The Seattle Conference Is Only Days Away!
You Can Still Register for $199
by Hugo Salinas, Affirmation webmaster
We are only two weeks away from the Seattle conference, and believe it or not, you can still register to attend this event. October 8 is the deadline for Mail-In/Faxed/Scanned PDF late registration ($199) and October 12 is the deadline for Express On-Line Late registration ($199). In order to register, please follow this link.
Please keep in mind the following as you prepare your trip:
Hotel and Transportation: The Renaissance Seattle Hotel is located at 515 Madison Street, Seattle, Washington 98104. At a cost of $2.75, the Central Link Light Rail will take you from the Sea/Tac Airport to downtown Seattle in about 35 minutes. Get off at University Street station and use this map for an 8-minute walk from the station to the hotel. If you’re driving to Seattle, remember that parking fees at the hotel are $30/day (self park).
Seattle Weather: Use this site to check out the weather before flying to Seattle.
Program: Registration and the Hospitality Suite will open on Friday, October 19, at 4:00 pm. Some gatherings for first-timers and interest groups will start at 6:00 pm. The welcoming reception is at 7:00 pm. The conference will close on Sunday, October 21, at 1:00 pm. For the full program, follow this link.
Plenaries and Workshops: From John Dehlin to Bridey Jensen, and from Tina Richerson to Kendall Wilcox, this conference will feature remarkable speakers, workshops, and special events. For the list of workshops, follow this link.
Music: The Affirmation choir is back! We will gather for rehearsals starting on Friday evening and sing during the Sunday devotional. Please consider being part of the choir.
Special Events: If you’re arriving to Seattle on October 18, consider attending Wicked for Marriage, a special performance of Wicked to benefit Washington United for Marriage. Tickets start at $74. On Sunday afternoon, you may want to explore downtown Seattle or take a cruise in Elliott Bay. Cruise fares start at $23.25.
Saturday afternoon will include plenty of free time and the opportunity to watch The Falls, a gay Mormon-themed film which will be screened in a nearby theater in connection with the Seattle Gay and Lesbian Festival (General admission: $11). Tickets can be purchased in advance for $11.32. It’s an 8-minute walk from the hotel to the movie theater. Note: This film includes some nudity and the depiction of garment-like underwear.
Business Meetings: All Affirmation members are encouraged to attend the Leadership Meeting (also known as Council of Chapter Representatives), on Saturday from 1:15 pm to 2:15 pm. All Affirmation members should attend the General Business Meeting which will be held on Saturday at 7:00 pm and will include the presentation of important business relating to the future of Affirmation.
Meals: Conference meals will include light refreshments on Friday evening, breakfast on Saturday morning, heavy appetizers during the Saturday evening reception, and a closing luncheon on Sunday. Please note that this year we are not providing a Saturday lunch, and the traditional Saturday evening banquet has been replaced by a reception and a dance with heavy refreshments.
Spiritual Focus: This conference will feature inspiring speakers, many opportunities to sing LDS hymns, and two Sunday morning events: A testimony and spiritual story sharing event (9:30 am) and a devotional (10:30 am).
If you have not yet registered, please consider doing it today! We are looking forward to seeing you in two weeks in beautiful Seattle.
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“Someone somewhere loved me for who I was and it didn’t matter that I like boys instead of girls”
Adam White to Speak at Affirmation Conference
Adam White, a Music and Theater major at Brigham Young University, will be one of the keynote speakers during the annual Affirmation conference to be held in Seattle on October 19-21.
“When I was a little kid, I was that kid that made you smile because he was so darn gay!” Adam says in an “It Gets Better at BYU” video clip which has been viewed almost 15,000 times. “In nursery, I was obsessed with playing with My Little Pony. I would be shamelessly flirting with boys. I was obsessed with all these things that boys should not be obsessed with.”
In elementary school, finding himself at the receiving end of harsh remarks and some bullying, Adam learned very quickly that his behavior was not typical of his gender and that he needed to conform.
“During middle school and high school, I tried very hard to distract myself from all the feelings I was having,” Adam says. “Instead of worrying about that, I tried to do band, drama, choir; bishop’s first assistant, mutual, seminary; I tried to do all these things so that I wouldn’t have to think about my sexuality.”
Adam says that when he started college, he began to feel profoundly depressed. It took him a while, but thinking about high school helped him figure out what he was experiencing.
“Looking back, I had several crushes on some really cute boys,” says Adam. He went to the mirror in his bathroom, looked himself right in the eye, and said, “Adam, I think you’re gay.”
“Everything clicked,” says Adam. “Everything made sense.”
The next step for Adam was to pray to Heavenly Father. “It was amazing the kind of peace I felt after I prayed,” Adam says. “There are very few times when I felt so distinctively that someone somewhere loved me for who I was, and it didn’t matter that I like boys instead of girls.”
The BYU group Understanding Same Gender Attraction (USGA) became Adam’s “home away from home.”
“They are my family,” Adam says. “Being gay to me is no longer a struggle because I have family here who will take care of me, who support me, who love me.
“There are people every day actively trying to make a space where people like you and me can exist and honor our sexuality and honor our faith. It’s an exciting time to be a gay Mormon.”
Affirmation Conference to Include Workshop on Dating, Long-term Relationships
Presenter Is an LDS Marriage-and-Family Therapist
There are “plenty of gay fish in the sea,” but how do you find someone who is a great match for you? Where can you look to find a person who has similar values and goals? How do you stay confident and true to yourself in the world of dating? And once you find someone to love and to love you back, how do you create a relationship that is secure, lasting, happy, and healthy?
The Affirmation Conference, to be held October 19-21 in Seattle, will address these questions in a workshop session titled “Dating and Building Healthy and Happy Long-Term Gay Relationships.”
In this discussion-type workshop, talk with others about the challenges, joys, and dynamics of dating in the gay world. Get tips on dating as a gay Mormon, process with others about what works and what doesn’t, and learn how to be healthy in your dating and long-term relationship. We hope to create a safe space to talk about dating, intimacy, commitment, trust, and all things relationship.
Aimee Heffernan, a LDS marriage-and-family therapist who also has experience working with gay clients, will discuss how to have healthy boundaries, maintain strong communication, and build trust and emotional connection in your relationships.
For more information about the Seattle conference, visit www.seattle.affirmation.org.
Stake President Hopes for a Day When Gay and Straight Members Sit Together in the Pews
“We hope that our discussion with President Barrow will lead to more understanding and acceptance of LGBT individuals within the Houston Texas South Stake”
by Evan Clayson, Houston Affirmation Chapter Coordinator
One of the coolest things about the Affirmation chapter in Houston is the ratio of allies we have who actively support the group compared to LGBT members. In fact, about half of the people who walked with us in the pride parade were straight parents, spouses, and friends. And I feel like I cannot express enough gratitude towards these individuals for sticking their necks out for our community, especially within the Mormon Church.
It was straight allies who invited the president of the Houston Texas South Stake, President Barrow, and his wife to have dinner with our chapter. The stake consists of eight wards including one young single adult ward and wards in the Sugar Land and Sienna Plantation suburban areas. I jumped at the opportunity when the offer was initially made because so often I feel like this subject is either not discussed enough or misrepresented within Mormon circles. Despite the fact that we would probably not change the opinion of President Barrow or his wife on LGBT rights, having dinner with the stake president would allow him to listen to the perspectives of many individuals who have some sort of tie to the LGBT Mormon community. Our chapter went in with the intent to simply inform the president and answer any questions he might have when it comes to how the stake presidency can better serve LGBT members.
The dinner was held at the residence of a supportive, active Mormon family and we had sixteen people attend in addition to the stake president and his wife. Out of the people in attendance some of us were gay, some were parents of LGBT kids, and some were simply friends in support of LGBT people. Some of us were active in church and some of us were not active at all. We had former spouses who dealt with the stress that a mixed-orientation marriage brings, and we had a transgender individual who was able to share her experiences as well. We started the discussion with some introductions, followed by an opening prayer, and then some food and small talk over a large dinner table. After everyone had finished eating, I began to thank the president for attending the dinner with his wife (as I did multiple times before and after). I introduced him to Affirmation, what our purpose was, and outlined the sort of discussion we intended to have for the evening. What followed was an experience I will always remember. Each person there was able to share his or her story and how the issue of homosexuality or gender identity effected each of us. We shared the good experiences, the not so good experiences, and even some rather traumatic experiences we’ve had with the Church and its members.
As we talked, one of the more notable moments was when one of our members gave the stake president a copy of the Family Acceptance Project’s “Supportive Families, Healthy Children” document for LDS families, which President Barrow acknowledged and said he would read. This document is important for parents of LGBT youth and church leaders alike because it provides rather alarming statistics concerning the problems rejected youth deal with when it comes to drug use, HIV infection, and suicide rates. It also goes into detail on how parents can help their LGBT children accept themselves better, how they can advocate and support their LGBT children, as well as the importance for leaders to not tolerate rejection and negative remarks within LDS congregations.
Although he never addressed his opinions in regard to the LDS Church’s involvement with LGBT rights, the stake president acknowledged the scarring many LGBT Mormons dealt with as a result of their devotion to their faith. By the end of our dinner he stated that he hopes for a day where members could sit together in LDS congregations, whether gay or straight, without any qualms. He also challenged each of us to come back or continue going to church in order to push a change in the attitude of members.
During Stake Conference for the Houston Texas South Stake this month, it was noted that President Barrow spoke about families. However, instead of focusing on how the family was being assaulted, he went about the importance of family in an interesting way, albeit brief. I asked multiple sources who were there since I did not attend conference, and they all confirmed he spoke of how we are all a part of the same community: male, female, married, divorce, and different sexual orientation. He stressed that all are a part of God’s family.
Although this may seem like a small step to some people, this is a BIG step at a local level. So often when things like sexual orientation are discussed in a Mormon setting like conference or Sunday school or institute, it is done so in a negative, shameful way. Being gay or lesbian is often associated with being a threat to “the family” or being bad for society or “giving in to temptation.” So much is focused on the perceived sin. It’s a breath of fresh air to hear something positive being said concerning gays and lesbians, with no conditions attached (i.e. love the sinner, hate the sin), especially here in Texas. I am confident this simple statement was much needed to at least one individual in that congregation and I believe our chapter’s influence was the reason the President was sure to include those of different orientation in his talk.
In the end, I believe our message of acceptance came across well and that President Barrow displayed a genuine concern for the issue. The Houston Affirmation chapter hopes that these sort of open conversations will be more welcome all over the area and we hope that our discussion with President Barrow will lead to more understanding and acceptance of LGBT individuals within the Houston Texas South Stake.
Why California Ban on ‘Gay Cure’ Could Enlighten LDS Church
“The fact that science is so firmly against the idea of aversion and reparative therapy cannot fail to have an impact.”
by Monya Baker
Something is missing in the New York Times article describing a law that bans psychological treatments to change sexual orientation in minors. Mormons are not mentioned at all. Nonetheless, I think this law could have a profound effect on Mormon attitudes, which are already shifting toward tolerance. (Witness the participation of straight, active Mormons in gay pride parades throughout the country.)
My optimism is founded on two Mormon values: respect for science and respect for the rule of law. When he announced the new legislation, California governor Jerry Brown said that therapies to change sexual orientation had no basis in science. More than other conservative groups, Mormons embrace science. I recently interviewed a geneticist about a rare, genetic disorder named after Ogden, a small Utah city. Its residents, by allowing their genomes to be studied, were key in the discovery of the causative gene. I asked, did the city mind having a horrible disease named after them? And the geneticist (who I do not think is Mormon) told me Mormons embrace scientific advances enthusiastically and so were proud to help.
As an American religion, Mormons resonate strongly with the idea of progress, an idea which is also manifest in science and technology. In fact, Mormons have long sought scientific justification for their beliefs, such as promoting archeological expeditions. And though the Church has stopped funding scientific studies that did not have the hoped-for results, the Church remains pro-science and technology. The fact that science is so firmly against the idea of aversion and reparative therapy cannot fail to have an impact.
Also, Mormons are taught to obey government laws. Part of the justification for rescinding polygamy was that Mormons believe in being subject to the laws of the land. If laws point to tolerance and acceptance and protecting psychological health, Mormons will generally follow.
I do want to acknowledge the very real harm gay Mormons have experienced within the Church as well as fundamental doctrines about the role of men and women that demand a too-narrow definition of family. Nonetheless, I think optimism is justified.
But most of all, I think the shift toward tolerance in the Mormon community is that, overall, Mormons would rather help than judge. (Yes, there are horrible, prominent exceptions.) Mormons have a gut reaction to help and support families, and, more than ever, society recognizes families headed by gay coupes. These forces, along with respect for science and the rule of law, can move Mormons toward acceptance.
Bryan Horn: “by singing together can promote mutual understanding and share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ”
Mormons Building Bridges, an organization that works to foster Christ-like, loving relationships between the LGBT and straight communities, is organizing a choir that will feature gay and straight members of the Church, or those with a Mormon background.
The vision of the choir is to build bridges between the LDS and LGBT community through the beauty of music. The new choir seeks straight and gay Latter-Day Saints who, by singing together can promote mutual understanding and share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The choir will welcome anyone, regardless of church membership, to participate. By creating a safe place based on these guidelines, the choir hopes that members of the church of every orientation will learn to foster love and understanding and together testify to the reality of Jesus Christ.
The choir encourages anyone, of any musical background, to join. For more information, contact Bryan Horn, mbbchoir (at) gmail (dot) com, 801-361-1261, or visit mbbchoir.wix.com .
Sunday, October 7, 2012, at 5:00 PM
by Duane Jennings
Join us for Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons’ semi-annual After Conference Sunday Fireside on Sunday, October 7, 2011 at 5:0 pm followed by refreshments (please bring an hors d’oeuvres or dessert – drinks provided)
Our guest speakers will include Professor David Knowlton, Utah Valley State University.
Venue: Community of Christ: 2747 East Craig Dr. (3640 South – from 3900 south turn north onto 2700 east. Take the third right onto Craig Dr. The Church is on the north side)
Why Mission Reunions?
Since 1993, on the Sunday evening of LDS General Conference weekend, the Salt Lake chapter of Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons has hosted an After Conference Sunday Fireside. “Why,” some might ask, “would gay and lesbian Mormons possibly want to attend such an event — especially when they have traditionally been cast as pariahs by their own faith community?”
A simple answer is that regardless of one’s present relationship with the LDS Church, the two years spent as missionaries in a foreign country, or within the United States, had an indelible impact on who one is. Some of the best missionaries of the LDS Church are now advocates of equal rights for the LGBTI community here in Utah and elsewhere!
Affirmation’s Fireside celebrates that missionary experience and the courage it takes to be true to ones self and to ones God. It allows us to acknowledge the important place our Mormon heritage has had in framing who we are in the present.