re not going to rush you to pick a placement, we’re not going to intimidate you,” Sung said.

Kenzie Smith, one of the shop’s loyal clients, echoed Sung’s sentiments. She described appointments at Everybody Tattoo as full-on experiences.

At other tattoo shops, she said, she felt like artists just saw her as a business transaction. It was obvious to her that artists at Everybody Tattoo considered their work to be art that their clients play an important role in creating.

From the beginning of every appointment customers have the freedom of choice. They’re able to choose a size from a series of printed templates and try different placements until they find the one they like best.

Victoria Minji Lee’s client has chosen a size and placement for her tattoo using this stencil that Lee provided and applied.

Not only will the artist have a few templates available to start, but they will also have others ready to print so that the client doesn’t feel like they’re wasting time by asking the artist to print more. Smith said this was an uncomfortable part of past appointments she had at other shops.

She also noted that tattoo artists usually want to go bigger in size because it means they’ll make more money.

During one appointment at the studio, Lee had printed three stencils of a goose for Smith to choose from. The last was so large Smith recalled thinking it looked comedic, which was not the way she’d envisioned this tattoo. Lee agreed and said the smallest size would suit Smith’s arm best.

The experience at Everybody Tattoo includes friendly conversation should clients want it. In addition, the artists are completely open to a more meditative appointment with interaction limited to check-ins.

At Everybody Tattoo, Smith said, you feel like you’re hanging out with a friend and all of a sudden you have a new tattoo.

One of the biggest differences in her experiences at Everybody Tattoo compared to other shops was the level of communication the artists provide. She has been tattooed by two different artists at the studio, Lee and Logan Law. 

Never once in four appointments did Smith feel like she couldn’t say what was on her mind, nor did she feel like there was the superiority complex that she so often felt at other shops.

Working at Everybody 

Lee said this level of respect and communication is a vital aspect of Everybody Tattoo’s culture behind the scenes as well. 

“It’s equally as important for our artists to feel welcome and safe [as our clients],” Lee said in a Zoom interview. 

The artists are constantly having to navigate the balance between making their customers comfortable and making sure they feel safe with their clients. They need to be able to tell Lee if a client or clients are making them feel uncomfortable in any way.

Hiri Sung described the work environment as that of a cooperative. Lee owns the shop, but she doesn’t reinforce a hierarchy of power with the other artists. At Everybody Tattoo, they treat each other as equals and Lee values their input.

Artist Victoria Minji Lee is seen tattooing at her station next to her hanging flash designs.

Lee’s position as the owner gives her more responsibility in maintaining the shop’s culture, so she’s the one to take ultimate action should it be necessary. 

Sung mentioned one issue she’s had at Everybody Tattoo. On numerous occasions, clients in the studio have asked Sung how her baby is doing or made a comment about her baby. 

While the comments were well-intentioned, the problem here is that Sung doesn’t have a baby — Lee does.

Clients were confusing the two artists for one another and it got to the point where Lee had to create an infographic to remind clients that there are two Korean artists in the shop.

Sung described Lee’s leadership as bringing comfort, openness and a higher standard of treatment. Her coworkers feel like they can confide in her without judgment or risk to their jobs. 

Racism in the SLC Tattoo Industry

Despite its deep roots in various indigenous cultures, the tattoo industry consists of mostly white people, namely white men. In an area like Salt Lake City, where Asians make up less than 10% of the city’s population, the population of Asians in the tattoo industry here is extremely low. 

Due to the demographic and political makeup of the state and city, there also exists a lower level of awareness of the various facets of racism, including microaggressions and appropriation. 

One popular request tattoo artists get is for “Asian-inspired” designs. Sung said that she’d received various requests like this, though she takes a hard stance against tattooing Asian art on people who are not of Asian descent, citing cultural appropriation.

When someone uses imagery from another culture, without any knowledge of its history or significance, their actions are defined as appropriation. Lee and Sung described another type of appropriation in tattooing that occurs when a non-Asian artist tattoos Asian designs and therefore reaps the financial benefits. 

Often, people guilty of appropriation defend their actions by claiming that they have cultural appreciation. 

Sung said that people don’t always necessarily have bad intentions, but intent doesn’t outweigh impact. She always appreciates people who own their actions and commit to doing better. 

On her Instagram account and in emails, she states upfront that certain cultural designs can only be requested by people who are a part of that culture. This is her way of cutting down on confrontation in situations like these.

Lee, too, acknowledged the existence of race-related issues, though she hasn’t encountered quite as many requests like the ones Sung has gotten. But in 2021, she limited her tattoos to flash only so she isn’t designing tattoos based on customer requests anymore.

“At the end of the day we’re trying to educate. We’re not trying to, like, keep someone away from the shop just because they make a mistake,” Sung said.

Lee knows that microaggressions will likely not completely disappear, but she recognizes that it could be worse and has hope for the future.

“Thankfully, things are changing in the right direction and people are more sensitive to these things,” Lee remarked, hopeful that the community will continue improving.

One Latinx drag artist’s journey and integration of QTBIPOC spaces in Salt Lake City

Story and photo by JASMINE BARLOW

*Editor’s Note: QTBIPOC represents an acronym for Queer & Trans Black, Indigenous, People of Color.

Salt Lake City is making strides in opening diverse, engaging spaces for QTBIPOC artists and youth to express themselves in a variety of art, healing, and community programs.

Justice Legacy, a 20-year-old Latinx drag artist (pronouns: they/them), has passionately immersed themself into such spaces, honing and experimenting with their craft and personas. Featured as a performer across several venues, including the Utah Pride Center and Queer Haven SLC, their “coming-of-stage” story is steeped in courage, vitality, and being true to oneself.

Justice Legacysmall

Complexities surrounding Legacy’s upbringing weren’t always so glamorous. “I didn’t grow up with my biological father,” Legacy says. “He was an alcoholic, so our mom kicked him out because she didn’t really want that negativity around us. He was eventually deported to Mexico, so I grew up with my mother and my sister’s father.”

Reflecting on this change, Legacy realized that the absence of their father meant an absence of their Latinx roots. “Since I didn’t grow up with my dad, he carried the Hispanic side because my mom is white,” they says. “Although my sister’s dad was of Mexican descent, I was dipped into [Latinx culture] more than completely engulfed. I feel I have been ripped from a culture I really wanted to be a part of.”

Aching to rekindle this part of their identity, Legacy recently began teaching themself Spanish, learning more deeply about Latinx culture, and discovering what it means to be Latinx. For example, their primary onstage persona derives from traditional beauty ideals of Latinx women. “[My Latinx background] has definitely played into my look the most,” Legacy says. “I love the long black hair, bold red lips; very Selena!”

Sexuality and gender expression, another major aspect of Legacy’s identity, was explored at a young age. However, it wasn’t always met with acceptance. “If I wanted a Barbie or something not necessarily made for a boy, it was almost always met with a ‘no,’” Legacy says. “It was because my [father figure] wasn’t very accepting with what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be.” On the other hand, Legacy’s mother responded differently. “My mom grew and adapted, so I didn’t really have to come out to her. She always knew.”

It was in high school that exploration began to manifest as outward expression. “In high school, I did not understand my gender or who I wanted to be, so I came out as gender fluid,” Legacy says. “Basically, I wanted to wake up every day and dress as the gender I felt.”

The transition of gender fluidity subsequently sparked an interest in pursuing drag and makeup artistry. “I eventually came to realize that I want to identify as male, and use drag to express my feminine side,” Legacy says. “My styling is all self-taught. I woke up one morning and I was like ‘I wanna be a hairstylist, a makeup artist, all of it.’ I started practicing makeup, and my mom showed me.”

A big break emerged for Legacy when they were invited to perform at Queer Prom, an annual LGBTQ+ youth dance hosted by the Utah Pride Center (UPC). “I was ecstatic,” Legacy says. “I ordered a really good wig, and I thought I would splurge on my outfit.” The invitation also evoked feelings of nervousness, as it was one of UPC’s major events during the year and the young artist was fairly new to the drag performance industry.

Ultimately, it proved to be one of the most memorable, life-changing performances up to date. “It was a really crazy awakening,” Legacy says. “They asked me to stand by the photo booth, and people would come up and say: ‘You are such an inspiration, it’s so amazing what you do, you are so gorgeous.’ I couldn’t believe the impact I was making.”

Following the Queer Prom experience, Justice Legacy was invited to perform at other UPC events, including Masqueerade and another year of Queer Prom, as well as Queer Haven shows hosted at the Beerhive.

When asked about the inspiration behind the name “Justice Legacy,” it came from an affinity for “strong powerful heroines” and a twist of the “Justice League” series title. “It felt like a perfect name for me,” Legacy says. “I wanted to feel like Wonder Woman or Power Girl.”

If Legacy could go back in time, they would want to let their younger self know how much power they truly hold. “Sometimes I get too much into my head. I had really bad anxiety in high school,” Legacy says. “I would remind myself that where my mind is taking me to is not actually going to happen. It still takes a lot of reminding myself now that everything is going to be OK.”

Justice Legacy commends the amazing love, support, and authenticity imbued in the city’s queer spaces for supporting their journey.

Existimos is an inclusive, artistic community devoted to supporting QTBIPOC individuals like Justice Legacy. “We created Existimos because we wanted more art-focused spaces and events made for diverse and marginalized communities in [Salt Lake City],” says Graciela Campos, co-founder of Existimos with her sister, Patricia. “We just wanted our own community space that was ours.”

In response to how the broader Utah community can better serve the interests and needs of Latinx artists, Campos encourages tangible, meaningful action steps. “Buy art from them, hire them for gigs, go to local shows, pass the mic,” Campos says in an email interview. “Sometimes the broader art community only cares about what’s happening in bigger organizations or the biggest institutions where, honestly, a lot of local artists are better than what you see in museums and more diverse.”

To gain exposure and find more resources, Existimos decided to participate in Utah’s annual 2019 summer Pride event for the first time, despite the “crunch time” to make it happen. “We worked with local creatives Clover and Marqueza to plan it because we wanted more views and opinions,” Campos says. “My sister and I can’t speak for everyone in the QTBIPOC community.”

Campos believes that Pride should be a celebration about “community and existing unapologetically.” “[It] isn’t about cute slogans or pricey merch[andise] or rainbows everywhere,” she says.

Campos has a deep purpose and yearning for starting Existimos and creating the dynamic it is today. “I think [QTBIPOC] want to be in a space where they feel loved and accepted,” she says. “A space where they meet fellow creatives and feel inspired. A place to escape from the harsh realities they deal with. At the end of the day, they just want to find love and a sense of family and I believe we bring that.”

Running and maintaining the space (located at 7677 S. Main St. in Midvale) can be challenging: from working a day job, to balancing all of the responsibilities with a personal life. Funding the space seems to be the most pressing challenge. “We have a GoFundMe that everyone should check out and spread. It gives us funding to keep the space open every month,” Campos says.

Despite these challenges, the events reportedly turn out to be an intimate, heart-warming experience for everyone involved. “We don’t really care about turnouts or calculate those types of things,” Campos says. “We hold Zumba classes to like eight people and those are so uplifting. We have dance parties, movie nights, and art shows. We don’t care who shows up as long as people know there is space for them and they feel at ease and welcomed.”

For QTBIPOC feeling disempowered and struggling to find their voices, Campos imparts a message of hope: “There is a community out there, and it does get better. No one can ever be you, and the world would be less bright without you. So be authentically yourself.”

Be yourself, dance with PRIDE

Story by Kathryn A. Hackman

Prom, along with baseball and apple pie, create the red, white and blue experience. It’s a dance that nearly every American can look back on or look forward to. It’s a glamorous night of ball gowns and boutonnieres, a rite of passage for many teens across the nation that fits within society’s hetero-normative expectations.

Since the dawn of prom, it’s always been the same. A boy asks a girl to the dance. The boy wears a tuxedo, and the girl wears a dress. And that is that. However, that narrative is an exclusionary one. What about the boy who doesn’t want to ask a girl to the dance? Or the girl who doesn’t want to wear a dress? Or the person who doesn’t see their place in an event so heavily influenced by traditional gender roles?

Historically teens in the LGBTQ+ community have been left out of this quintessential high school experience. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be completely barred from attending the event.

“Even if schools allow students to be who they are, that still doesn’t guarantee a safe environment,” said Liesl Archbold, the youth & family program coordinator: ages 14-20 at the Utah Pride Center.

However, out of this isolation came one of Utah’s most vibrant and inclusive events to ever take place within the Salt Lake Valley — Queer Prom. For over a decade, the Utah Pride Center has put on a prom that can shine with the best of them. It’s a party where everyone is invited to be themselves.

This is a dance founded on authenticity and inclusivity. Teens from all over the west travel to Salt Lake City to experience the kind of prom that everyone who is interested in attending, should have. Members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies alike come together for a night of fun times and fond memories.

Gabe Glissmeyer attended two Queer Proms before working the event in 2014. “For allies, it’s a good way to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. It prompts them to think about why the queer community needs their own prom. And second, it’s just so fun!” Glissmeyer said.

In 2019, the dance was held at the Salt Lake City Library. And with over 1,000 people in attendance, the energy was bursting at the seams.

At Prom 2020, attendees can anticipate being whisked away by the theme, Out at Sea. The main floor of the library will be a party on the beach, complete with dancing, snacks, and mocktails. The mocktails are a fan favorite at the prom.

“I get to mix them and make them,” Liesl Archbold said. “In fact, we make the syrups right here in the center! Don’t worry, I have a food handlers license,” she said, laughing.

As attendees leave the aloha sands on the main floor and head downstairs, they should prepare themselves for an under-the-sea twist.

Here they may find the photo booth, ready to capture the evening. Or perhaps attendees will stumble upon the psychics who can offer a glimpse into the future.

“The psychics are a relatively new addition to our prom. A few years ago, we did a carnival-themed Queer Prom, and they were a huge hit! So we’ve had them back every year since,” Archbold said.

Because the party never stops, guests can step away from the lively event for some relaxing fun too. The Chill Space is something that sets Queer Prom apart from the rest. It’s a room away from the noise, dimly lit by fairy lights, and filled with blow-up furniture. Here guests can find coloring pages, sensory glitter jars, and earplugs.

It is no wonder Queer Prom has been such a success. Brianna Burton attended Queer Prom in 2013 and still looks back on it fondly. “I remember thinking how cool it was to put on a prom for kids who don’t feel comfortable getting to go to their own school’s prom.”

The only thing teens should worry about at Queer Prom is whether their favorite song made it onto the playlist, and nothing more. Safety is of high priority to the Utah Pride Center. Every adult in attendance, whether they are staff, the photographer, or the DJ, goes through a background check.

As for when the Queer Prom 2020: Out at Sea will take place? The date has yet to be determined. In response to the global spread of COVID-19 and Gov. Gary Herbert’s recommendation to limit gatherings, the dance has been postponed. As more information is gathered, the Pride Center will post updates on the event on both its Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Editor-in-chief in his veins

Story and gallery by Kara D. Rhodes

Utah loves local culture especially in Salt Lake Valley, from the local farmers market and local breweries to our very own local newspapers. One of the most popular independent newspapers in Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City Weekly, has a stellar editor-in-chief you may not be aware of. Enrique Limón moved to the city after having lived in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.

Limón comes from a long line of “newspapermen,” as he describes it. “My great grandfather, Hernando Limón, a general in the Mexican Army, was editor and publisher of a bilingual weekly in the SD/TJ (San Diego/Tijuana) region generations ago,” Limón says in an email interview. His family is very proud of this achievement, especially his mother.

Being Latinx is described by Limón as being an “invaluable tool.” This includes his language skills, current event knowledge and pop history knowledge. Limón wakes up every day with the energy to excel in his duties. “Careers in media are notorious for burning people out, so thinking about every day as a new adventure, is my accomplishment,” he says.

Not only is Limón a part of the Latinx community but he is also a member of the LGBTQ community. “I am aware of representation issues within those two communities (and beyond), and I do my best to contribute,” Limón says. He also explains how it shapes his day-to-day routine. Although there are many challenges one faces by being in both communities, Limón says he wouldn’t trade being a part of them for anything.  

Limón, like others, has concerns about the Latinx/LGBTQ community. “Higher risk of homelessness, drug addiction, and other life-altering situations. There is a good number of crimes against people on DACA, for example, that never go reported in this country, because victims think doing so might affect their immigration status. It’s heartbreaking,” Limón says.

Limón suggests several ways that Utah could better serve the Latinx/LGBTQ communities, including creating safe spaces, so that people may be themselves without fear of harm or ridicule. A larger spread of gay-straight alliances is important as well. “Normalization, ensuring kids don’t feel ostracized because of something that’s embedded in who they are, should become second-nature,” Limón says. Multiple organizations in Salt Lake City offer programs, such as Encircle and the Utah Pride Center.

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“Everyone could benefit by being a little kinder — parents, schoolmates, teachers, clergy, etc.,” he says.

Limón concludes by giving praise in an email. “Congrats to The University of Utah. For Voices of Utah, Westminster College for their office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and other educational institutions across the state for highlighting the importance of inclusiveness. Your efforts are positively affecting people, especially young people, in ways you might never know.”

Nick McGregor, a City Weekly employee, has worked with Limón for one year. “Enrique’s background and position at City Weekly help him think outside the box and seek out underrepresented voices to make sure they’re present,” McGregor says in an email interview. Having worked with over 25 editors in his 13 years of journalism, McGregor says he believes that what sets Limón apart from the numerous editors before is his passion for the city as well as his audience.  

Another City Weekly employee, Namoi Clegg, praises Limón, “Enrique is always willing to work with new ideas and people. He also has high expectations, which is a good thing, I think. You damn well better be prepared, because he is not putting up with bullshit from staff or writers. I think his skills really lie in the curation and community-building aspect of the paper,” Clegg says in an email interview.

Clegg says there is no doubt that Limón’s background plays a role in the way he is an editor. “Enrique is a gay, Latinx man. He’s also an excellent editor. It feels reductive to say that Enrique is an excellent editor because of his personal characteristics; at the same time, his background gives him a much-needed perspective that a white, straight man would most likely lack,” Clegg says.

When asked about her thoughts on diversifying the newsroom Clegg had a lot to say. “I really strongly believe that our lived experiences — as women or LGBT folks or people of color — allow us to see angles and stories that are really difficult to pick up on for people who haven’t been marginalized. It’s really, really easy to miss small pieces of the story, pieces that are really essential to the people living the story but pieces that privilege often doesn’t allow us to see, even if we’re doing a lot of work to get outside of our preconceived notions.”

Limón shows that where one comes from is a strength and should be used to one’s best ability. 


Dual oppression living Latinx and LGBTQ+

Story by Kara D. Rhodes

There are communities people join and there are communities people are born into. In some instances, people are born into two communities that do give strength but attached is oppression. Dual minority has a lot of weight to it but there is courage in numbers. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Data analysis by the Williams Institute reveals there are approximately 1.4 million LGBT Latinx adults currently living in the United States.” This is a mass of people who are living with, as far as we are aware, dual oppression and this can be a difficult road to navigate.

Maren Simmons, 22, has had challenges of her own. Coming from a strict religious background within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she says, “When I’m out in public or on a date I get stared at or even given dirty looks.”

Both of these communities, LGBTQ+ and Latinx, have a history of being shamed publicly for things they cannot control. Simmons advised younger LGBTQ and Latinx folks, “Don’t ever change yourself because someone else thinks it is wrong. I found that opening up to friends and family about how I felt made me feel better.”

The Human Rights Campaign lists the most important issues these folks face: immigration, language and access barriers, economic insecurity, violence and harassment, and HIV and health inequity. According to the HRC, 72 percent of LGBTQ+ Latinx youth have heard their family say something negative about LGBTQ people.


Eva Lopez creator of Orgullo Utah.

Eva Lopez, a 22-year-old student at the University of Utah, was missing the representation and diversity among the LGBTQ community so she created a space for it. Orgullo Utah is a queer space led and formed by Latinx folk. Lopez has always been proud of her Mexican heritage but she said she also faced challenges because of it. “The identity of being Mexican has its layers of racial challenges from micro-aggression to policy exclusion. Culturally and ethnically, I am Mexican and very proud it!”

Acknowledging and embracing her intersecting identities eventually brought peace to Lopez. “I came out to myself and was able to work through the challenges of acceptance and celebration. Coming from a conservative, Catholic, Latino background, I struggled immensely finding the peace I desperately craved,” Lopez said. After acceptance, she discovered a state of authenticity and happiness.

Her aspirations don’t stop at Orgullo Utah. There are many things she believes the U could to to support Latinx and LGBTQ folks. Lopez suggests, “We need more trained individuals to help navigate healthy conversations around identity. We also need to make sure that faculty and students are not closeting queer students with dress-codes … and enabling healthy dialogue within classrooms.” There is an LGBTQ Resource Center on campus that Lopez is forever grateful for, but she said there is always room for improvement. Asset_Story2


Like Lopez, Cristobal Villegas experiences challenges as a Latinx and LGBTQ person. “My experience as a gay, latinx man is complex and multi-faceted. I grew up LDS (Latter-day Saint) and served a church mission. My family has had a strong tie to machismo and traditional gender roles,” Villegas said.

Villegas’ coming-out story isn’t very positive because of the conservative household he grew up in. “Coming out to a socially conservative household was met with anger and confusion,” he said. Villegas suggests that Utah could better serve their community by recognizing that people like Villegas exist and providing access to better healthcare.   

“It is important to understand oneself as that will lead to more justice for more people. My struggle is connected to everyone else’s, and as such I must be knowledgeable of how I fit in to oppressive systems and institutions and receive oppression from systems and institutions,” says Villegas on advice he’d give to Latinx LGBTQ+ youth. 


Is Latinx the new norm?

Navigating the landscape of inclusive speech in 2019

Story and images by JUSTIN TROMBETTI


Culture is in a constant state of evolution, ebbing and flowing between ideas and advancements that slowly ingrain themselves into what we call the status quo. Language is very much a part of this reality.

Language develops naturally for functional purposes, but perhaps more importantly is how and why it bends to the emotional side of humanity. The term Latinx, first searched on Google in 2004 and seeing a huge trend spike in 2015, is one of the latest examples of this.

Its percolation to the surface of our cultural dialogue has been driven by the ever-loudening voices of ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, allies, and their opposition alike. If every generation sees its own push for civil rights and inclusivity, this development could well be a leading indicator of the next one, if not a lagging indicator of the last.

A recent poll revealed that over 20 percent of Latinx millennials identify as LGBTQIA+, and as the Latinx population as a whole continues to grow, the relevance of the conversation would seem to be self-evident.

But what do the most direct stakeholders think of the term, or how to approach inclusivity as a whole? How do allies approach the debate delicately, and how does the advent of broader opinions on political correctness influence it all?

Unpacking these paradigm shifts is a challenging undertaking in its own right, but it becomes especially difficult when there is overwhelming consistency in the discomfort of sharing these types of opinions on record.

Some sources interviewed for this story cited our fragile socio-political climate, public opinion of the media, and a rise in intolerance and hate crimes as sources for this discomfort.

A gender-fluid individual who uses the pronoun they and asked not to be identified on record for many of the reasons noted above, said about inclusivity, “Latin is just a generally more appropriate term.

“It’s a completely a gender [sic] term that does not create a notable difference when used in conjunction with words like Latina and Latino.”

They shared a strong sentiment against the use of the term Latinx, however. While many believe its adoption is a step toward more inclusive language, the source describes it as isolating.

“[It’s] as though the x itself identifies you as other,” they said.

Their dissension with other popular opinions of the term elucidates an important reality of these types of discussions. While part of a cohort of non gender-conforming Latinx individuals, that doesn’t mean that everyone feels the same about certain language.

Others see Latinx as the next step in reaching real, palpable inclusivity. Some went as far as to say they found the development to be unnecessary, or even an outright bastardization of their native tongue.

In trying to make sense of sensitive and complex issues, it’s often best to understand the history behind them. Ed Muñoz, an associate professor of ethnic studies and sociology at the University of Utah, helped to do just that.

To Muñoz, this is the latest iteration of a cyclical occurrence. He’s paid close attention over many decades to the dissection and emergence of terms like Chicano, Latin (and the o/a appendage that was eventually added), Hispanic, and the use of nationality-based language.

The ultimate goal of finding a “pan-ethnic term” for a group sharing a variety of underlying struggles may seem a straightforward idea, but it is often anything but in reality. Muñoz explained that within the Latinx community, issues of class, skin color, gender struggle, and more have fueled these debates.

He recalled that many Latinx feminists who were instrumental in the struggle for gender equality found the degendering of the language exclusive, the development of slang like “Highspanic,” and time periods where certain phrases implied privilege.

The adoption of anti-PC beliefs, though, still have yet to be unpacked. The perceived over-sensitivity of the modern generations, which has grown more and more prevalent in American culture especially, exists within the conversation still. Muñoz believes this to be a systemic issue, a combination of “the internalization of racism and ethnic self-hatred” that has been perpetuated for decades, even centuries.

As he was not unironically sitting in a coffee shop called Mestizo (a term which refers to a man of mixed race), he pondered a question posed to him that the other sources for this story had earlier tried working through: How does a non-ethnic person with no practical horse in this race go about being a decent ally?

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Mestizo Coffeehouse, where Ed Muñoz spoke to Voices of Utah, is nestled within a small apartment complex in a diversity-rich area of downtown Salt Lake City.

“I’m still learning to be a good ally,” he responded with a subtle hint of calm acceptance. He explained that while some may lack ethnic context, he lacks some context too as a cisgendered male. At face value, it seems more convoluting than it does helpful, but as the conversation continued, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there’s no right answer here.

Rebecca Chavez-Houck made a statement during a Voices of Utah press pool that seemed to further cement this idea. The former journalist and Utah state representative stated that she thought one of the biggest issues facing the Latinx community was the monolithic narrative so many hold about them.

That is, there’s no such thing as a blanket belief, opinion, or characteristic that applies to Hispanics. Further, Chavez-Houck said she believes that all too often the Latinx community is perceived to be defined by deficits and struggle, rather than the many strengths and positive qualities unique to them.

She asserts, “We’re a much more complex community than that.”

So what does it all mean for the future of Latinx and inclusive language? It’s often easy to assume that some kind of objectively correct answer exists out there, whatever it might be. With that mentality, though, we might be asking the wrong question entirely.

No single approach or word choice would have been “most right” to a majority of the individuals who were interviewed. The common denominator among them was not a preference or philosophy, but rather an investment in the dialogue and the impact that it has on them.

Latinx could be here to stay, or it could be in today and out tomorrow, but the conversation will persist regardless. The best thing any of us can do may well be to just listen to it.


LGBT Pacific Islanders in Utah face discrimination

Story and photos by SHAELYN BARBER

It takes a village to raise a child, but what happens if that child does not fit into male or female gender identities? In Pacific Islander culture, it is not an issue.

Across the Pacific Island cultures, these individuals are known by many different names. In Samoa, they are Fa’afafine. In Hawai’i, they are Māhū. In Tonga, they are Fakaleiti. These are the people who are not male or female, but somewhere in the middle: a third gender.

The third gender is an integral part of traditional Pacific Island culture, and individuals who fall into this spectrum are highly respected members of society. People who are part of the third gender category do not adhere strictly to stereotypical characteristics of male or female genders, and often display characteristics of both. The Pacific Island third gender category can include people who act or dress in a way that is not associated with the sex they were assigned at birth or people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.

“It’s important to see the similarities between Māhū and transgender identities here in the U.S., but also it’s not just a direct translation,” says Maile Arvin, a native Hawaiian and assistant professor of gender studies and history at the University of Utah. “I think it’s just a little bit different than transgender in the sense that that was a defined role that was honored in Native Hawaiian society, that has its own history.”

Arvin says that traditional gender roles in Pacific Island societies are balanced and are not necessarily matriarchal or patriarchal communities. Within them, masculine and feminine roles are distinctive but receive equal amounts of respect. Men are typically the protectors, workers and financial supporters of their families. Women take on the role of caretakers of the family and the home. People who identify in one of these third-gender identities have a role within traditional Pacific Island societies as well: they are usually the leaders and teachers of spirituality and culture.

“Sometimes it’s hard for non-Hawaiian people to understand what Māhū means,” Arvin says. “So, in some contexts it might just be more convenient to identify as transgender instead of going into explanations about what Māhū is.”

People who identify as a third gender in Pacific Islander societies often find it difficult to explain the meaning to others who are not familiar with it. Despite parallels to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) identities, the two are distinct. Someone can identify with both an LGBT identity and an identity in the third-gender spectrum.

“I’m not really picky but I know that I personally identify as feminine pronouns, but then when people see me they’re like, what the heck? I don’t get it,” says Leka Heimuli, who works as a secretary for the Office for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the Salt Lake Community College South City Campus. Heimuli is Fakaleiti, the Tongan term for the third gender, and describes herself as a gay man who prefers female pronouns and typically dresses in a masculine way.


Leka Heimuli, secretary for the Office for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the Salt Lake Community College South City Campus

Heimuli is a first-generation Polynesian Tongan American. Her mother and father both emigrated from Tonga searching for opportunities for work, education and a better life. They met in Utah, got married and had six children, a small family by Pacific Island standards, which Heimuli says typically have between 10 and 15 children.

“I feel like when colonialism came, you know, to our shores that’s when you kind of see that drift of, oh, that’s wrong. That’s bad,” Heimuli says. “I think now we kind of use those terms in a derogatory manner.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has raised controversy because of its doctrine concerning the LGBT community. According to church doctrine sexual and marital relationships should only be between one man and one woman, and sex or marriage between two people of the same sex is forbidden. According to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the state of Utah has the highest percentage of constituents in the United States.

“We’re here, you know, like, you can’t control it,” Heimuli says. “There are members [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] I feel don’t come out because of like … that stigma that’s maybe placed on them from the church or maybe from the beliefs.”

Heimuli says that while the discrimination against LGBT and third-gender Pacific Islanders within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not extreme, these communities do face negative effects, comments and stigmatization from its members.

“Our belief and our history before Christianity came is that we have three genders. So, that’s a norm,” says Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, the executive director of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR). “For some reason this plane ride, this 10-hour plane ride to America, changed that.”


Susi Feltch-Malohifo’ou, the executive director of Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources

No escape from danger: LGBT refugees fled to Kakuma Camp for their lives, only to be greeted with hostility



Homophobia is pervasive in Kenya, and some LGBT refugees at Kakuma Camp say they have faced discrimination from fellow refugees and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) workers that has exacerbated living conditions in the overcrowded facility.

Mbazira Moses, a gay refugee currently living at the Kakuma Camp, said in an email interview, “I have been exposed to persecution and hostility ever since the time I arrived in Kakuma.”

Moses was assaulted and stabbed by a fellow refugee on Oct. 11, 2017. After reporting the incident to the police, Moses said nothing was done.

He claims he has been assaulted several times, but said police have never investigated. Instead of receiving help, Moses was jailed along with 18 other LGBT refugees who had peacefully protested their unfair treatment at UNHCR headquarters in Nairobi.

LGBT refugees peacefully protest at the UNHCR Headquarters in Nairobi.

After speaking with a lawyer, Moses was told to accept whatever charges were filed against him, as this was the only way he could expect assistance from UNHCR.

Established in 1992, Kakuma Camp is located in the northwestern region of Kenya. Ethiopian, Sudanese and Somali refugees fled their war-torn countries and came to Kakuma refugee camp, which is divided into four zones.

With an influx of new arrivals in 2014, Kakuma surpassed its capacity by over 58,000 individuals. The camp has expanded and currently holds 77,092 refugees, according to the UNHCR Kakuma informational pamphlet.

Moses said many of the staff at Kakuma Camp are homophobic and view the LGBT community as cursed. Individuals are not given the same opportunities as other refugees. They are not employable because of their sexual orientation and are not given proper medical treatment. Many medical centers refuse to serve them at all, he said, and if they are treated, they are often refused medication and treatment for HIV.

Moses Mbazira holds the LGBT flag in his tent at Kakuma Camp.

According to Moses and many other LGBT refugees living at Kakuma Camp, they face eviction due to homophobic neighbors, leaving them homeless in the camp. UNHCR has placed the LGBT community in a housing section next to the river, where they face flooding and mosquitoes. Many of the refugees have malaria and are not given the treatment they need. The homes themselves are just tents, not properly covered to protect from the rain.

Thirteen UNHCR employees stationed at Kakuma Camp were contacted about Moses’ allegations of mistreatment toward LGBT refugees in the camp. Only four responded, and they said they could not comment.

“Agony has brought action,” Moses said. “Many of the LGBT members who have been granted asylum and refugee status under UNHCR within Kenya, receive consistent persecutions and grief by the host community and other members living within the camp. We (LGBT Community) have articulated our concerns to UNHCR but have been overlooked. This has caused a need to call on UNHCR to permit us a convention letter that will grant us a fair free movement to seek asylum in a country where we reserve the same rights as other refugees regardless of our sexual orientation.”

Barnabas Wobilaya, 36, is a gay Ugandan refugee and HIV/AIDS activist who was resettled in Salt Lake City. He fled Uganda and arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, in January 2015. Wobilaya became an HIV/AIDS activist in Uganda because he had two siblings who lost their lives to HIV. Because of his activism, he was exposed as a gay man in the newspapers, lost his job, and had to move around a lot for his own safety.

“When you get to Kakuma, there is no housing. You arrive at the camp, and they give you land. You build your own house. They give you poles and a tent to put up yourself, some people use iron sheets for their roof,” Wobilaya said.

“The LGBT people are always the last people to get the services they need, always,” he said.

“Their cases are not being worked on. They have been there for years. Three years, five years. Cases of LGBT refugees are supposed to be fast because their need is so immediate. We suffer. I know people that have been in Kakuma since I arrived in Kenya that have still never seen their files. They don’t know what’s going on. Nothing happens.”

The resettlement process is in the hands of the Government of Kenya. Because Kenya still maintains largely homophobic outlooks  and policies, many LGBT folk are treated as criminals rather than asylum seekers and refugees.

“When I was in Kenya, I could not find a job,” Wobilaya said. “Kenyans know that many refugees from Uganda are gay. They are very homophobic. You go to the store to buy something, and they say ‘Uganda?’ and then they kick you out. You cannot buy things, if you can’t speak Swahili they will not give you service. They then say ‘these are gays’ in Swahili and you know to leave or else you will be beaten.”

LGBT refugees attempt to drain the water from the river that flooded their tent in Kakuma Camp.

Wobilaya was evicted from homes three times because his landlords discovered his sexual orientation. Many LGBT people are forced to live in Kakuma because landlords refuse to rent to them in Nairobi.

The UNHCR used to give refugees a stipend of 6,000 Kenyan shillings, which is about $60 U.S. per month. With that, they were supposed to pay their rent, medical bills, transportation cost and phone bill.

“Today they give them $45, but you have to pass an assessment that your living conditions are horrible, many people have to live in one room, a lot end up on the streets as sex workers so they can afford to live,” Wobilaya said.

“Now that I am in the States it is difficult to find ways to help. They tell me ‘we are dying’ and I can’t do much. After I pay my rent and bills I send my leftover money to my LGBT friends in Kenya. So I ask, let us help these people. Let’s fundraise. Help them to buy food,” Wobilaya said.

At Kakuma camp, World Food Program ( WFP) in partnership with UNHCR provides food distribution (maize, peas, flour, cooking oil, soap, salt, porridge) and some essential items like soap and toothpaste to every refugee within the camp.

However, the food supply has been continually decreasing, Wobilaya said, leaving LGBT refugees at a disadvantage since they are unable to find work and buy their own food. UNHCR has not created a system to notify LGBT members about their case progress levels, and they feel they cannot turn anywhere for support.

Wobilaya encourages the  LGBTQ community in Utah to help. “We in the LGBT community are one big family, so advocate for your brothers and sisters; that’s the only thing I ask.”

You can contact Tayyar Sukru Cansizoglu, the UNHCR head of sub-office in Kakuma, at cansizog@unhcr.org and you can donate to the LGBT Kakuma refugee community through a fundraiser established by a Salt Lake City LGBT activist.






No safe space; how one Salt Lake City resident has welcomed LGBT refugees

Connell O’Donovan at the annual Salt Lake City Utah Pride festival. Photo taken by David Newkirk.


Apollo Kann, a gay Ugandan refugee and HIV/AIDS education activist, landed in Salt Lake City after spending two years in Nairobi, Kenya, waiting to be resettled into the U.S. The first local contact he made was Connell O’Donovan, a genealogist and well known activist for LGBT rights.

The next day Barnabas Wobilaya, Kann’s friend and fellow HIV/AIDS education activist, arrived in Salt Lake City from Nairobi. “I’m professional friends with them,” O’Donovan said with a laugh. “It started out totally informally. Apollo sent me a friend request on Facebook and for whatever reason, I accepted his request!”

After offering his help, O’Donovan arrived at the apartment that Kann, Wobilaya and two other Ugandan refugees had been placed in by the International Rescue Committee. O’Donovan immediately noticed that their apartment was sparsely furnished.

“The IRC had provided very minimal furniture, a table, two chairs, two beds, linens, basic soap, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. They showed up with a literal knapsack each, that was it,” O’Donovan said.

O’Donovan reached out to his social circle and explained the situation, saying, “They need everything, what can you give?” Within 24 hours a truck was filled with everything they could possibly need, including a La-Z-Boy chair and new TV.

“I’ve just been a contact point with my circle of friends and the LGBT Community at large, anything that they need, they contact me. And I reach out and try to find it for them,” O’Donovan said.

He brought Kann and Wobilaya to the Utah Pride Center, where they were introduced to the Executive Director Carol Gnade.

The Utah Pride Center had begun to establish a refugee subcommittee called The Heart and Home Project in November 2016, but plans were changed when Donald Trump became president.

“We had been told by IRC that there would be 25 other LGBT refugees that would be coming from Uganda in June,” Gnade said in a phone interview. “We started scrambling to get a program together for all of these people, but they never came.”

The Heart and Home Project proposed to distribute a pamphlet to resettlement agencies like the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services. These pamphlets would help teach refugees about the LGBT culture and resources in Salt Lake City. The project has been put on hold until more LGBT refugees are resettled into Utah.

The Pride Center currently offers free counseling for LGBT folk and happily welcomes refugees who identify as LGBT. Several refugee resettlement agencies also offer counseling for refugees experiencing PTSD. But LGBT refugees are often hesitant to use the services in fear of being exposed and mistreated.

Aden Batar, the immigration and refugee resettlement director for Catholic Community Services and the first Somalian refugee to step foot in Utah, stressed the importance of befriending refugees. “They (refugees) are leaving their homes, friends and families behind. It is very easy to become isolated. The connections and friendships that are made through our volunteer programs can completely change their lives.”

O’Donovan grew emotional when he began explaining that Uganda is one of the worst countries to live in for the LGBT community.

“You would not believe the circumstances these (LGBT) refugees are coming from,” he said.

In 2014, Uganda passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, in which being gay was punishable by death. It has since been updated and the penalty is now a lifetime prison sentence. It is not uncommon for the death penalty to be carried out in more rural areas.

Even if an LGBT Ugandan is placed in a refugee camp, conditions are not much better.

A United Nations Refugee Camp in Kakuma, Kenya, has been known to treat its LGBT enclave especially inhumanely. “There are about 250 (LGBT) refugees that are placed next to the shores of the river. When there is rain, they get flooded out, they’re constantly surrounded by mosquitos. Several of them have malaria, but they’re not getting medicine because they are not a priority. They are given ridiculous charges and sent to jail. The camp security will come by and beat the hell out of them,” said O’Donovan, who has been in contact with LGBT refugees staying at the camp.

Only five gay refugee men are known to be living in Salt Lake City, but two have not publicly come out in fear of being isolated from their own families and friends. Many LGBT refugees live their lives in hiding and secrecy. Even outing themselves in order to be granted asylum can be too dangerous. As openly gay men and HIV/AIDS education activists, Kann and Wobilaya have said they faced discrimination from fellow refugees here in Salt Lake City.

Catholic Community Services and International Rescue Committee have typically resettled approximately 1,200 refugees in Utah each year. Globally, 53 percent of all refugees are from Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria, all of which outlaw (some punishable by death) being an active LGBT citizen. Organizations like these are essential in helping refugees resettle into Salt Lake City, but Connell O’Donovan said that it is our responsibility as citizens to help our refugee neighbors feel welcome, especially those who may feel isolated in their own homes.

Is the LGBT equality movement the civil rights movement of the 21st century?

Story and slideshow by RENEE ESTRADA

Explore the Utah Pride Center and the Office for Equity and Diversity.

Throughout America’s history there have been movements toward equality. Americans who felt alienated or limited by the government protested, petitioned and fought for their rights.

The African-American civil rights movement followed after and spanned three decades, the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Currently, the LGBT equality movement is under way. The basis of the equality movement is to allow gay, lesbian and transgender couples the right to marry and all the rights that come with it, including, but not limited to health insurance benefits, tax benefits and estate filings.

According to David Frum of the Daily Beast, proponents of marriage equality have called it the “civil rights movement of our time.”

Not everybody is happy about this, including Frum and Jack Hunter, another conservative opinion columnist.

In Hunter’s article, “Why Gay Marriage isn’t the 60’s Civil Right’s Fight,” he argues, “There have been instances during the gay-rights movement that arguably could be compared to the black civil rights struggle, like the Stonewall riots of the 1960s or Matthew Shepard murder in 1998. … Still, with the possible exception of the mistreatment of Native Americans, there has been nothing quite like the systematic exploitation and institutional degradation experienced by earlier black Americans.”

Edward Buendía, an associate professor in the ethnic studies department at the University of Utah, disagrees with this notion.

“One of the arguments, against this movement as a civil rights movement, is that you don’t have lynching,” Buendía said in a phone interview. “Yes, there are not gay people being lynched, but we do have individuals that have lost their lives. Some people believe you have to be on the same level of scope to legitimize it and from my point of view, one life is too many to lose.”

In Frum’s article, “Let’s not call marriage equality the civil rights movement of our time,” he argues, “And while homosexuality has always had a large stigma attached to it, the number of gay people denied a job because of their sexuality just utterly pales in comparison to the number of black people denied jobs because of their skin color.”

Frum’s statement brings up another point. You can see when someone is African American. Meanwhile, you cannot see that someone is a homosexual.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has endorsed same-sex marriage. According to a statement from the organization, “The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the ‘political, education, social and economic equality’ of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

Regarding the endorsement, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said at a press conference, “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

In 2004, Utah residents voted to amend the state constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. In 2013, three couples challenged it. One of the couples is married in Iowa, but the marriage is not recognized in Utah.

Considering the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian news magazine, named Salt Lake City the gayest city in America in 2012, the statewide same-sex marriage ban is interesting. Granted some of the criteria were more humorous than serious, but the title still revealed Salt Lake City has a large, active, gay community.

“They [same-sex marriage bans] don’t make sense. They are restrictive and anti-people, because anytime the government says, you as a people, even though you didn’t do anything wrong, we are going to deem your existence illegal. That’s discrimination, and that’s wrong,” said Max Green, Equality Utah’s advocacy coordinator.

Green also offers another point. He believes the equality movement is taking an approach that is not seen very often. Supporters and advocates are tackling the most challenging aspect, and then moving on to more basic issues.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a sort of top down approach to an equality movement,” Green said. “In all other movements we’re seen bottom up. With the Civil rights movement, it was let’s start with something like desegregating the buses and desegregating schools, and then desegregating the military … so they went from the base up to the top. With the marriage equality movement it’s really starting at the top and going down, which is an interesting way to do things.”

Civil unions are offered as an alternative to same-sex marriage.

Thomas Allen Harris, who directed and produced a short documentary titled, “Marriage Equality,” disagrees with this alternative.

During an interview with NPR, Harris said that civil unions create a second-class label for gays and lesbian couples, making them less than heterosexual couples.

Some same-sex marriage advocates, including the three couples who are challenging Utah’s same-sex marriage ban, believe these bans are illegal, because of the decision affirmed by Loving v. Virginia.

The case Loving v. Virginia dealt with the legality of interracial marriage. According to a story in Slate, Mildred Loving and Richard Loving were sentenced to one year in prison for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924. Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the act violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was clear in the decision of the court that the Justices found this to issue to be a civil rights issue.

In 2007, Mildred Loving issued a statement for her support of same-sex marriage.

“I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry … said Loving. I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life.”

Some say Loving v. Virginia has paved the way for Hollingsworth v. Perry, given their similarities.

Hollingsworth v. Perry is a case that was heard by the US Supreme Court on March 25, 2013. Plaintiffs argued Proposition 8, a voter-approved initiative to ban same-sex marriage in California, violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The decision of Hollingsworth v. Perry will not be out until June 2013. It seems until then Americans will have to see if the court deems same-sex marriage to be a civil rights issue.

Buendía sees the legal aspect is where the two movements intersect and share the most similarities. There were been many legal battles over segregation, and there are ongoing legal battles over LGBT rights, including housing and workplace rights.

While the movements bear some resemblances, it is clear there are distinct differences.

“We have to be careful of the significant difference for some people around race and color versus gender and sexual orientation,” Green said. “For some people those qualities don’t mix. We have to respect that and be aware not to rob someone of their identity.”

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