View the videos of the fireside below or at: https://www.youtube.com/user/AffirmationLDS
Anna Empey discuses her thoughts:
The night before General Conference started, Affirmation had a viewing of the film “Families Are Forever” which features the Montgomery Family and shares their story about being LDS and having a gay son.
Before the film started, Bishop Bob Reese gave a presentation talking about Dr. Caitlin Ryan’s work with The Family Acceptance Project. Dr. Ryan has been working on research about LGBT youth and how even a little bit higher of an acceptance level from families can significantly decrease the youth’s chance of participating in risky behaviors, and other risk factors for LGBT youth including a decreased suicide rate, and also a decreased risk of STD’s.
This was not my first time hearing these statistics, this presentation, or watching this film but something struck me differently this time. I truly saw more of my mom’s experience, and concerns listening to Wendy as she explained her torn feelings and emotions as she sorted out how to love her son and how to understand her relationship with God. Watching this film truly gave me hope and faith that my mom will continue to find her path and the balance between her faith, and her love for me and also for others that are LGBT.
After the film we heard from the Trans Individuals, Families & Friends choir. We also had the pleasure of hearing from Grayson and also from Tina, as they talked about their experiences I just felt grateful. Trans stories are not heard as often and over the last few years Trans individuals stories have been a little more visible, but I am so glad that they are here and part of the Affirmation community. Without them I feel like we would truly be missing the ability to have a better and a more complete understanding of gender identity, gender expression, and also how sexuality and gender are connected.
We also had the opportunity to hear from Megan Barrett and her parents. Megan shared advice she would have given herself at the age of 18. I truly loved hearing how Megan found the balance between her faith and her sexuality, pulling from her faith what was important to her particularly in relation to families and having her family with her wife. It truly was inspiring to listen to Megan as she shared her story and her advice.
My favorite piece of advice from Megan was “You’re not alone. There are tons of people out there that will understand and validate your feelings and experiences.” I truly felt this and was reminded that we are not alone. I took the opportunity to look around the room and I saw over 300 people with me in that room. I truly felt surrounded by people who cared for each other.
Listening to Megan’s parents speak was very touching to me. Again, I felt the challenge that parents face in navigating their faith and the love they have for their children. Hearing how much they cared about their daughter, even through the challenges, was very encouraging to me. I could truly feel the love that they have, not only for their daughter, but also for the LGBT community.
Overall, I left this fireside with my heart filled with hope, and with an overwhelming sense of love for who I am, and for those around me. I truly enjoyed this evening, and I am so glad that we have opportunities to come together to support each other, to love each other, and to help each other.