For the first few years after leaving Utah, I used to ask myself why on earth does anybody live there. The Mormon culture through the 70's, 80's, and 90's was unwelcoming and outright hostile to gays and lesbians: electric shock therapy to the genitals, suicide (parents were known to say they'd rather their kids be dead than be gay), and violence and/or shunning by families were du jour. I will never forgive nor forget Mormonism's persecution and spiritual/physical/emotional torture of my friends who killed themselves: when Mormonism is as staunching affirming and accepting as they are profess to be Christ-like, then I'll revisit THAT bias and perspective.
The Mormon-controlled legislature and state-run liquor stores ensured that "sin taxes" were fully exploited and that responsible adults could forever be treated as children - their beer set the limit at 3.2 percent by weight (4 percent by volume). Education was (and still is) inadequately funded. In my personal life, I'd felt like a fish in a small bowl after two, failed, long-term relationships, I'd finally had enough and decided to move away from the Zion Curtain to California in 1998.
During the next few years, because of a software consulting/training job, I traveled all over the United States. I found out that some states were even more restrictive than Utah: they didn't sell alcohol on Sundays, period. I re-evaluated my broad generalizations of Utah politics and admitted that not everyone was a Mormon Republican. I found that other states struggled with educational funding too. I discovered that Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical (etc) communities held as much, if not more sway than their Mormon counterparts. The pejorative I used to call Utahns was "Utahrd," which I used up until December 2011 when a friend who worked closely with Utah politics oh-so-gently reminded me that I was unfairly painting the whole swath of Utah with the same narrow-minded stroke. Correction: she told me off in such an affirming and positive manner that I ended up kicking my own ass for my years of belittling comments.
Utah was my home for many years. I'm familiar with the landscape, the people, the unique culture. The fact that I've lived away from there for almost fourteen years now, the fact that Utah has grown and changed a lot since I lived there, and the fact that I'm willing to revisit my own biases and/or beliefs has brought me to a peaceful place now. The politics will always interest me, the predominant culture will have annoying and aggravating components, but my family and friends there more than make up for anything that could be lacking. I left Utah for my own survival, but I commend, admire, and appreciate those who stayed, because I have nice places to stay and revisit.