Randall Thacker Elected Affirmation President
Term Runs from January 1 to December 31, 2013
by Hugo Salinas
Randall Thacker, of Washington DC, has been elected Affirmation president for 2013. One hundred and thirty-two ballots were cast. Robert Moore, of San Francisco, received 29 votes; Randall Thacker received 103.
Ballots were opened and counted by the election committee, consisting of Corresponding Secretary Bruce Maughan, Affirmation co-founder Paul Mortensen, and Robert Jacob.
Randall Thacker, who lives with his partner in Washington DC, has been attending Affirmation events since 2005. In 2011 he planned the Kirtland Temple devotional and this past April he helped organize the “Circling the Wagons” conference held in Washington DC. In 2012 he served as Affirmation’s senior vice president and on the Seattle conference committee.
Affirmation has been electing its president (previously called “executive director”) by direct vote of the members since 1993.
Deadline to support ‘Facing East’
Affirmation Christmas Party in Washington DC
Affirmation Meeting in Sacramento
Sit With Me Sunday
Last June Spencer Clark (wearing fedora) marched in Washington DC with his family and other Mormons in support of marriage equality
|Guy & Trey’s yard sign: Thank you, Maryland, for voting Yes on Question 6|
Anxiously Engaged in a Good Cause
A Mormon Coalition of Allies Was Key in Helping Advance Marriage Equality in Four States
by Hugo Salinas
Last month’s elections included decisions made by four states (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington) on the issue marriage equality. You may already know that the people of those four states voted against discrimination and in favor of equality; what you may not know is that a network of progressive Latter-day Saints played an important role in that outcome:
- Last summer, a group of Latter-day Saints organized Mormons for Marriage Equality. They put their time, money, and energy into promoting marriage equality among Mormons, launching a new website and producing banners and other materials which were used in Pride events held across the country. In Washington state, Mormons for Marriage Equality worked with a local coalition of Catholics and other people of faith.
- In Maryland, Spencer W. Clark of Mormons for Marriage Equality also worked with a wide coalition in support of Question 6, a referendum on the Civil Marriage Protection Act recently enacted by the legislature. The measure received 52 percent of the vote, including 25 percent of Maryland’s Republicans.
- In Minnesota, Affirmation member John Gustav-Wrathall worked with other people of faith to successfully persuade voters to reject Amendment 1, which would have written marriage discrimination into the state constitution. John is the only Mormon in this list with a same-sex spouse: Scott, Sarabeth and Clark are heterosexually married.
- “I know that from the perspective of many people in this country, what I have — a committed, 20-year-long relationship with a man, and a home that has sheltered and that we hope will continue to shelter foster or adoptive children — many don’t consider to be a family,” wrote John in a blog entry. “ But in that relationship, in this home, I have experienced love, nurture and healing, I have learned about sacrifice and patience. I have cared for others and seen them thrive ever more fully into their potentials; and their love for me has enabled me to reach heights I never could have reached on my own.”
And what are the fruits of this historic vote?
- In Seattle, the day after the election, Affirmation member Johnny Townsend announced that his partner Gary proposed. Both of them served LDS missions in Rome, and they are planning to wed next year on their sixth anniversary. Although Johnny was excommunicated, he says he still keeps his triple combination on a bookshelf above his desk, along with his hymnbook and his Italian missionary discussions. “I still pray, and I still fast for many things,” he wrote in Religion Dispatches, “including acceptance, equality and understanding.”
- In Maine, Jeremiah Miner and Ammon Whigham, who are engaged to each other and grew up Mormon, celebrated the passing of marriage equality in that state. “When it was announced that ‘Yes on 1’ had passed, Ammon and I just sat and cried,” Jeremiah told the Bangor Daily News. “I had family members texting me congratulations for the next few days. We both grew up in a state and culture that made us think it would never be possible for us to live as a couple.”
- In Maryland, Affirmation members Trey Lathe and Guy Berryessa, who married in 2004 and are the parents of two daughters, doctored their “Vote for 6” sign to read, “Thank You!”
Thank you, indeed! We couldn’t have said it any better.
“People should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as they do good, they shall in nowise lose their reward.” (Adapted from D&C 58: 27-28).
Duane Jennings, 29 November 2011
Thank You, Duane Jennings!
As Duane Jennings Steps Down, We Celebrate an Affirmation Giant
by Hugo Salinas
Duane Jennings and his partner Brian have just announced that they are stepping down as co-directors of the Salt Lake City chapter of Affirmation (formerly known as the Wasatch chapter), so it is time to raise our hands for a vote of thanks. We release them with gratitude for their dedication, and in particular, for the work that Duane has been carrying out for Affirmation for the last two decades.
Above all, Duane has shown an amazing hospitality. Since the early 1990s, Duane’s home has been used for countless Affirmation gatherings, Halloween celebrations, and Christmas parties. He has personally manned Affirmation tables at Pride events and Sunstone symposiums for two decades. He also served as one of Affirmation’s assistant directors (the equivalent to a vice-president) and on several committees in the national organization. At Sunstone symposiums, he also presented papers and moderated panels.
Duane helped plan and carry out not one but two Affirmation conferences: 1997 and 2003. By the time he helped organized the 1997 conference, he had already been named by The Pillar one of Utah’s Gays and Lesbians of the Year. He had worked with the Stonewall Center (precursor of the Utah Pride Center), Family Fellowship, Reconciliation, and Sunstone.
As chapter leader, Duane helped organized missionary reunions, post-conference firesides, Christmas programs, and regional leaderships known as “Cornerstones.” Over the years, he supported Gamofite retreats, Walk-for-Life events that raise money for the Utah AIDS Foundation, and many other community events, including Pride parades, World AIDS Day memorials, and pro-equality rallies.
Duane received a very well deserved Mortensen Award in 1996. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he became a supporter of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, where he represented LGBT Mormons and helped organize the August 2001 roundtable held in Salt Lake City. Also in 2001, he co-moderated, along with gay Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg, a discussion held in Park City during the Sundance premier of Trembling Before G-d. In the early 2000s, when the LGBT Mormon community became aware of the gay Mormon suicide pandemic, Duane organized vigils in Salt Lake City.
Over the years, Duane’s spirituality has been influenced by New Age, Shinto, Taoist, and Buddhist thought. In the 1990s he also became a supporter of Soulforce, a national non-profit that works nonviolently to end the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ people. “For the past three years I’ve studied Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and the people who informed their journey into a Soulforce all the way back to Jesus, the Jewish prophets, and the teachers of nonviolence from every faith tradition,” Duane wrote forAffinity in May 2000. “My own life has been radically changed by what I’ve learned.”
“I believe that we as an organization are ready for a new season to reach out ever more to Lesbian & Gay Mormons, to the greater Mormon community, and working with other communities of faith and service organizations to make a positive difference where we live and around the world,” Duane wrote in Affinity in November 1996. “I believe it is a time to laugh and dance, to embrace, speak out and to love even more.”
“There is much from our Mormon past to celebrate and honor,” Duane added. “Some of the lessons from the past can be used to educate the Church of our common struggle for truth and understanding, and our common humanity. Perhaps as important, is to learn about and bring out of the historical closet, our Gay & Lesbian Mormon progenitors as we remember the past, celebrate the present and forge forward our future.”
We wish Duane and Brian the best. May God be with them in all their life adventures and journeys.
Allies for a healthier LGBT community: Author Carol Lynn Pearson (left) and organizer Cary Crall
Event Addresses LGBTQ Sexual Health in Utah County
Cary Crall, Carol Lynn Pearson, and Jorge Valencia among Speakers
Organized by two returned missionaries and BYU graduates, the 2012 Utah County Sexual Health Symposium was held in Provo on November 8. The symposium was designed to address the sexual health information needs of the LGBTQ community of Utah County.
The organizers were Cary Crall, a Harvard medical student, and Caitlin Jolley, who is completing an MBA at Westminster College. The event included presentations by author Carol Lynn Person, Point Foundation Executive Director Jorge Valencia, and Dr. Kevin Kapila, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and a physician with Boston’s Fenway Health, the nation’s largest LGBT community health center.
Jorge Valencia spoke about his experiences as a BYU student, where he served as vice president of ASBYU (Associated Students of Brigham Young University), and described the journey that took him to become president and executive director of The Trevor Project, positions which he held between 2001 and 2006. Jorge is the current executive director of the Point Foundation, which empowers LGBTQ students to achieve academic and leadership potential.
Jorge said that when he attended his first event organized by The Trevor Project, the statistics of suicide attempts among LGBT teens left him with a lump in his throat.
“I couldn’t get it out of my head: at a point in my life I could have been one of those statistics—and that was here when I was going to Brigham Young University.”
Jorge said that the decision to accept a position to head The Trevor Project was not easy to make, in part because he knew the salary was going to be very low.
“I was so moved by what it was about that I knew I had to do that, and it was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done in my life.”
Jorge said that there’s a correlation between LGBT youth coming from Mormonism or other religious backgrounds and homelessness, depression, and suicide attempts. He also suggested a correlation between religious perfectionism and destructive behavior.
“We [Mormons] are taught to be perfect—to be the best we can be. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but when you do not know who you are, and everything is either black or white, it’s very dangerous.”
Audio files with all the presentations, including a speech by Carol Lynn Pearson, are available by scrolling down at www.ucshs.org/archive.
Affirmation Member Helps Bring National Attention to “Conversion Therapy”
Sam Wolfe: “We are seeking to hold them accountable for their false representations”
In a historic case which received national media attention, Affirmation member Sam Wolfe is helping bring a lawsuit against an organization that claims to convert people from gay to straight.
Sam, who is a lawyer with the Southern Poverty Law Center, is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of four former patients of JONAH, a Jewish organization which, much like Evergreen, claims to “heal” gays and lesbians by diminishing or curing their same-sex attraction.
Sam was featured on Current TV’s Joy Behar Show on November 28 and on CNN on December 1, and was quoted in stories in The Salt Lake Tribune and The New York Times. The lawsuit was also covered by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, ABC News, and other media outlets around the country.
“This is the first time that survivors of ‘conversion therapy’ have brought a lawsuit in a court of law seeking to hold ‘conversion therapists’ responsible for the harm that they have perpetrated on our clients and many others,” Sam told Doug Frabrizio on the November 28 episode of Radio West.
“We brought this case in New Jersey; there they have a strong consumer protection law that is among the strongest in the country,” Sam added. “JONAH and Alan Downing, a counselor for JONAH, as well as the founder of JONAH Arthur Goldberg… violated this law by giving false promises to our clients that if they would follow JONAH’s program, if they tried hard enough, if they went though all of these exercises, that they would essentially turn form gay to straight; and we are seeking to hold them accountable for their false representations and for the harm caused.”
Despite the lawsuit, Evergreen continues to link to JONAH at its website.
“These [groups] seem to be generally reliable groups with principles compatible with Evergreen’s mission,” the Evergreen site claims. “However, we do not endorse any one of them unconditionally.”
The tithing settlement interview could be an opportunity to share the “Supportive Families, Healthy Children” brochure with your bishop.
Mormons Building Bridges founder Erika Munson
Erika Munson: Use Tithing Settlement Interview to Educate Your Bishop
“An opportunity to talk to your bishop about making your ward a more welcoming place for LGBT brothers and sisters”
Erika Munson, founder of Mormons Building Bridges, is encouraging supportive Latter-day Saints to consider using the tithing settlement interview as “an opportunity to talk to your bishop about making your ward a more welcoming place for LGBT brothers and sisters.”
Ideas listed on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page include sharing the “Supportive Families, Healthy Children” brochure with bishops, asking them to organize a Fifth Sunday priesthood/Relief Society meeting built around LGBT issues, and for those living in the Wasatch Front, asking them to post in the ward’s bulletin board and newsletter announcements about the South Jordan Outreach Firesides.
Munson also suggests supporters share with their bishops a statement read by LDS spokesperson Michael Otterson in 2010: “This Church has felt the bitter sting of persecution and marginalization early in our history … Our parents, young adults, teens and children should therefore, of all people, be especially sensitive to the vulnerable in society and be willing to speak out against bullying or intimidation whenever it occurs, including unkindness toward those who are attracted to others of the same sex.
“This is particularly so in our own Latter-day Saint congregations. Each Latter-day Saint family and individual should carefully consider whether their attitudes and actions toward others properly reflect Jesus Christ’s second great commandment — to love one another.”
For a longer list of ideas, visit the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page.
December 23 at an LDS Chapel Near You
Mormons Building Bridges is sponsoring a “Sit with Me Sunday” for December 23, when Christmas programs will be held in virtually every LDS chapel. The full announcement of this public event reads as follows:
Invite a gay or lesbian or transgender person to sit with you at your regular service for the Christmas program. Enjoy being together. Sing the songs. Greet your neighbors and fellow church members.
If you are an LGBT person, please come to church and enjoy the meeting with us. This is not a protest. It might be more of a Love-In, if you remember those from the 60s.
This is a lot to ask for those of you who have been wounded, but if any day at church will work to bring Christians back together, it’s Christmas.
Post about your experience. Take a picture of yourself outside the building and post it, here or on another page. Let us all applaud your courage.
Sponsored by Mormons Building Bridges.
For more information, visit the Facebook announcement.
In this video clip, author Carol Lynn Pearson and director Will Swenson describe the project
Two More Weeks to Support Film ‘Facing East’
Donations, Starting at $5, Accepted through December 15
Facing East, Carol Lynn Pearson’s play about a Mormon couple dealing with the suicide of their gay son, is now in pre-production as a feature film. A Kickstarter campaign now underway needs to raise $65,000 by December 15 to make the next steps happen.
“We’re at just under $40,000, but don’t get a penny of it if we don’t reach our goal,” the producers explain. “Time is of the essence.”
Donations from $5 to $10,000 bring donors various gifts.
“For pledging just $35 you get a DVD long before it’s available in retail,” the producers write, “Plus some lucky person gets serenaded by the gorgeous five-times Tony winner, Broadway diva–who is going to play a bit part in Facing East–Audra McDonald.”
The movie will be directed by Audra’s husband Will Swenson, who is well known as an actor and singer and for his support of the LGBT Mormon community.
Facing East was honored by the Association for Mormon Letters as the best Mormon-themed play of 2007 “for its compassion, its even-handed wisdom and its tragic power.”
“Facing East may well be the best thing Carol Lynn Pearson has ever written, at least for the stage” wrote Ivan M. Lincoln in theDeseret Morning News. “It raises plenty of questions and concerns but doesn’t offer any pat answers.”
For more information about the campaign, please visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/1742408579/facing-east. Stories about the campaign have also appeared in The Advocate and Instinct magazine websites.
For more information about the film, visit FacingEasttheFilm.com.
Carol Lynn Pearson’s New Book Is Out—Just in Time for Christmas
“A guide for traveling the journey with confidence”
Carol Lynn Pearson’s new book, The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, is out. Based on Joseph Campbell’s description of the hero’s journey, Pearson’s fable chronicles the symbolic journey that many LGBT Mormons embark on as they discover their identity and accept a call to be different.
“‘The Hero’s Journey’ is a quick and easy read, but captures in perfect rhythm the complicated feelings and situations of being an outlier,” writes Winterbuzz for Feminist Mormon Housewives. “As [Pearson] traces the steps in Campbell’s hero’s journey, you are led through the experiences of some of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The feeling of belonging to a tribe —our Mormon tribe made up of our Mormon families and friends— and then the sad realization of being different and the difficult choices that lie ahead.”
“Does one conform to stay comfortable and safe in the tribe,” Winterbuzz asks, “or does one set out on the rocky, treacherous path of self-discovery to help bring light and healing back to the tribe?”
Pearson describes her new book as “a guide for traveling the journey with confidence.”
Winterbuzz’s review is posted at Feminist Mormon Housewives.