Randy Thomson’s story doesn’t begin really any differently than most young LGBTQ persons trying to come out of the closet unscathed. He suffered from anxiety, depression and low self esteem. Finally having made the decision to come out to his family, it went as well as suspected, the fears affirmed and he was forced to move out.
“My dad didn’t want anything to do with me at that point,” Randy said.
So, at 17-years old, Randy was at a loss at what to do next. It wasn’t until he stumbled upon the Utah Pride Center that his life started to change.
“The Pride Center gave me that opportunity to make friends, not to have to worry about if they’re going to leave me because I’m gay,” he told The Spectrum. “They gave me a purpose and reason to be passionate about something.”
The passion turned out to be politics. Randy eventually ended up in St. George and was the former Secretary of the Washington County Democratic Party. Last year, with the help of his father’s newly-sung tune, Thomson and son started Youth Advocates of Southern Utah, of which Randy is executive director.
“I founded YASU alongside my father, Rob Thomson. We began work last year and as we talked with fellow community members, through my broad local network, we quickly grew with three others joining the board in February and March of this year, and then two more in May,” Randy said. “Currently, YASU has seven community board members. Each member brings unique experiences to YASU and to our mission.
We focus on the individual youth, their needs, wants, hopes and dreams. One-quarter of our Board of Advocates [Board of Directors] has experienced youth homelessness themselves, so YASU’s philosophy, approach and programs are unique and individualized in such a way that really hasn’t been utilized here in Utah.”
YASU also works closely with TEAMRAW, a youth outreach organization that aims to connect with homeless and at-risk teens on a personal level. TEAMRAW’s approach is giving young adults a passion: such as music, dance or art.
Randy goes on to say there is a host of community support for a new Youth Drop-In Center & Resource Center that is in the planning stages.
“This center will be an inclusive program, however we will have a number of LGBTQ+ specific resources, such as affirmative individual and group therapy, sexual education, etc.” he said. “We pride ourselves on being community grown and based.”
“As with others within the LGBTQ community, I have a long story of discrimination, which still continues to this day,” Randy continued. “However, as my dad, Rob, and I can attest, if we turn this negativity, this harassment, abuse into something positive and enlightening for others, and our community, we can therefore do it for ourselves as well, and perhaps start to heal, and stop the cycle of abuse and discrimination within our community.”