Andrea Gibson and the State of Utah

(Re-posted from The Huffington Post)

“Gay” Poem Shakes Up the Utah State Legislature

Utah’s House of Representatives usually begins the day with a morning prayer, but this past Wednesday, state representative Christine Johnson decided instead to read an inspirational poem.

That’s all well and proper, except that the poem, entitled “Say Yes,” was written by a gay and self-described activist poet named Andrea Gibson. Add on the fact that Johnson herself is gay (and, well, that you’re in Utah) and you’ve got a full-on kerfuffle.

Local news jumped the story, expressing surprise that the “gayness” of the poem wasn’t immediately clear to the state’s conservative legislators, reporting that “the Utah House of Representatives was gay and didn’t even know it,” and “few if any of the other legislators realized their chamber had gone gay.”

Well, the poem’s supposed gayness probably went unnoticed because the poem’s message isn’t gay at all, nor does it contain any gay symbolism. “Say Yes” strikes notes of hope, peace and altruism–themes that aren’t antithetical to the Mormon faith. The most radical aspect of Johnson’s reading was probably that she subjected the legislature to the rhythms of spoken word poetry.

Johnson said that while she respects the opinions of her conservative colleagues, she wanted to offer them “something different.” She only censored the poem a bit, cutting the line “for the radical anarchist asking the Republican to dance.” Johnson, hardly a radical anarchist, was only asking that they listen. And–if only because they did not know what they were listening to–they did.

You can watch some of Johnson’s reading on local news coverage here.

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