Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Under Mormon Pressure, Utah Pride Disinvites JoeMyGod As Grand Marshal

By Tony Adams

A gay travel website announced that Utah Pride would have two grand marshals for its 2013 Pride celebration: out gay soccer player, David Testo and gay activist/megablogger Joe Jervis of JoeMyGod.com. While researching an article for the 2013 annual Pride magazine, I noticed that Utah Pride made no mention of Jervis in its announcement of Testo as grand marshal. I contacted Valerie Larabee, Executive Director of Utah Pride Center, for an explanation. She did not mince words in her expression of disappointment about the deliberate disinvitation of Jervis.

Larabee began her explanation by grounding the disinvitation within the context of a community in which the Mormons hold much power. When I asked her how that power could possibly influence decisions made by a gay pride organization, she explained that there are two groups of Utah gays who come from the Mormon tradition: those who broke away from it wholeheartedly and those who are trying to somehow remain reconciled with their Mormon heritage even though it denigrates the essential elements of their lives and works energetically to deny them equality. (I assured her that Mormon gays are not alone in those descriptions. The same division may be applied to gays in other religions.) Larabee explained that one young gay man who is on the board of directors of her organization fought against having Jervis as grand marshal. He put forth, as motivation for his demand that the invitation be revoked, his contention that JoeMyGod.com is an insult to Mormons and that he was concerned about his Mormon friends.

I asked Larabee why the offended board member did not speak up before the invitation was issued. I speculated that certainly these invitations are well vetted and approved before they are made. She said that in her ten years as Executive Director of Utah Pride she and her organization have always made the choice of grand marshal without first getting board approval. This is the first time a board member has run interference.

At this point Larabee spoke candidly about what may have been the real reason for the dumping of Jervis. She said that the young man who fought to disinvite Jervis resents her leadership and that his anti-Jervis action was really nothing more than a personal attack aimed at her more than Jervis. Because petty power struggles are not uncommon in Pride organizations, I found Larabee’s explanation plausible and I was impressed with her anguish over the disinvitation of a man who is well respected by her and by others within her organization. Larabee says she has apologized to Jervis and offered to bring him to Utah at her own expense to atone for what has happened. She said that Jervis has been extremely gracious in his acceptance of the disinvitation and that she admires the fact that he has avoided commenting about it on his blog.

Joe Jervis has legions of fans and loyal readers who will be outraged about his being ditched as grand marshal. The Utah Pride Festival Grand Marshal reception, scheduled for Friday May 31st, will be less of a party because of his absence. The Utah Pride Parade, on Sunday June 2nd, will be less of a celebration without him. You will not hear about this sad and Pride-less turn of events from Larabee and Jervis who are both too polite to make noise about this situation, but as a 10-year reader of JoeMyGod.com who appreciates the tireless efforts Jervis makes on behalf of the LGBT community, I intend to complain about this rude disinvitation. If there is one thing the LGBT community has learned in the fight for rights, it is that visibility and a strong voice are the only ways to attain justice. I am not inclined to accept this nonsense silently. Joe Jervis deserves better.


Phone: 801.539.8800

Toll-Free: 888.874.2743

Fax: 801.521.5215

Email: thecenter@utahpridecenter.org

[This post has been updated to reflect a correction requested by Larabee. The young man who is against the invitation of Jervis is not himself a Mormon. He claims concern for his Mormon friends.]


  1. Who is the board member? Actions such as this should not be taken opaquely.

    1. You gotta know this guy...he did not do what Larabee said. She got erratic, as she usually does, invited too many people, too many people accepted and she could not afford it...so she unprofessionally disinvited. That is the truth.

      She's got an axe to grind with this guy on the board. Don't worry. The board member is cool and never said anything of the sort.

  2. Dear QNetter,
    Valerie did not give me his name, and I didn't ask for it because I felt that my message to them would allow the board to see that its decision was wrong. They can handle it internally however they wish. Both Valerie and Joe are taking high road, but I think that my calling that 'pride" organization out on this is a different high road.

  3. Ugh, what is with Pride organizations lately? Between SFPride and the Bradley Manning walk back, NYPride's expensive price tag, and now Utah Pride disinviting a prominent gay activist because of a power play? Who are these people who run these groups? Hopefully word of this will get out and they will reinvite Joe to their event (though if I were him I would say "Thanks, but no thanks".

  4. Do you think they might reverse their decision or just affect future actions? Either way they will have to take note of the backlash.

  5. "Joe Jervis deserves better." Agreed!

  6. I am telling you right here and right now, the problem on this one is not Mormons and its not the "young" board member. Its the executive director. Valerie Larabee needs her head examined or just needs to count fries at McDonalds for a living instead of being a voice for the community here. She is a paranoid narcissist who hires people and fires people (or people quit very quickly after experiencing this organization) more often than she changes her boxers.

    She had almost next to no professional executive experience and had very little non-profit experience when she entered this position. In fact, she was the second desperate pick at the time she was hired.

    She takes people in who have more experience than her and when she gets frustrated at them or herself for not knowing how to guide or feels threatened, she creates this covert lesbian novella along with her ex-side kick (proxy-gay) Jen Parsons-Soran, consultant wannabe..."I'm a consultant", and together they make themselves feel better by ousting people left and right, and trying to smear their image.

    Both of these women should not be representing the LGBT community of Salt Lake or Utah at all, in any way, shape, or form, period. They give us such a bad name...and honestly make it just sucky to be gay here at times.

    They are not socially evolved people who know themselves. They are living in a passé "low ego, hurt woman empowerment & protection program" that fosters bad behavior, snarkiness, and exclusion in what could be an otherwise amazing community charged with the huge task of trudging through the sometimes hotbed of social controversy here.

    I have lived here for a quite a while now and know what I just said above first hand. Power is in the wrong hands with this woman. At least 3/4 of the people in this community do not like her, her actions, and her paranoid motivation, so please do not think Utah has all that shitty of a community.

    She has already excluded most of the community here from wanting to participate in it...now she is going nationally.

    For some reason, though, it is hard to get this woman just simply ousted from her position, because she has insulated herself with people who are just as hurt as her. Its really sick and way more dramatic than it needs to be.

    I feel sorry for this woman because she sees in no way that she is the liability. If she could not fix things in almost 9 years with this organization, she needs to be a big girl and just leave.

    That would be the right thing to do. It would be "good on her" if she realized this and packed her bags and just left to try and find another direction in life.