Ryannah Quigley grew up in a modest home in Kaysville, Utah, with 22 siblings.
Her father was a bishop, the head of a congregation, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By age 7, Quigley — who was assigned male at birth — began to wear women’s clothing, at times taking down the curtains to make dresses.
On many occasions, her parents attempted to quash the problem — as they saw it — but to little avail.
At 15, Quigley was living at the Mill Creek Youth Center, in Ogden, where over the next 18 months she would be raped four times by four different men residing at the state custody facility.When she nearly became victim to a fifth rape, Quigley fought back and injured the assailant. Although Quigley had acted in self-defense, she was arrested for assault.Standing before an orthodox Mormon judge, she was tried as an adult with a fourth-degree felony and sentenced to two years at the Weber County Jail, where she would be placed in solitary confinement (called “protective custody,” due to her gender identity), raped an additional 11 times, and assaulted many more times, once ending up in the hospital to get 27 stitches after being stabbed.She attempted suicide by hanging and was in a coma for three days.In Utah, the covert theocracy behind policy-making, the insular and unquestioning faith of Mormon families, and vague, often contradictory statements and actions from LDS church leadership combine to form a unique and particularly dire crisis for LGBT and gender-nonconforming kids.
There are, by most estimates, 5,000 kids experiencing homelessness in Utah at any given time.Roughly 42 percent of them identify as LGBT, and most come from Mormon households.This means, of the 450,000 people in Utah between the ages of 15 and 24, a projected 22,000 to 35,000 of them will experience homelessness at some point, according to data provided by outreach workers.The LDS church has a well-documented anti-LGBT agenda.By 2008, it had funneled more than million to support Proposition 8, California’s anti–marriage-equality initiative.The church had been aggressively battling same-sex marriage since 1994 (when it stepped into Hawaii’s court battle), but as the national tide turned to favor marriage equality, church leadership appeared to back off. In early 2015, attempting to bridge the gap between so-called religious freedom and LGBT rights, Utah’s governor, Gary Herbert, a Mormon, with the support of the LDS church and the ACLU, signed an antidiscrimination bill into law, referred to as the “Utah compromise,” that protects LGBT citizens in housing and employment.