Massive Participation of Mormons in Salt Lake City Pride
Pamela Koldewyn Johanson: “If this sounds like a testimony, it’s because it is”
by Hugo Salinas
With an interfaith service, an LDS social, two marches, and a popular booth known as “The Mormon Hugging Booth,” tens of thousands were moved by the participation of Mormons, LGBT and straight, at Pride celebrations held in Salt Lake City on the first weekend of June.
On Thursday, April 31, LGBT Mormons, families and friends participated in an interfaith service held at Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City. “Through God’s transformative power, anger and disappointment with our adversaries can become love and encouragement,” said Erika Munson of Mormons Building Bridges during the service. “This is not easy–it is a formidable act of faith. But we all know that when God tells us to love our neighbor, he’s talking about the neighbor who’s hardest to love.” The One Voice Choir provided some of the music.
On Friday, over 75 LGBT Mormons, families, and friends participated in an LDS social hosted by Jamison Manwaring. After a rooftop barbecue, there was some terrific community singing led by Christian and Dan. A counselor in a Salt Lake City stake presidency came with his wife. From Affirmation and Family Fellowship to BYU’s USGA and Reconciliation, many LDS LGBT-supportive groups were represented.
On Saturday, a group of transgender Mormons and allies participated in the Trans Rally and March. Leanorah-Loreli Grace, a Latter-day Saint who recently came out as transgender, rode the bus from Ohio to be there. She reported that singing “A Whole New World” during the Saturday events made her cry. “Luckily I was sitting between two remarkable and wonderful friends [who] wrapped their arms around me and I truly felt loved, for one of the first times in my life.”
On Sunday, hundreds of Mormons joined the main parade. Mormons for Equality marched with the ACLU and with the Unitarians. Curtis Penfold, a BYU sophomore who recently organized an event in Provo for marriage equality, led the ACLU group. One of the signs carried by the group read, “I SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY AND I’M A MORMON.”
Some 400 Latter-day Saints marched with Mormons Building Bridges. Several LDS families reaffirmed the selected theme, “Families Together,” by carrying signs with their family’s surname and the names of all the family members.
“I have marched in the Pride parade twice now,” wrote Pamela Koldewyn Johanson on the Mormons Building Bridges Facebook page. “Each time I was buoyed by a strong witness that I was where I was meant to be. I count both experiences as two of the most spiritual in my life. If this sounds like a testimony, it’s because it is.”
The Moore-Allgood Family marched with their transgender 18-year-old son Grayson. “I want other parents to have the rich experience we have had at supporting our kid,” Grayson’s mother Neca Allgood told KSL5.
“Having a supportive family behind me all the way has just made such a huge difference to me,” Greyson added. “I’ve had a so much happier life because my family has been there for me every step of the way.”
Sherri and Bill Park were part of a team of Mormons who hugged thousands of LGBT folks as they marched in the streets of Salt Lake and then at the booth. By Saturday evening, the day before the main event, they had already run out of “HUGGED BY A MORMON” stickers. At the site nicknamed “The Mormon Hugging Booth,” the hugging team embraced thousands of LGBT folks. Bill later reported that one of the LGBT folks he hugged, whispered in his ear something the person was too shy to say aloud: “I am a Mormon, too.”
Matthew Haws wrote about seeing his Mormon mother, who had once declared that she could never walk in a parade to support gay rights, stand up from her chair on the sidewalk and join the Mormon Building Bridges group.
“As she walked she turned and blew me a kiss and waved goodbye, I could see in her eyes what she couldn’t say, ‘This one is for you son,’” Matt wrote on the No More Strangers blog. “She turned back and marched on. I was not expecting the emotions of that moment… I cheered her on with a smile and the tears started to come, my sister came up gave me a hug and we wept together.”
» Mormons Building Bridges Marching In SLC Pride (YouTube clip)
» KSL5 Story (features Keith Trottier, Erika Munson, Neca Allgood, and Greyson Moore)
» View complete interfaith service (YouTube)
Equality Utah Event in Murray
Affirmation Conference to Feature Authors, Allies, Celebrities
Dancing Star Benji Schwimmer to MC Friday Dance
by Randall Thacker
Please join us September 13-15 for Affirmation’s annual conference to be held in Salt Lake City. These are some of the remarkable people who will be featured:
Dance with Benji Schwimmer!
Benji Schwimmer, winner of Season 2 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” will MC the opening event on Friday evening and spend time teaching us all some of his dance moves and some fun line dancing.
A former BYU student and a returned missionary, Benji struggled for years as he tried to repress his same-sex feelings. When he was 17 he started an online Yahoo group for gay Mormon youth. After years of attempting to fit into the Mormon model of heterosexuality, Benji finally accepted his sexual orientation as a gift rather than a curse. He came out in a 2012 interview with Mormon Stories founder John Dehlin.
Daniel Parkinson: God’s Affirmation
Led by Daniel Parkinson, this plenary session will feature highlights from the No More Strangers blog, the Gay Mormon Stories podcast, and the Far Between project. “As we have been conducting interviews for Gay Mormon Stories and the Far Between project,” says Daniel, “we have been impacted by a phenomenon that has been striking and consistent: if we are open to it, God will affirm us as LGBT individuals and give us a confirmation of his love and approval of our relationships.
“How do we know it? You can’t hear these stories and not be impacted by the profound experiences that these individuals describe. They come to the issue broken. They come to the issue with openness. They come to the issue with a willingness to obey God’s will and they are surprised at the answer received.”
Daniel Parkinson was born and raised in Utah to a Mormon family with a thick Mormon Heritage. He comes to this issue as a psychiatrist, with a strong sense of activism, and a desire to help the two communities that he inherited as his birthright: the Mormon community, and the gay community.
Daniel was married to Diego, his partner of 12 years in Canada as soon as it became legal there in 2004. Unfortunately, they are unable to live in the United States due to discrimination. Since their marriage is not recognized in the USA, Daniel can not sponsor Diego for immigration, so they are forced by this to live abroad. However, they have made the most of this situation and divide their time between two cities they love: San Jose, Costa Rica, and Montreal, Quebec.
In this presentation we will hear and see excerpts from Far Between interviews and Gay Mormon Stories interviews where the participants describe these life-changing events. We will then follow with excerpts or live descriptions of these events by some of the people who were interviewed and other people who have had this affirming experience. We are anticipating a very moving program as we stand as witnesses to the loving response that God has given to the prayers of these seekers.
Carol Lynn Pearson: A Hero’s Journey
Carol Lynn Pearson will speak on the vital themes that appear in her recent book The Hero’s Journey of the Gay and Lesbian Mormon, encouraging us to embrace our calling as LGBT members of the Mormon Tribe as a gift rather than a problem. She will encourage us to realize that we are a special part of the healing that must occur in our families, our society, and our church. The healing can only come when we have healed our own hearts and stepped into the grandeur of who we really are, confident in ourselves and in our God, able to bless and forgive all those we meet along the way.
Judith Finch’s story is featured on the LDS Church’s new official MormonsAndGays.org website (see “Judy’s Story”). An Affirmation board member with a gay son and two gay grandchildren, Judy will also speak at conference. Judy will talk about how it is no mistake for our children to be gay and how Latter-day Saints can practice what they have been taught about love, respect, and inclusion of all, including LGBT people, in their families and the Church.
Wendy & Thomas: New “Families Are Forever” Video
The Family Acceptance Project will screen its new film “Families are Forever,” a moving short documentary about a devout Mormon family’s journey to support their young gay son. Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project will outline more about the video and the Family Acceptance Project. The Wendy Williams and Thomas Montgomery family –the family featured in the documentary– will take questions from the audience.
Robin Linkhart and the Community of Christ
Robin (Kincaid) Linkhart, president of Quorum Six of the Seventy in the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) will also speak at our conference. On April 21, the National Conference for Community of Christ in the U.S. recommended to the First Presidency that the Church start marrying gay couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal. For states which do not have marriage equality, the Conference recommended blessing same-sex couples with commitment ceremonies. The same conference recommended allowing priesthood ordination for lesbians and gays who are in monogamous, committed relationships.
An Invitation to Support Affirmation
With Your Help, Amazing Things Are Happening in Affirmation and the LDS LGBTQ Community
Dear LGBTQ Mormons and Friends:
My name is Tina Richerson, Outreach Coordinator and Vice President of Affirmation. I am writing this week to invite you to a fundraising challenge we have been given by some generous Affirmation donors.
As you may already know, our scope of work is widening as we involve straight allies along with a growing number of LGBT Mormons who are seeking information and advice on how to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. While others of our group have long understood their place in creation and become comfortable with it, all of us, whether active, inactive or ex-Mormon, appreciate the warmth and support of the friends and “family” we find in Affirmation. With your help, amazing things have happened in Affirmation and the LDS LGBTQ community. And without your support, they wouldn’t have.
With that in mind, we want to update you on our recent activities. Affirmation is:
- Helping to increase understanding and build awareness of LGBT and Questioning (Q) individuals within Mormonism. We do this by supporting LGBT Mormon events worldwide.
- Continually improving our online image (website, social media) to be seen as a resource for not only LGBTQ Mormons but for parents, families, friends, and church leaders. One of our most recent offerings is a packet for individuals to share with their church leaders, family members and friends.
- Experiencing enormous growth in our global reach and receiving an overwhelming number of requests for our website and materials to be translated into a variety of languages.
- Answering hundreds of emails, Facebook messages and phone calls to help groups and individuals reconcile their sexuality and spirituality and find a place of healing. We are holding video and phone calls with individuals and groups looking to talk to someone.
- Sponsoring and participating in an increasing number of forums for dialogue among LGBTQ Mormons, church members and leaders, both locally and in Salt Lake City. These groups are helping to create increased understanding and build positive relationships.
- Expecting a record number of attendees at our Annual Conference “New Frontiers” in Salt Lake City this September 13-15. To promote broader participation, conference registration is below cost at only $99, a significantly lower price than usual; and, we will provide many half scholarships to those needing financial help, including a number of college students.
- Working closely with other like-minded groups such as Mormons Building Bridges, BYU’s USGA, LDS Family Fellowship, and Mormons for Equality, in order to provide more resources for support, awareness and outreach.
Thank you for supporting LGBT Mormons, their families, and allies in the past. In order for us to continue the growing amount of work we are doing, including expanding our international reach and offering more half scholarships to our annual conference, we are asking you to help us raise $10,000 by August 31, 2013. If we meet this challenge goal, some generous friends of Affirmation have committed to give an additional $5,000!!!
If you donate $100, $50, $25 or even $15 we can meet this goal and help fund Affirmation’s increasingly bright future, making an impact on the lives of LGBTQ Mormons, families, friends, and church leaders worldwide. Please visit our donation page to show your support today. Those who donate $25 or more can choose to also receive Affirmation membership benefits.
Visit our conference website to learn more about this year’s annual conference and to register. Receive a discount on conference when you renew your membership at the same time.
If you are looking for ways to connect with a LGBT Mormon group locally or via Facebook, want to receive our newsletters, or participate in an upcoming group teleconference with other LGBT Mormons, families and friends, please contact Todd Richardson at [email protected]. If you have an interest in being involved in international leadership team initiatives, contact Randall Thacker at [email protected].
Thank you in advance for your contribution and involvement.
Outreach & Vice President
P.S. Many employers will also match tax-deductible charitable contributions made by their employees, retirees and employees’ spouses. Contact your employer now and double or triple your impact!
Mormon Pride in DC: A Report from Our Booth
People are marching–not only in parades across the country, but by spreading this message of love (as well as education) to others within the LDS community
by James Brinton
On June 8-9th I had the amazing experience of marching with the Mormons in DC’s pride parade with messages of love! In Utah, there were Mormons Building Bridges. In DC, there were Mormons for Equality. I also helped staff and coordinate the booth for Affirmation–LGBT Mormons. So much has been going on in the intersection of Mormonism and LGBT topics in the last few years, that it was time to update our presentation with posters and material of current web resources for youth and families, current research, and information about ally groups fostering dialogue within and without our faith community. Altogether, this information let people know they are not alone, promoted evidence-based education on LGBT issues, helped individuals navigate pathways of faith and sexuality, informed of growing numbers of straight allies in the church, and fostered faith in Jesus Christ.
On Saturday we marched in the Pride parade. After a tremendously moving experience at last year’s Pride parade, I could hardly wait to go again. My cousin, her husband, and two kids drove all the way from Boston to show love and support in word and action, saying that if others in the family weren’t ready to show unconditional love and support, that they (my cousins) were there to represent the whole extended family for now. The group of marchers made amazing signs and the crowd cheered as we walked through the neighborhoods of Washington DC. Once more, I was flooded with feelings of love and joy as I walked and held a poster that said “Love: The Most Important Part of an Eternal Family.”
An overwhelming trend, still all too common, is that when an LGBT Mormon comes out of the closet, they often face tremendous misunderstanding, opposition, and hostility from LDS family and friends. Many are kicked out of their homes and faith community, ostracized by family members, and are at great risk of committing suicide. Numerous stories have been told of lives and families ripped apart because of teachings of the church and actions of church leaders and LDS families of LGBT Mormons. Slowly, with more dialogue happening about these tragedies, some are starting to respond with increased listening, empathy and love to LGBT individuals.
One quote from the church’s official website, www. MormonsAndGays.org states that, “Jesus Christ commanded us to love our neighbors. Whether sinner or saint, rich or poor, stranger or friend, everyone in God’s small world is our neighbor, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Latter-day Saints believe that our true commitment to Christian teachings is revealed by how we respond to this commandment.” Demonstrating this commitment in action, people are marching–not only in parades across the country, but by spreading this message of love (as well as education) to others within the LDS community. My friend Maggie made a sign that said “Free Hugs from Mormons 4 Marriage Equality” and we hugged hundreds of people throughout the weekend! Some people shouted, “I’m one of you! I’m from Utah too!” Others blew kisses, thanked us for our support and work to increase dialogue in our community. Gabe kept the crowd’s energy high by running in her super hero cape and giving hugs to onlookers reaching out to us.
On Sunday we set up our Affirmation DC Chapter booth along Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and the Capitol Building. Many people came by to attend the Capital Pride Festival. A taste of who came by:
- A man and woman with their 5-year-old son, members of the Church. When I asked what brought them to the pride festival, they confessed that they were only walking to a nearby museum, but wanted to see the festival before it got crowed. They were surprised, but so tremendously happy that Mormons were there to show kind faces and love to everyone passing by.
- A gay Mormon man who left the church over 20 years ago, very upset and wanting to talk to someone about navigating a path in his life.
- A recent convert, whose leaders treated her and her children poorly because she is a lesbian. We let her know that some congregations are opening up their doors to lesbians and gays, and that she is not alone!
- People who have Mormon neighbors—“Do you have something [reading materials] we can give them?”
- Straight members of the church coming to check in and help give hugs and support.
- A recent LDS convert from Colorado, with his father, expressing faith in the Book of Mormon and Jesus.
- A gay married couple who grew up Catholic and are now LGBT activists, thanking Mormons for Marriage Equality for their courage.
- A lesbian Methodist couple telling how they have navigated their life paths of faith and sexual identity.
- A straight couple, one being a former member of the LDS church, saying that she has wrestled for years with the Church’s treatment of LGBT individuals.
- LGBT former Mormons stopping by to say hi and wish us well, and many other LGBT and straight people coming by to express love and thanks.
- A mom of two gay sons, who left the Mormon church years ago. She expressed heartbreak that while the church is all about “family first,” many in the church and family did not love her sons, and ultimately they all decided they must leave. She began to weep as she shared that one of us in the parade ran up to her unannounced, and wrapped arms around her in a big hug. She knew the Spirit must have led that person right to her. She wept and expressed gratitude for the work we were doing.
- People who wanted a free Mormon hug!
“The World Needs Paradigm Pioneers”
“God Is Love”
“Que os améis unos a otros”
“Hugged by a Mormon” Stickers
The Abhau Family
Free Hugs from Mormons for Equality
“You Don’t Have to Push a Handcart to Be a Pioneer”
The Affirmation Booth
DC Pride: When the Baxters Joined In
We were determined to participate and show solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters
by Grant and Amanda Baxter
On Saturday, June 8, our family marched in Washington DC’s Capital Pride Parade for the first time. We joined our fellow Mormons under the Mormons for Marriage Equality banner. The logistics of travelling into the city on the Metro from our home in the suburbs with our five young children and all the accompanying gear were daunting. However, we were determined to participate and show solidarity with our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and express our belief that God loves, accepts, and rejoices in ALL of His children equally, without condition, and without exception.
As soon as we stepped out of the station and into the crowds, we felt an atmosphere of joy and unity, with people gathered together in a celebration of life and humanity.
That feeling of unity only intensified as our group entered the parade route and began marching. We were overwhelmed and touched by the cheers and encouragement from the crowd. The love was palpable and flowed freely back and forth between the marchers and the spectators. We shared hug after hug, high-fives, waves, and smiles. Our children were cheered and felt the energy and the love, and had a wonderful experience.
After the parade ended, we shared the rest of the evening at a social hosted by the group organizers, and attended by most of the marchers, as well as a few others. It was a wonderful opportunity to relax, celebrate, and build new friendships. The glow from the whole experience stayed with us for the rest of the weekend and made us wish we had been able to enjoy the Pride Festival the following day. We are already excited for next year’s parade, and are determined to participate every year from now on.
Over 30 people attended, both members and non-members, straight and LGBT
Tom and Wendy Montgomery hosted the first “All Are Alike” LDS Support meeting in Bakersfield, California on June 9. Over 30 people attended, both members and non-members, straight and LGBT. People attended from as far away as Tehachapi (1 hour away). Wendy spoke of the Montgomery Family’s journey with their oldest son Jordan coming out in 2012. Tom spoke of the unprecedented, positive developments within the LDS Church moving in support of LGBT members. The Church website MormonsAndGays.org establishes a clear acknowledgement regarding choice (“individuals do not choose to have such attractions”) and sets an inclusive, loving tone toward LGBT members.
Tom commented: “One of our greatest challenges locally is connecting members with the messages on the website. The vast majority of local members are relying on the direction of Church leaders from 30-50 years ago. The current leadership of the Church has seemingly outpaced the majority of the membership on LGBT issues. With the support of the Church, the Boy Scouts have now paved the way for Jordan to receive his Eagle Scout in the next year. We never could have imagined this level of change when Jordan first came out.”
Mitch Mayne speaking to the group. Backdrop: Diane Oviatt’s Pride Parade sign
Bay Area Group Holds First Meeting
Another evening is planned for late July
By Diane Oviatt
On June 2nd we had an LDS LGBT fireside/social at our house in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a great evening starting with desserts on the patio while we socialized. We then came inside to hear Judy Finch (whose story is seen on the Mormons and Gays website) and Mitch Mayne (who is the executive secretary of the Bay ward in San Francisco).
Judy talked about her journey as a Mormon woman with a gay son and two gay grandsons. Mitch spoke of the mission LGBT LDS people have to help their fellow church members increase understanding, love and Christ-like compassion.
The speakers were followed by a lively discussion amongst the twenty or so people attending. There was a warm feeling and new friendships were formed between the group members which included many straight allies as well as gay church members. Another evening is planned for late July with details to follow.
Lesbian Mormon Identities: A Conversation with Jeanna Jacobsen
by Hugo Salinas
Jeanna Jacobsen recently finished a dissertation titled “Mormon Women’s Experiences with Same-sex Sexuality.” A Ph.D. in social work, Jacobsen conducted interviews with 24 women who have experienced some kind of same-sex sexuality (thoughts, feelings, attractions, behaviors, affections, or relationships) and are or have been members of the LDS Church. Jacobsen, who identifies as a lesbian of Mormon background, describes in her dissertation how these women’s experiences affected their religious and sexual identities.
My impression is that a number of causes combine to make LDS lesbian women virtually invisible. Would you agree with that statement?
I think there are a number of reasons that LDS lesbian women do not have more visibility. First of all, there are simply less women than men who identify as primarily same-sex attracted, so male voices tend to dominate LDS LGBT communities. Women experience both sexism and hetero-sexism. Another issue is that many LDS women, regardless of sexual orientation, who are not married to a man feel invisible or like second-class citizens in their Mormon wards due to the Church’s emphasis on priesthood and family. Experiencing same-sex sexuality is just one more reason why women feel like they do not belong and this may create a situation where women leave the Mormon Church for welcoming feminine spaces or hide within the Mormon community.
You quote studies suggesting that lesbians who accept their identity and disclose it to others tend to have more self-esteem and be happier. Does this mean that it is good for lesbian Mormon women to come out?
Not necessarily. Women should actively work on self-acceptance and self-worth. But, accepting oneself does not mean that it is safe to come out. One needs to consider family and community impacts. The potential loss of social supports may be too difficult to endure during certain times of one’s life without first building an accepting community. This does not mean hiding one’s sexual orientation is the best option. Most women I spoke with felt drained from hiding this important aspect about themselves from others, especially family. For this reason, they eventually came to a place where hiding produced more pain and coming out was a step in fully accepting themselves. Coming out is a personal experience and the right time is unique to the circumstances of the situation.
You say that most of the women you interviewed felt as though they had to choose between their sexual and religious identities. What are the outcomes of this choice?
The outcomes are as varied as the women with whom I spoke. In the end, the women chose the lifestyle and belief system that created the greatest sense of happiness in their lives. The Mormon Church often teaches in black and white, so many women did feel as though they had to choose between their religious identity and a same-sex relationship. Half of the women in my study left the Church and no longer identified as Mormon. Two of these women went on to identify with other religions, although several others connected with their spirituality through other means (such as nature or meaningful work). Re-establishing a belief system after losing the rigid, structure of Mormonism is difficult and spirituality can suffer.
Twelve women continued to identify as Mormon. These women attempted to find some balance between their sexual and religious identities, such as believing the core tenets of the Mormon religion but changing beliefs about God’s acceptance of their sexuality. Most these women were not active because they choose to pursue a same-sex relationship and did not feel comfortable in Mormon communities given the negative messages about their sexuality. Only four continued to actively participate in the Mormon Church. Two chose celibacy. The final two women participate in services to the extent they are able given their same-sex relationship status and are welcomed in their wards.
Can you think of specific things that bishops or Relief Society presidents could do to make it easier for lesbians to feel loved and welcomed in their wards?
Creating a welcoming environment for any single adult female would help. Women need to hear messages beyond just the importance of a heterosexual family and having a priesthood holder in the home. When they don’t or can’t fit the ideal, they leave. Bishops and Relief Society presidents need to show their love. Demonstrate acceptance, recognize the difficulty she might be experiencing due to internal conflict, and do not diminish or dismiss her sexuality. Letting women know that they are welcome in church regardless of her relationship status (including involvement in a same-sex relationship) goes a long way in maintaining someone’s desire to stay.
Two New Titles Enrich Gay Mormon Fiction
“Elder Petersen’s Mission Memories” and “Companions: Nich’ooni”
by Hugo Salinas
Two recent titles, Elder Petersen’s Mission Memories and Companions: Nich’ooni,have recently been added to the world of gay Mormon fiction, and two Affirmation members have reviewed them especially for us.
“Jeff Laver is a good storyteller and produced a very readable book,” writes Alan Blodgett about the novella Elder Petersen’s Mission Memories. “I particularly enjoyed his mastery of the Mormon language, his depiction of missionary life and his descriptions of a gay man’s feelings and emotions. This novella is 53 pages and easy to read in one day.”
Companions: Nich’ooni is the story of two gay missionaries on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. The story “is mixed with adventure, raw truth, and irresistible love,” writes Karin Hendricks. “Based in part from Jed’s own missionary story, the characters reflect a sense of veracity yet eccentricity that made me shake my head in disbelief from time to time – until I remembered how very possible these stories of forbidden love, adventure, betrayal, and devotion really are.”
Fans of gay Mormon fiction will have another title available very soon, as University of Rochester professor Gerald S. Argetsinger, along with Johnny Townsend and Jeff Laver, prepares to publish an anthology of gay Mormon literature. Titled Latter-Gay Saints: An Anthology of Gay Mormon Fiction, the book is due out in July from Lethe Press. Argetsinger will be at the Sunstone Symposium this August to tell us more about the rich and the ever-growing world of gay Mormon fiction.
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