The Election of an Openly Gay Mayor in Salt Lake City Isn't Really That Surprising - Pacific Standard

The Election of an Openly Gay Mayor in Salt Lake City Isn't Really That Surprising

But it's still a big victory.
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Jackie Biskupski speaking at the 2006 Utah Pride Celebration. (Photo: Jere Keys/Flickr)

Jackie Biskupski speaking at the 2006 Utah Pride Celebration. (Photo: Jere Keys/Flickr)

Earlier today, Jackie Biskupski became the mayor-elect of Salt Lake City, Utah, beating current Mayor Ralph Becker by a slim 51.5-to-48.5 percent margin. That would count as regional news for anyone living outside of Utah's capital city—except that, with the win, Biskupski becomes, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, "the first openly gay mayor of a major Utah city."

While an openly gay mayor of Salt Lake City may seem surprising, Biskupski's election actually isn't all that unexpected. Salt Lake City ranks seventh in a Gallup poll of cities with the largest gay populations. This suggests that the city is, in the words of the New York Times, "a kind of regional capital of gay life, attracting people from other parts of Utah and the Mormon West." Salt Lake City is unique in this sense, though not alone; Austin ranks as one of the country's most LGBT-friendly cities, while Texas itself is another story.

Still, for the LGBT youth living in self-doubt or fear—especially for those living outside the relatively permissive Salt Lake City—Biskupski's election could have major benefits from a mental health standpoint. As Kate Wheeling reported for us earlier this year, a growing body of research suggests the importance of role models for LGBT youth's mental health. "A small study in 2011 found that openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual figures in the media influence the identity of LGBT youth by increasing their sense of self-worth, serving as a source of comfort, and reducing some of the psychological stress that they might experience," Wheeling wrote.

Political aspirations aside, Biskupski probably made coming out at least a little less daunting for some young kids in Utah. And that's a pretty big victory.

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