2004 Affirmation Writing Awards Contest Winners
- First Place: Laurie Wood, "Beyond Disappointment and Duplicity:
Finding My Voice as a Post-Modern Mormon Lesbian." More than a coming
out story, this essay is brilliantly structured around a repeating
pattern of women the author wanted to become but who were themselves
living fragmented lives. This is the story of a person moving from
invisibility and dishonesty to a life of wholeness and joy. Central
to this essay is a vision in which the author sees a line of women
of all ages, as if in a police line up, each with a mark above her
head. Looking closer, the author realizes that these women represent
her at different stages of her own life. She writes: "Each met the
mark set out for her. Each was exactly where she needed to be. .
. [A]ll the women were stunning, and all the women were me!"
- Second Place: Ben Jarvis, "Living Outside the Lines: A Story
of Personal Discovery and Self-Acceptance." The essay begins with
an almost surreal image: the author wandering through a rural Utah
cemetery while his father, communicating with him by cell phone
from 800 miles away, tells him about his ancestors, buried all around
him. The author then leads us through his coming out story, emphasizing
the struggle to hold together his Mormon heritage and the new life
opening up in front of him. He speaks of his life as a kaleidoscope,
where "feelings and experiences tumbl[e] over each other" in unique,
beautiful designs. To those who question how a person can be both
gay and Mormon, he writes: "I am Mormon for the same reason that
I am gay. I was born that way."
- Third Place (tie): Sam Clayton, "Good Night Sweet Prince: A Story
of Renegades and Role Models." The essay focuses on the complex dynamics
between the author (a young gay man), his lesbian sister, their
mother, and their mother's close friend, Garth Allred, a flamboyant
man whom she recognized as gay only after his death of AIDS. Though
the author of the essay met Garth only once, his mother's stories
about him made Garth an important vicarious role model in the author's
life. In a moving passage that recalls LDS traditions about vicarious
work for the dead, the author makes a pilgrimage to Garth's grave
and pledges to speak for him--to break the silence and shame that
surround so many gay Mormons, both in life and in death.
- Third Place (tie): Aaron Cloward, "For the Strength of Gay Youth."
Patterned after the Church pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth,"
this guide offers gay and lesbian Mormon youth something they will
almost certainly not receive at Church: helpful counsel on a list
of topics that includes agency, family, sexuality, dating, dance
clubs, the Internet, depression, missions, Church schools, the media,
and values. The author of this guide is founder of the organization
Gay LDS Young Adults, so he has confronted these issues in his own
not-too-distant past. This allows him to give informed, practical
explanations, not patronizing, and written with an awareness of
the diverse ways that gay Mormon youth organize their lives. Though
still a work in progress, this is a badly needed resource and should
be disseminated as widely as possible.
- Honorable Mention: Andrew Evans, "Name Withheld." The title
refers to the Ensign's practice of using "Name withheld" as the
byline for first-person accounts of depression, abuse, children
on drugs, and so on. The author imagines what his story would look
like if told in that format, focusing particularly on the story
of his excommunication. What does it mean, this essay asks, to have
one's "name withheld" from the records of the church or from family
gatherings? "Our names are the most sacred words spoken in our church,"
the author writes. "The church has chosen to withhold my name. But
I know that God knows my name. It is a profound testimony that brings
me peace and understanding."