About a year ago, I met this rocker-type photographer at LOVELOUD music festival. I hit it off with a great many people there as we were all present for LOVELOUD and were in the same mindset: great music, bring attention to the high suicide rate among LGBT youth in Utah and the nation, and show that talented LGBT artists are out there and need to be heard just as much as their straight counterparts.
So this guy, Jeremy Hinks, was this no nonsense, music loving, straight guy. He’s married, three daughters, Mormon, and a music photographer. We had so much in common! Not at all.
But what Jeremy had and HAS is a love of people, a hope that he can lessen some of the pain LGBT youth experience in Utah, a dislike of how the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) has treated LGBT youth and what they teach and preach about us homosexuals.
I’ll get texts from Jeremy and I never know if they are from him just getting done covering a concert or if it is him needing to vent about Utah, the LDS, or both. A couple of his heartbreaking texts have started off:
“We lost another one” – where he tells me about how the parents are trying to hide the fact that their LGBT daughter committed suicide because of the pressures to NOT be LGBT.
Dealing with a father who is telling his newly out son that gays who commit suicide are better off because they won’t be able to sin anymore.
You can tell that he, as a father of two girls, a Mormon, and a son of a gay man, he cares sooo much about these kids. In my travels, I’m not sure I have personally met a stronger ally for us, someone who obviously cares and takes action, but is not doing it for the attention. It’s almost like it’s his calling to share his big heart with others, to show reaffirm love is love, to shock people that this straight Mormon dad cares so much about our community and those that are hurting because they were born that way and are not being accepted.
Instinct has actually adopted him as an honorary gay for the purposes of tapping into his love of music and his drive to help our community. You can do a search on Instinct (or click here) to see what artists he has interviewed for us, artists that may not be as well know, some that are new, old, LGBT, and strong LGBT allies.
But the reason for me sharing my thoughts on Jeremy tonight, as I wipe my teary eyes, is for something he did this past weekend, something he did because he is just who he is. Below are his words from his Facebook post on June 2nd after he attended the Utah Pride Parade in Salt Lake City and then walked back to his car.
I thought this would be nice gesture, and a cutesy thing to do. I have seen people holding signs for “free hugs” all the time. I read the article about this church group, mothers, pastors, going around offering hugs at pride parades, telling these kids, that YES A MOTHER LOVES THEM, and was giving the hugs these kids parents weren’t giving to them.
I decided I would put this poster board sign on, and walk from the end of the parade route back to my car. I had just said good bye to my friend Cathryn and her wife Julie, when several young people walked up and asked for hugs. So, I happily gave them. I was walking down 3rd south and a group of young kids walked past, couldn’t have been older than 20. One girl said “Wait, I want a hug” so I went and hugged her, then I whispered “You are loved, you NEED to know that.” then she started to cry, then I said, “PLEASE STAY WITH US, WE NEED YOU.” Then I had to go through her group of friends, 2 guys and 3 girls. Each one of them got the same treatment and little lecture from me. I needed to tell them all the same thing, just know that they are loved, and we NEED them to know they have worth, and we NEED them to stay. I told these 5 young people how hard it is for me when I hear of a suicide, that I feel like the universe was just cheated out of something wonderful. That we suddenly lost out on what these kids could have given us, what they SHOULD have given us. What great painter, or scientist that could have cured cancer, what were these people supposed to be, and now we are without what they were supposed to give the universe. We all cried and had a HUGE group hug.
This all happened along the route back to my car, I would get stopped by a group of people and give them all the same treatment. One girl asked for a hug, and I said the same things, I said, “Please stay with us.” I was not ready for her response, “I’m trying.” I held her tighter, and cried with her, and pleaded, telling her that I loved her, and she would be ok, and if it got so dark, just remember, “THIS MORMON DAD LOVES YOU!!!” I never had a stranger tell me they were contemplating suicide, I wish I could have told her so much more, but just that I love her, unconditionally, a complete stranger, I hope it carries some weight.
Another young dude said, “You have no idea how much I needed this, TODAY, I needed to know someone Mormon loved me”.
One young girl crying said, “Can you just keep holding me for a minute, it’s been so long since my dad hugged me, he disowned me.” I said, “Take all the time you need.” She cried on my shoulder for what seemed like half an hour. I just kept telling her she was loved, and to keep reaching out, she will find people like us. All of this while her friends were standing in line for a simple hug, from a “Mormon dad.” One of her friends whispered, “Can you be my adopted Dad?” I said, “If you were my kid, I would be the proudest dad in the world.” She didn’t want to let go either.
This was such a weird and wonderful experience for me. I put the message out there, what I was offering, but I really had no idea how badly people needed what I was ready to give. Those young kids received far more than what I was giving. I learned today, you do not need to look very far to find people who are in need of something as simple as being told they are loved.
Among other things, Jeremy’s current project is being involved / acting in the film City of Salt (Utah LGBT Health Under Microscope in ‘City of Salt’).
Thanks as always Jeremy. Your kids are lucky, your wife is lucky, and we are lucky to have you. You are an inspiration for members of our community to follow and may you inspire others to be strong allies like yourself. We need you. We need you all.