PROVO (ABC 4 News) – QueerMeals, a secure space for members of the LGBTQ community of Utah County, celebrated its one – year non – profit anniversary on Thursday.
The organization lacks the home of Jeffrey and Jerilyn Pool in Provo and they admitted … they did not expect QueerMeals to become a community like this.
It all began when the pools went to Medford, Oregon, to travel to and from Utah to do LGBTQ advocacy work. During this period, they began to house at-risk LGBTQ people at home.
"We ended up having a lot of people hanging out here … and we started eating a lot of grain," Jerilyn laughed.
QueerMeals (Courtesy of Natalie King)
After realizing that there was a real need for secure space in Utah County, the Pools decided to follow their call and moved to Provo three years ago.
"Provo is a very difficult place to live for LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ Mormons, I think people do their best here, from time to time, but many people do not know or understand the best ways to do this. 39, interact with the LGBTQ community, "says Jerilyn.
QueerMeals SafeXmas (Courtesy of Natalie King)
The pools emphasized that holidays are the most difficult time for LGBTQ people, as some of them are not welcome at home. That's when SafeXmas is born.
On their FaceBook page, they say, "People first need to eat and find their community so they do not feel so isolated and upset.The best way to do this is to place a group of people around them. a table and feed them, that's what [we] made."
Jeffrey and Jerilyn rented a cabin in the woods for the holidays, provided meals to dozens of people and created a community where no one felt embarrassed or isolated for their identity.
QueerMeals SafeXmas (Courtesy of Natalie King)
"What I prefer is when someone comes back to us and their shoulders are up to their ears because they are so anxious," Jerilyn said. "Finally, you'll see these shoulders relax and fall back in an hour."
Kris King, one of the QueerMeals community members, said that his family was a strange kid five years ago and grew up in the Orem / Mapleton area. They always had the feeling that they had to hide what they really are.
"People do not realize how difficult it is to feel like you do not have a home or safe space, in a place where you will always be loved and accepted," said King. "Obviously, some people think it will automatically be your biological family, but many queer people do not own this place."
King is now the president of QueerMeals and said it was the Pools that saved their lives.
Chelsea Peahl, who nearly committed suicide, also had an experience similar to King's.
"Honestly, I do not know how I could have gone until 2018 without Jerilyn." It's one of the people who answered the phone while no one else said would do it, "said Chelsea. "This has been totally liberated to know not only that there are people like you, but also that there are people here who do not look like you and that we all seem to agree perfectly . "
Natalie King grew up in Provo and started out as a gay man, but even then, she did not really feel like herself.
"It was really confusing, both for myself and for my family, to whom I was addressing." What it meant was not to have the vocabulary to understand that I was I had transgender feelings, "said King.
The sage Erickson recently came out as a fag and said that it was difficult to grow up in a religious family in Orem. In 2016, she went to a psychiatric consultation service to leave suicidal thoughts.
"My family is very homophobic and transphobic and all my life I have heard horrible things about the queer community," Erickson said.
They recently discovered QueerMeals and said that Christmas past was the first time that they felt accepted for what they were.
"It was really the best Christmas of my life," said Erickson. "I stayed awake and cried because it was the first time in my life that someone I knew in real life, and not on the Internet, called me Sage or used my pronouns. "
Jack Steele, who grew up in American Fork, said the Pools were meeting a vital need of homosexual people in Utah County.
"Seeing what Jerilyn did by giving everyone a space to flourish, including basic needs, simple needs like bonding and a community … was amazing," Steele said.
Pool resources go well beyond a meal and a place to sleep. They also defended the interests of LGBTQ people in times of vulnerability.
"I often went to the hospital with people who tried to commit suicide," Jerilyn said. "What I have discovered, especially in the trans community, is that they need a lawyer in the hospital … someone who can tell doctors and nurses the correct pronouns to use. "
Photo wall at QueerMeals
Since their creation, Pools have helped hundreds of LGBTQ people. The wall of photos of their house is full of pictures of people who have become members of their community.
"They stay in touch with us and let us know how they are doing, in general they are fine or they will come back," Jeffrey said.
"When people stop showing up, I'm happy to find that it's no longer something they need because they are able to meet those needs themselves," Jerilyn said.
The pools said 2019 would be a big year for QueerMeals. They will work to acquire more housing. Their ultimate dream is to renovate a hotel / motel to offer studios or dormitory-like accommodations to LGBTQ community members.
"Having a place where people can come together and where their basic needs and community are satisfied is incredibly amazing," said Steele.
They will also work with transgender prisoners in Utah State Penitentiary to help assert their identities while incarcerated. They also hope to work with the Navajo Nation to help LGBTQ people in southern Utah.
"QueerMeals serves as a constant reminder that there is love and acceptance," King said.