Like all good former Mormons, I took a winter vacation to Salt Lake City. Utah has much natural beauty but for me that beauty is marred by the dull sprawl and sameness of suburbia. But downtown Salt Lake is different. Downtown is like a little piece of New England planted in the frontier of the Wild West. The history of the city is remembered, celebrated and seen in hundreds of historic buildings and homes that line the hilly streets and neighborhoods. And Salt Lake is a deep Blue island in a sea of Red where the tension between the uber-religious Mormons and people who live in reality is palpable. I love downtown Salt Lake; it’s always been good to me.
Ben and I were hanging out at my favorite coffee shop on 9th and 9th watching the snow fall when I overheard someone mention that Sister Dottie S. Dixon would be signing books at Cahoots next-door.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted, “did you say Sister Dottie was on her way here?”
“Yes, in about half an hour she’ll be signing books.”
It’s always nice to be in the right place at the right time.
Who is Sister Dottie S. Dixon?
I don’t like to use the word “drag queen” because Sister Dottie is not a drag queen. She is a character played by a man and is one of the most entertaining, relevant, sharp, witty, evocative, and important entertainers to ever come out of Utah.
Sister Dottie is the quintessential small town Mormon woman, with the education and dialect to prove it. Sister Dottie loves her church, but loves her gay son, Donny, even more. She is the unmistakable voice of the oppressed and downtrodden, blaring like the pipe organ in the Tabernacle. She is the challenger, the opinionated, the truth seeker and truth teller for the marginalized GLBT community in Utah. She is the loving, thoughtful, attentive, cookie baking, Relief Society attending mother who will protect her children at all costs. Her world is simple and easily explained “if ya don’t think about it too much,” as she would say. She has the best qualities of every mother and grandmother you have ever met.
She is the voice of reason and compassion and Sister Dottie explores topics close to me and many others: the intersection of GLTB rights and the Mormon Church. She is never hateful or spiteful, yet she has a way of calling “bullshit” on issues that is hysterical, timely and poignant. Like any good grandma or mother, she has a way with her words that can heal any hurt or suffering. She reminds us that we are all people, worthy of love and success and respect and that there is nothing wrong or shameful with being gay.
I asked if her one woman show “The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon” would be traveling to Arizona. She said there was talk but nothing was certain. (I hope so!) I picked up a copy of her new book “The Mormon Karma Sutra” or as she calls it, “the Marmon Karma Sutress” and she signed it for me. (Along with Pat Bagley, a talented cartoonist for the Salt Lake Tribune who contributed the illustrations for the book.)
Utah has historically been about 30 years behind the times in all social issues, and when it comes to gay rights and equality, Utah is right where you would expect it to be. But Sister Dottie gives me hope. She is the pillar of light in an otherwise hateful and horribly unreasonable world of mystics. She is on the front lines of the battle and radiates a certainty that equality, love and fairness are possible. I was pleased I had the chance to meet her.
Downtown Salt Lake is good to me.