Affirmation 1995 Conference Report
by James Kent
Sources: The September 1995 issue of Affinity
and James Kent's Philly News #46 (August 11, 1995).
The 1995 Affirmation Conference was held August 4-6 at the Champion
Tower of Seattle University.
This year's theme, "Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are," is a whimsical takeoff on a favorite Wizard of Oz theme which was incorporated throughout our weekend, August 4th, 5th and 6th. It also had a more serious message in the "coming out" is never an easy process (especially given our LDS background) and one that is a lifelong process.
The weekend provided us with important personal growing opportunities and time to think about our own coming out process and what we could do to make a path less rocky for other who will follow our steps.
--Rob, David & Karen, 1995 Conference Co-Chairs
Friday Leadership Meeting & Activities
At the Friday afternoon leadership meeting we were amazingly able to keep to a schedule. The chapters reported in on how they were doing. We went over goals, plans, and budget for Affirmation during the upcoming year.
After the leadership meeting, there was fun and games, including a water balloon toss, out on the football field of Seattle University. Imelda made her appearance, dressed in black, and with a mink stole. We later enjoyed a delicious buffet-dessert bar in the ballroom, followed by Western line dancing and two stepping.
The "University of Oz" workshops
on Saturday morning included: A closer look at the Gay Hawaiian Marriage
Law, Mormonism 101: An Intro for Non-Mormons to the Unique World of
LDS Belief, Of Love Lust and Life, Successful Relationships, and a Coming
Out Panel. Other workshops covered the following topics:
Beyond Safety: Concentric Circles and Community Connections, facilitated
by Collin Thrush. The Gay Community as well as Affirmation provides
a safe place for gays and lesbians, but by reaching out into the non-gay
community through political, cultural & environmental organizations,
will hopefully help combat ignorance and bigotry directed against gays
The Anger That Hurts & The Anger That Heals. Lori Miller
provided a safe place to speak of anger from watching friends die of
AIDS, the abuse, neglect, loneliness, and lost of what might have been.
Henry Miller did provide some comic relief by saying he was angry that
we no longer have plural marriages (so he could have several husbands).
Jeff Jensen, through video cassette clips showed the self-destruction
of uncontrolled anger and rage (Sweeney Todd/Star Wars), and the empowering
use of anger to right a wrong (The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer).
Homosexuality & The Bible: A positive View. Reverend
Sue Stackhouse gave an enthusiastic presentation of the so-called "antigay"
scriptures in the Bible. By taking scripture bites out of historical
and cultural context, in addition to mistranslating the original Hebrew
and Greek texts, people have sued the Bible to condemn homosexuality
and justify violent acts against homosexuals.
The Transgender/Transsexual Special Workshop forum
was presented by Marscha Botzer of the Ingersoll Center in Seattle.
This workshop opened us to a small minority of people who are truly
rejected by everybody. At the core of her presentation was the discovery
It was a bit of a rough ride out to Blake Island's Tillicum Village,
an hour from Seattle. The clam soup was warm and tasty. One of our lesbian
sisters had caught the grilled salmon that we enjoyed this evening.
we enjoyed a very interesting cultural show.
"Something very special happened
Saturday evening. We started out with a few people singing beloved primary
songs, and slowly nearly a boat full of people wee gathered around singing
the songs many learned as toddlers." - Karen
while some of the conference
attendees stayed up late in the night talking up a storm in the dormitory
common areas, others went out dancing.
Sunday, Keynote Speaker
Our keynote speaker, Mel White, was a powerful and moving speaker. His remarks were entitled, "Our Journey Inward and Our Coming Out." During his talk, Mel White exposed the Christian right by showing what the Nazis did to the Jews in the 1930s. It stared with rhetoric, then it moved to political action, finally to violence. Mel White also spoke of his invisible friends who supported him in his time of need.
Rob Killian gave a very personal devotional presentation on love, loss
and reconciliation. He talked about his experiences working with terminally
ill patients in Upstate New York. He talked about The Wizard of
Oz as a coming out allegory.
We closed the Conference with a traditional Sunday Brunch. James Kent
was planning on leaving early to catch his flight back to the East Coast;
Paul Mortensen kept insisting that he should stay a little longer, but
wouldn't say why. James was completely taken by surprise to be the 1995
recipient of Affirmation's highest award for outstanding leadership
and service, the Mortensen Award.