Affirmation 1992 Conference Report
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From the May, July, and October 1992 issues of Affinity.
With 130 people in attendance at this year's national conference at
the Cocoanut Grove in Santa Cruz, CA, Affirmation members joined together
to "Building Integrity, Celebrating Diversity," September 18-20, 1992.
The goal of this conference was to strengthen our ties by helping us to know and like ourselves and each other. New at this conference was the focus on small group experiences led by a facilitator. Attendees were assigned to small groups of 6 to 8 people and assigned topics for discussion in order to build a team spirit of sharing and friendship. The topics were not picked at random. They were culled form the conference registration survey that each participant received. Topics such as developing personal spirituality, dealing with family and church, facing the AIDS crisis, building self-esteem were explored in these small groups. Many participants remarked afterwards that this new experience was one of the most valuable aspects of the conference to them, and helped them gain a new sense of closeness and belonging with those with whom they shared.
Friday evening was filled with the business of getting acquainted with a "Meet the Board" reception, followed by a general reception with hors d'oeuvres, games, a welcome and announcements. One wild activity had everyone running around for a timed interval asking questions of each other such as: do you know the meaning of Chappaquidick, have you ever been to the top of the Sears tower, and what are the words to the theme song from Gilligan's Island? The winner won a gift certificate to Nordstrom (or was it Nordstrom's).
Saturday began with a continental breakfast, followed by the discussion group sharing. Then it was off to the Cocoanut Grove at the beach for workshops.
Betty Jo Wade, a member of the San Francisco Singles Ward for over 5 years, shared her thoughts on being a part of the Church without compromising personal integrity.
Trevor Southey, a renowned artist and sculptor, explained how to bring together the seemingly contradictory aspects of our nature, in pursuit of a spirituality that transcends guilt, shame and intolerance.
The women's issues workshop discussed the issues and concerns of women who come from and LDS background, or whose partners and loved ones have related issues.
The Conference Keynote Address was delivered by David Knowlton, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at BYU. Knowlton explored the complete formation of current LDS attitudes about sexuality. He argued that much of what we assumed to reflect divine sanction for sexual standards may be far more determined by cultural forces than we assume. There is, he stated, a tension between revelation and social/historical pressures and suspects that much of our policy and concern about sexuality stems from those forces.
Affirmation had its first Fashion Show luncheon, using Affirmation members as models. We made fun of Gay and Lesbian clothing stereotypes with clothes from the Roman toga period, to biker lesbians, disco outfits, prom queens, mother earth, the Quentin Crisp look, chain male, and Imelda's first conference appearance--with a three foot high blond wig.
Saturday afternoon was spent on the Boardwalk, as we enjoyed the carnival rides and arcades. There was also volleyball, and other beach games.
We enjoyed a beach deck barbeque for dinner.
Jude Darrin and Camm Linden provided us with Country Western music to line dance and two-step in the Sun Room at the Cocoanut Grove.
The Affirmation LDS AIDS Memorial Quilt was on display at this conference.
We then had our closing Sunday Brunch.
This year's recipient of the Paul Mortensen Award for outstanding leadership and service went to Larry Gates of Orange County.
Affirmation's National Leader, Irwin Phelps gave concluding remarks, including the following:
"Yesterday I saw the sign on the marquee of the Cocoanut Grove: 'Affirmation Gay and Lesbian Mormons," and I was out by the marquee later in the afternoon trying to find the women for their caucus, and as I was standing there trying to get a door open, two young men walked by and one of them says to the other, 'How can you be Mormon and Gay?' Then a moment later he went on, 'How can you be Mormon?'
It's not easy for us. Being Lesbian or Gay is a big enough job all by itself, but we're Mormon and Lesbian or Gay and we ought to be awfully proud of it. I'm proud of you. I wish you all the best in all of your endeavors, your goals for life." (Tragically, Irwin was murdered in his home in Phoenix, Arizona, only five days after the conference.)