Affirmation 2005 Conference Report
Prepared by James Kent and Hugo Salinas
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2005 Mortensen Award
New Heights, New Friends
More than 90 GLBT Mormons Gather at Denver
From Mexico to Canada and from Hawaii to Maryland, some 90 gay and lesbian Mormons flew to Denver, Colorado, for an unforgettable conference weekend.
The event opened Friday evening with a social mixer and delicious refreshments. We played a game that involved matching numbers, meeting new people, and learning more about them.
After the mixer we crossed the hall for a special screening of "Lost Tribe," a documentary about Sue-Ann Post's visit to the Affirmation conference in Salt Lake City two years ago. "I hope you all enjoy the film and I want to thank all of you again for co-operating so wonderfully with what must have been quite an intrusive process," wrote Sue-Ann in an email read by Alyson Bolles before the screening. "I think the essential decency, warmth and humor of you guys really shines through in the film, and has charmed everyone we've shown it to."
Lost Tribe is scheduled to be aired in Australia in November. Sue-Ann's new book, "The Confession of an Unrepentant Lesbian Ex-Mormon (or Hanging Out with Gay Mormons in Salt Lake City) ," is available for purchase by visiting Sue Ann's website at
After the movie some of us went straight to bed, while others went dancing and yet others gathered at the hospitality suite to chat, play board games, and watch movies.
After the Saturday breakfast, we enjoyed a number of workshops that focused on different facets of our personal journeys, Affirmation's mission, family relationship, sexuality, and the GLBT experience.
At noon most of us scattered to the wind, while the Gamofites (gay Mormon fathers) gathered at Dixons Downtown Grill for their traditional lunch. The 25 Gamofites who gathered collectively represent 59 children, 54 (and a half) grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. This year's Michael Farr Award for outstanding leadership and service to Gamofites went to Larry Mann of Alexandria, VA.
The evening banquet was a grand event, with Affirmation legend Imelda taking pictures, mingling with the crowds, and flirting with admirers. After a delicious dinner, Affirmation leaders announced the winners of the 6th Annual Writing Awards Contest, an important program that over the years has nurtured and promoted writers to explore the gay Mormon experience. The first award went to Connell O'Donovan for his essay, "Losing My Religion — Or, How I Baked a Custard Pudding and Lost My Belief in Mormonism." The complete list of winners and winning entries is posted on the Affirmation website (www.affirmation.org/awa).
This year, the following people were nominated for the Mortensen Award for outstanding leadership and service to Affirmation: Alyson Bolles, Jason Giles, Michael Lambert, David Melson, James Morris & Aaron Vinck, Hugo Salinas, and Brus Leguás Contreras. Contreras' nomination was a milestone in Affirmation-the first time an Affirmation leader form South America was nominated for this award.
The Mortensen award was given to Hugo Salinas, who was recognized for his contributions in web development, newsletter creation, Spanish translations, and history preservation. "I know that Affirmation is true!" said Hugo as he accepted the award, triggering the audience's laughter and cheers. "Affirmation survives because of the remarkable efforts made by a small group of people," he added. "If you feel that you are in a stage of your life when you can donate some of your time, talents, or resources to a good cause, please volunteer!"
Don Johnson, a well-known professor at the University of Colorado, gave
a moving keynote speech, sharing with us some of the pains and joys
of his journey as a gay Mormon. Don's excommunication occurred exactly on the day
of the first national gay rights march in
the nation's capital in October 1979, where he discovered Affirmation
and marched with the gay Mormon contingent in that parade.
"One of the great beauties of Mormonism is its sense of instant family," said Dr. Johnson, "--to be able to travel anywhere in the world and [notice another Mormon]. It didn't matter if they spoke the same language--there would be that smile and an acknowledgement, and you felt that you had a family away from home. And I'm aware of that same sort of feeling now when I see a rainbow decal on the back of a pick-up, or two men or two women walking and holding hands together-that flooding sense that this is family, this is my people. And it transcends race, nationality, and everything else."
"A lesbian friend of mine many years ago gave a Valentine. In front there was a cartoon drawing of a little hippopotamus with a small bird on its head. The hippopotamus is looking up at the bird and the bird is looking down at the hippopotamus, and the caption on the front says, 'A VALENTINE-YOUR ARE THE ANSWER TO MY PRAYERS.' Then you open it up and says, 'YOU'RE NOT EXACTLY WHAT I PRAYED FOR, BUT APPARENTLY YOU ARE THE ANSWER!'"
"At times I feel my spiritual journey has been a little bit like the card. [The way my life turned out] isn't exactly what I prayed for, but apparently it is the answer. In the hindsight it has been a fantastic answer-one for which I am profoundly grateful… I would hope that each of your journeys take you to a path of personal power, self-love and growth, and that we will all see the refiner's fire in our own lives as one of the great blessings. May you have joy in your lives and paths. God bless."
Listen to Olin Thomas present Dr. Don Johnson
Listen to Dr. Don Johnson's keynote speech
After Dr. Johnson's remarks, we had the pleasure of listening to the Denver Gay Men's Chorus. Now entering their 23rd season, the DGMC is comprised of 120 members, all volunteers, including African Americans, Hispanics, and one lesbian. The members range in age from 19 to 60+ years. We felt right at home with the chorus, as we learned that director David Dunbar is a BYU graduate, gay, and comes from Mormon background. The chorus sang, among other favorites, "Lead Kindly Light," "The Morning Trumpet," and "Morning Poem."
A lot of people went out to enjoy Denver's splendid night life; but some of us, too tired for a night out, were content with visiting at the Hospitality Suite.
LDS Reconciliation of Salt Lake City hosted the Sunday devotional, an inspiring event that included traditional Affirmation hymns, the listing of some 100 fellow gay Mormons whom we have lost to AIDS, and uplifting speeches by Mark Packer, Ollie and Delores Olsen, and Russ Gorringe. We sang the Affirmation version of "Come, Come, Ye Saints," "Beacons of Truth," the gay LDS version of "Because I Have Been Given Much," and the first verse of "God Be With You Till We Meet Again."
Listen to Russ Gorringe introduce the devotional program
Listen to Mark Packer's talk
Listen to Ollie and Delores Olsen's talk
Listen to Russ Gorringe's talk
A we enjoyed a delicious Sunday brunch, four members of the Portland Chapter stood up to announce that the 2006 Affirmation Conference will be held in Portland, Oregon. We received this news excitedly, as many still have fond memories of the 1998 conference held there.
Alyson Bolles nominated Olin Thomas to run for one more term as Affirmation's executive director.
Our thanks to the Denver Conference Planning Committee for all their work in preparing this conference: Micah Bisson (Chairperson), Olin Thomas (Budget), Nann Lawyer (Conference Packets/ Registration), Mark Hansen (Saturday Workshops), and Russ Gorringe (Sunday devotional).
God be with you all till we met again.