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Affinity Groups and Facilitators for the Affirmation Conference

Affinity Sessions are a way for LGBTQIA+/SSA Mormons to gather for support and discussion with others who share a common identity and/or life experience. This year we are offering two Affinity group session blocks on Saturday morning of conference, allowing participants to receive support in up to two different areas. Please note in the descriptions below that some sessions are closed to particular identities and some are open to supporters who want to learn more.

In addition to these sessions on Saturday morning, the People of Color; Bi, Pan, and Queer+ Spectrum; Asexual and Aromantic Spectrum;  Women and Non-binary; Trans and Gender Non-conforming; and Prepare (Active LDS LGBT) groups will also have rooms set aside during Saturday lunch to meet and eat together. These lunch gatherings are open to allies/supporters.


AFFINITY GROUPS SESSION I, Saturday 8:45 am – 9:45 am


Women and Non-binary 

(LGBTQIA+ Women and NB Only)                                                                                     

Surviving and Thriving at the Intersection of Homophobia, Transphobia, and Patriarchy

Within the LDS Church and Mormon culture at large, “gayness” is still primarily acknowledged in connection to cis men (if at all). How have we been able to come to understand ourselves and our identities as LGBTQ+ women and non-binary folks in this context of near invisibility? How can we find and support each other, increase our visibility, and advocate for ourselves in the LDS Church and/or in LGBTQ+ Mormon circles? How do we do this across differences in age, culture, identity, and relationship to Mormonism? Join us in a circle conversation as we share our experiences and ideas on these questions.

Facilitated by Mikel Beth Ellsworth    

This session is open to LGBTQIA+ women and non-binary people only.


Crossroads

(LGBTQIA+, age 18-25)

Crossroads is a group aimed at being a forum/safe space for those age 18-25 who are LGBTQIA and come from an LDS background. The group was formed to address the need for a space where many of us facing crossroads (school, faith activity or transition, dating, etc) could come together and be a network of support. Come join us for a fun and casual time as we meet each other and discuss ideas for the group going forward.

Facilitated by Peter Harrison and Augustus Crosby.


LGBT Elders (All genders, age 50+)

Over 50 – Now What?

We have been there, done that. We have loved, been together, been alone, denied ourselves, accepted ourselves, lived the church, left the church, advocated, and isolated. Most of us have come to some resolutions regarding our sexuality and our relationships with the church and others. What’s next? What’s our identity? How do we plan for emotional health in our senior years? How can we help those coming after us as they face what we have faced? Come join an exploratory discussion about being “sage and senior” in Affirmation.

Facilitated by Tim McGeachy with Panelists: James Kent and Owen Rowell

This session is open to all, but targeted to LGBT+ participants over 50.


Mixed Orientation Families

(Session 1 of 2)

Affirmation’s MOFIA group (Mixed Orientation Families In Affirmation) is a collection of people impacted by mixed orientation marriage in their family lives. This first hour of the MOFIA affinity group program will include both LGBTQ+ and straight spouses, married or divorced, and our presentation will be on “The Path to Peace.” Life coach Kim Giles will guide a group discussion on how key building blocks of peace, such as forgiveness, trust and love, can create self confidence and peace. Kimberly Giles (also known as Coach Kim) is the CEO and Founder of the ClarityPoint Coaching Academy and a Professional Speaker and sought after Life Coach. She is the author of the book Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness. Coach Kim was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America and appears regularly on local and national television and radio sharing her unique insights on life and relationships. She has had over 350 articles published in newspapers and magazines reaching people all over the world. She is a member of the National Speakers Association, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the mother of seven children. She is also a dedicated and caring coach, who loves serving in the LGTBQ community.


Fathers in Affirmation

(Session 1 of 2)

Navigating the Waters of Being a Gay Father in 2016: When secular and religious society has expectations rooted in a tradition that fathers are straight, there can be significant pushback from others that affects a gay father, his children, and the relationship between father and child. In this roundtable discussion we will explore relevant topics that support building and navigating meaningful communicative relationships with our children and family, as well as the importance of practicing self-care as you greet the world as a whole and healthy father.

Facilitators: Troy Mitchell, Nathan Kitchen, Michael Klein

This session is open to all GBT+ fathers or would-be fathers. 


Men

(Theme 1 of 3, also offered in 2nd Affinity Hour)

The Intersection of body image and masculinity:  You’ve seen it on dating sites and apps: “masc for masc” or “no fat, no fems”.  Let’s have a real discussion about how hyper masculine cultural expectations affect our identity, sense of worth, and relationships, particularly for those who don’t fit the culturally perceived image of the masculine.

Facilitated by Michael John Amesquita

For GBT+ Men  only.


Men

(Theme 2 of 3)

Join us for a lively discussion about becoming more inclusive with LGBTQ+ identities different than our own.

Facilitated by D Christian Harrison.

For GBT+ Men only.


AFFINITY GROUPS SESSION II, Saturday 10:00 am – 11:00 am


Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming

(Trans and GNC only)

This will be a space for Trans & Gender Non-Conforming folks to meet one another, share our stories of self, and brainstorm how Affirmation can be more Trans and Gender Non-Conforming inclusive and how it can educate the larger Affirmation community on Trans issues.

Facilitated by Augustus Crosby.

Please note that this Affinity session is only for those who identify as Trans, Non-binary, or Gender Non-Conforming.


Asexual and Aromantic Spectrum

(Allies invited)

This affinity group is for anyone on the asexual or aromantic-spectrum and for interested allies. We will share personal stories, get to know each other, and discuss the challenges that are unique to those in our group. Tips will be shared for managing romantic relationships, or for living a healthy life without romance. We will also discuss ways Affirmation and the LGBTQIA+ community can be more inclusive of those on the ace/aro spectrum.

Facilitators: Aine O’Flynn and Megan Howarth


People of Color

This group is for LDS/Former LDS LGBTQIA+ People of Color (POC) to discuss multiple identities and the intersections of race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and LDS faith.

Facilitators: Fred Bowers and Lowell Acorda

Please note that this Affinity session is only for those who identify as LGBTQIA+/SSA POC.


Bi, Pan, and Queer+ Spectrum

(Allies invited)

Affirmation’s Bi, Pan, and Queer+ Spectrum affinity group provides community, support and friendship for those who identity as bi, pan, queer, fluid, polysexual, unlabeled, or as any other non-monosexual or non-monoromantic identity. Allies who identify as gay, lesbian, or straight (monosexual identities) who desire to support and better understand the unique experiences of this community are also invited to attend.

Facilitated by Kylie McQuarrie.


Mixed Orientation Families

(Straight Spouses only)

Affirmation’s MOFIA group (Mixed Orientation Families In Affirmation) is a collection of people impacted by mixed orientation marriage in their family lives. In this second affinity group hour, MOFIA invites straight spouses to work with life coach Kim Giles on building self-esteem and fearlessness.


Fathers in Affirmation

(Session 2: Open to all)

Panel discussion with gay fathers and their children: Each of us has had experience interacting with our own children as they navigate their personal journey of having a gay father. How valuable would it be to hear and learn from the children of other gay fathers? We have assembled a great panel of outgoing and affirming pre-teen, teen, and adult children and their gay fathers who will share their stories and answer any questions we have that might be helpful in our varied situations. Come prepared to laugh and learn and take away extremely helpful ideas for your family.

Facilitators: Troy Mitchell, Nathan Kitchen, and Michael Klein

This session is open to all LGBTQ+ parents (mothers included), would-be parents, and family members.


Men

(Theme 1 of 3, also offered in 1st Affinity Hour)

The Intersection of Body Image and Masculinity:  You’ve seen it on dating sites and apps: “masc for masc” or “no fat, no fems”.  Let’s have a real discussion about how hyper masculine cultural expectations affect our identity, sense of worth, and relationships , particularly for those who don’t fit the culturally perceived image of the masculine.

Facilitated by Michael John Amesquita.

For GBT+ Men only.


Men

(Theme 3 of 3)

We will explore the topic of LGBTQIA dating in a Grindr & Tinder dominated world. How can we use these apps while engaging in healthy dating practices such as open communication, discussing and respecting boundaries, and consent?

Facilitated by Peter Harrison.

This session is for GBT+ Men.


Affinity Group Lunch Gatherings, Saturday 12:30 pm -1:15 pm, Open to all allies/supporters

People of Color

Asexual and Aromantic Spectrum

Trans and Gender Non-conforming

Bi, Pan, and Queer+ Spectrum

Women and Non-binary

Prepare Group (Active LDS LGBT)


 

Lowell Acorda

LOWELL ACORDA

Lowell Acorda has been involved with Affirmation for two years now. He is currently working with Edmonton’s Men’s Health Collective (EMHC) as a co-facilitator for their Queer Geek Community group; Rainbow Road YEG. Lowell enjoys arts and crafts; specifically watercolours, all-you-can-eat sushi, and reading and educating people about the Asexual spectrum.

Michael John Amesquita

MICHAEL AMESQUITA

Michael Amesquita has been working on the Affirmation leadership team for the last four years in Washington, DC and Los Angeles.  He has a Bachelor’s from the University of Nevada Las Vegas in Secondary Education and a Master’s in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University. He just relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah to accept a position at the University of Utah as the administrator for the Lassonde Studios. When he is not working in residential education he enjoys volleyball, tennis, softball, and getting to know the new area he now calls home.

Fred Bowers

FRED BOWERS

Fred Bowers is a longtime member and leader of Affirmation: LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends. Currently, he is a member of the Affirmation Board of Directors and leads the Affirmation People of Color and Allies Group. He is also a former member of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates’ People of Color Advisory Committee.

Augustus Crosby

AUGUSTUS CROSBY

Augustus Crosby is a transgender man who started his transition in the last year. Having gone from being a depressed nineteen-year-old girl at BYU to a new twenty-year-old man in a fraternity at ASU, he wishes to help carve a path for those who need it. He makes YouTube videos and always tries to advocate for love.

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MIKEL BETH ELLSWORTH

Mikel Beth Ellsworth (she and they pronouns, alternating) is a bi/queer and genderfluid person who grew up in Austin, TX and now calls Minneapolis, MN home. She has served on the Affirmation Board of Directors for nearly two years and on the International Leadership Team for three, primarily focusing on building support by and for marginalized populations. Mikel Beth is an actor, somatic bodywork therapist, and the sole proprietor of a small non-toxic housecleaning business. They are currently working on creating a performance piece which will explore the interplay between queerness and Mormon religious-spiritual identity.

Kimberly Giles

KIMBERLY GILES

Kimberly Giles (also known as Coach Kim) is the CEO and Founder of the ClarityPoint Coaching Academy and a Professional Speaker and sought after Life Coach. She is the author of the book Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness. Coach Kim was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America and appears regularly on local and national television and radio sharing her unique insights on life and relationships. She has had over 350 articles published in newspapers and magazines reaching people all over the world. She is a member of the National Speakers Association, the National Association of Women Business Owners and the mother of seven children. She is also a dedicated and caring coach, who loves serving in the LGTBQ community.

Christian Harrison

D CHRISTIAN HARRISON

D Christian Harrison, an out gay man, is a life-long member of the Church and currently teaches Elders Quorum in his urban Salt Lake City ward. When he’s not juggling paradoxes, he likes to road trip. He’s currently finishing his first novel (honestly).

Peter Harrison

PETER HARRISON

Peter Harrison (he/him) pronouns) is a gay Mormon who lives in Logan, Utah. He is involved both locally and nationally with LDS LGBT issues including serving in Affirmation and Mormons For Equality. In addition, he also runs a support group for LDS/LGBT people in Cache Valley, Utah. He just started his junior year pursuing his passion in the interior design program at Utah State University.

Megan Howarth

MEGAN HOWARTH

Megan Howarth (she/her) is asexual and aromantic and lives in Logan, Utah where she works in tech support. Having spent much of her life feeling broken and alone, she now works to promote asexual and aromantic visibility and this last year created the group Asexuals of Utah which marched in the Pride Parade.

James Kent

JAMES KENT

James Kent long term Affirmation member and advocate, is known for his “Aloha!” greetings every year (he lives in Hawaii).  James, a gay man, has let go his personal LDS relationship to have a greater spiritual experience, but Affirmation remains an important part of his life.

Nathan Kitchen 

NATHAN KITCHEN

Nathan Kitchen is the father of five children and a dentist in Mesa, AZ. He is an author and advocate for gay fathers and their children.  

Michael Klein

MIKE KLEIN

Mike Klein is an active LDS father of 7 children and a financial advisor from Mesa, AZ. Once in a mixed orientation marriage, he now has a wonderful Jewish husband, Jason. In addition to moderating our online Facebook community, Troy, Nathan and Mike plan and host the annual Father’s retreat.

Tim McGeachy

TIM McMEACHY

Tim McGeachy In MormonSpeak, Tim will be the Neutral Gentile. Tim has been Owen’s companion for about 6 years, and this will be Tim’s 5th Conference. He is retired (yay) from being a social worker and HR Administrator. He was active in various LGBT groups in Sacramento, California including the Sacramento Gay Men’s Chorus. Tim and Owen now live in Portland, Oregon.

Kylie McQuarrie (2)

KYLIE McQUARRIE

Kylie McQuarrie is a bi, cis woman from Provo, Utah. She recently graduated with a degree in African literature and is passionate about advocating for the rights of the international queer community.

Troy Mitchell

TROY MITCHELL

Troy Mitchell is a psychologist from Lehi UT. He is the father of 2. He works with LGBTQ and their families.

Aine O'Flynn

AINE O’FLYNN

Aine O’Flynn (she/her) is panromantic, asexual, and lives in Provo, Utah; when she isn’t writing personal essays or watching Star Trek, she works as both a scuba instructor and a recreation therapist in Salt Lake City. She spent many years wondering where she fit in on the romantic and sexual spectrum and upon discovering the USGA panel on asexuality several years ago, she realized she felt right at home. She is an advocate for asexuality awareness wherever she goes.

Owen Rowell

OWEN ROWELL

Owen Rowell, who you may know by his pen name, Armand, was married and raised a family in the church; separated from his marriage and left the church; has recently been rebaptized after reconciling his gay status with church teachings; he feels he can do more for our cause from within the church.

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2019 Affirmation International Conference

There’s still time to register for the 2019 Affirmation International Conference being held June 21-23 in Provo, Utah. You won’t want to miss the incredible speakers and workshops we have planned for you this year. Plus we still have special rates for couples and families!

More Info and Registration