I’ve been getting deep on housing, salty on how states are responding to the drought, and looking back on the past year.
I contributed to Salt Lake magazine’s 2021 Best of the Beehive feature, but not all of the awards and recognition I wanted to give out made it into the print edition. I’m a little proud of them, so, here are a few outtakes:
Yearbook superlatives are a scholastic tradition that allow us to recognize the people who were “the best…” or “the most…” something. There were a lot of standouts this past year, but here are our winners.
Best Smile: Parents Against Masks
When attempting to wage a culture war against science-backed policy, be sure to reach for the most potent political prop in your arsenal. Your children. The parents behind the “See My Smile” campaign knew exactly the kind of trump card they had when they sent their kids to school without masks before the K-12 school mask mandate had expired. And who could forget the sentiments expressed by parents and kids at the infamous Moms Against Masks rally in Washington County, Utah, like “masks are tyranny” and “child molesters love ’em!” But harnessing the power of children’s smiling faces paid off, we guess. The Utah State Legislature passed a bill that prohibits schools from requiring face masks next school year.
Life of the Party: Young and Dumb
You have to fight for your right to party, even amid the spread of a highly contagious virus that has killed 600,000+ people in the U.S. The owners of the aptly named event company, Young and Dumb, claim their defiantly mask-less, college dance parties in Utah County did nothing to contribute to spikes in COVID cases, but it’s possible they’re just being modest. Few people showed the same kind of drive to keep the party going, even after venues tried to cancel them and they were fined $10,000 by the Utah County Health Department. You’re only young and dumb once, might as well make the most of it.
Best Hair: State Sen. Derrin Owens
Originally, we planned to give Best Hair to the CROWN Act (which was meant to protect against race-based hair discrimination), but the bill didn’t pass. So, instead, we’re awarding it to one of the lawmakers whose comments on hair put him in the national spotlight, State Sen. Derrin Owens. During a committee hearing about the issue, Owens called the three black women testifying “beautiful” and shared a story of how he took a photo of the hair of two black children he did not know at the grocery store then attempted to show the photo at the hearing. Despite his inadvertent demonstration of why it might be necessary, Owens voted against the bill, but he did apologize later for his tone deaf choice of words.
Most Original: Natasha Helfer
It’s not easy to go against the grain (if it were, everyone would do it). But, true originals are oft-misunderstood in their time. Licensed mental health and sex therapist Natasha Helfer is outspoken about her views on pornography, gay marriage, etc., and her views don’t exactly line up with the stance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church excommunicated her, withdrawing her membership—not so much for how she practices therapy but for not shutting up about it, which she has no intention of doing.
The last year has been unforgettable. Let’s reflect on some of the spectacular and appalling moments we shared together (just in case you did forget them).
Leave them Kids Alone!
As our attention started to shift away from COVID, some lawmakers felt it was time to focus on the real threat to America: Transgender children. Conservative politicians in Utah and across the country introduced bills that would ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams in school (a solution in want of a problem, by all accounts) and prevent transgender children from accessing gender-affirming healthcare, which medical and mental health professionals testified would lead to more preventable deaths of trans kids. Neither bill made it into law in Utah (in part due to the governor’s opposition) but still helped 2021 become a banner year for anti-transgender legislation.
We Did Start the Fire
Go Utah! No one is better at starting wildfires than us! In 2020, people were responsible for starting 73% of all wildfires in Utah. Our favorite way to start wildfires is by blowing stuff up. Either by igniting fireworks or shooting at explosive targets, we’re not too picky as long as something goes “boom.” At the time I’m writing this, we’re already well above the five-year average for the number of wildfires this time of year, so we’re well on track to beat last year’s record. Woo!