Moving Stories of Real People in Affirmation
December 19, 2015
The following are stories of real members of Affirmation.
I first was introduced to Affirmation by a good friend of mine. I was a little hesitant as I did not know what to expect and I was still in the process of coming out. I was in a complex spot with myself and where I wanted to be with my spirituality and religious upbringing and how it all related to my sexuality. I was very conflicted and torn. I felt so much pressure from others around me to do certain things, to follow a certain path, to find happiness this way or that way, or to find what the church was truly about through this way or that way. And even as I came out, I continued to feel extra pressure on me.
I felt as if I were a piece of glass getting pushed on in one concentrated spot and the more I felt pushed on the more I felt my heart and soul was going to break into thousands of little pieces. As I interacted with other LGBT Mormons through Affirmation, I began to feel relief and safety as I found others feeling this way and experiencing many different sides of life. I felt the pressure ease and I felt like I finally had the ability to clear my mind, clear my heart, and just sit.
I was not required to make a solid decision about what my life would be like in 20 years. I finally started to recognize that I could enjoy the journey to find myself and discover who I wanted to be on my own terms. I finally found a space that wasn’t telling me what to do with my life. Instead I found a diverse group of individuals and as I learned from their experiences it helped me find a path with the love and support of others.
Affirmation has been a safe haven for me. It gives me the opportunity to be an individual, to honor my journey and path, and also lets me help others find their paths even if they are different than mine. Affirmation has helped me find a healthy balance for myself where I have been able to get out of very dark places and see that I was not alone.
Salt Lake City, UT
My husband and I are lifelong Church members who were married in the SLC temple 26 years ago. We have 4 beautiful boys. One has served and another is currently on a mission. I have a deep testimony of the Church and an abiding love for the Gospel. That’s why my family’s experience has been so difficult.
Our story started when Zach was really young. He was the 3rd of the four boys and I noticed pretty quickly that he was not like his brothers. It seemed that if it was pink and sparkly he was interested in it. At first I thought it was just a phase, but he never grew out of it. I was unsure what this meant. Fast forward several years and it is clear that my sweet son is gay.
Although, this news was not troubling to me personally, it did not fit with my church and their teachings. Suddenly I felt a great deal of fear and uncertainty about the very things that I had been previously been so sure of.
I noticed pretty quickly there aren’t many opportunities for gay teens in the LDS church. Their choices are lifelong celibacy, a mixed orientation marriage (if I had a daughter, I would not want her to marry a gay boy), or leave the church. I think the hardest thing about these choices is that they leave no real hope for my son. I love my family more than anything on the earth and that love prompts me to want that for Zach; his very own family to love and cherish like I do mine. Sadly, the opportunity for him to have that does not exist in the church. I can’t help but feel that the whole “Families are Forever” thing comes with a huge asterisk: Unless you are gay. Unless you have a gay child.
As I desperately searched for some answers to this dilemma I found Affirmation. I was able to attend their annual conference. It was life changing for me and my family. It was almost like the information and friendships I gained there gave my family permission to truly support my son, fully and unconditionally. I will never forget taking with Randall Thacker, the president of Affirmation, and telling him my story. He told me- this is your truth and you get to stand in it. He literally gave me the support I needed to love and support my son. Today my son is thriving and I believe it is as a direct result of the support that he has received from our family. I am truly grateful to Affirmation for helping me find resources and a community to give me the courage to support my son.
Lori and Brett Davis
Before Affirmation I had recently moved across the country, and I didn’t know anyone who was Mormon or accepting of Lgbt+ youth. After Affirmation I had made many friends. I found people I lived close to and now have the opportunity to spend time with them. Affirmation is a wonderful experience and by donating money, other youth like me can feel welcomed and accepted by tons of individuals of all different ages. Thank you!!
Max Blanchard—age 15
Almost two years ago my oldest son confirmed our worst fears, he was gay. We’d suspected from a very early age, but were sure that with proper parenting and careful observance to religious teachings we could correct this “abhorrence of nature.” By the time he was 23 we felt we had faithfully fulfilled our duties as parents to a dependent child, and that he had done his part, by serving an honorable mission for our church and adhering to all moral codes. But somehow, it was not enough to change him. Fortunately, when he told us, we realized that he was still the same son we had always loved and adored, and that despite doing everything we could to ‘fix’ him, he had miraculously maintained his love for us as well. We worked forward from there.
The first few weeks after his admission were some of the most heartbreaking moments of my life, and yet they were some of the sweetest and most peaceful I’ve ever experienced as well. We had many heart-to-heart, open conversations trying to understand this new reality. I specifically remember one of those conversations, through email, as a turning point. I wrote my son and basically said, “Help. I need to understand better where you are coming from, and I need to see how this works. I need to see things from your perspective.”
I quote his response, “I really do want to tell you what to believe. Really really I do. But even if I could, I wouldn’t because it’s both wrong and such an awesome time for personal self-reflection and growth. I can just tell you what I feel and leave you to it. But sadly, I’m not that eloquent. I’m going to use others words that describe it more clearly. I will add some links below.”
This was my introduction to Affirmation. I used his three links to read life-altering articles. It was a life vest thrown to a drowning victim; they were quite literally lifesaving. One was written by a parent, and the other two by LGBTQ authors. I sat and sobbed tears of relief and gratitude. In my solitude of suffering, and feelings of total isolation, hopelessness, and loneliness I had finally found voices that explained, lifted, and brought peace and acceptance. I can never adequately express the gratitude I had, and continue to have, for the thoughtful and meaningful articles to me as a parent of an LGBTQ child, and now ally to the larger community.
“Mom, I’m gay.” These are not the words that, as a Mormon, we ever consider hearing. At least, this was the case for me. I went from knowing just what my life, and my children’s lives would hold for now and all eternity, to free falling into uncertainty. I went into a spiral of guilt, shame, fear, and confusion. I was in place where I had no answers, and no one, much less my church leaders, had the information to calm my mother-heart. This loneliness led to suicide attempts for my two sons; there was so much pain.
Then I was put in contact with Affirmation. My world changed. The loneliness and darkness lifted. I knew I was not alone, but it was not until I first walked into an Affirmation Conference that I FELT the love and support I had been desperately praying for. I was able to bring not only my own children but also some other children who had also been hurt for simply being who they are. We learned that they are loved and accepted and that they have a wonderful future to look forward to.
I was able to ask questions that I could not even whisper about where I am from, but more importantly, I got answers. My children made friends and now see a better future for themselves. Not just that– they want to fight for themselves and others.
Affirmation saves lives. I know, because they saved the lives of my boys.
Carly Iturregui Picasso-Brown
My son Jonathan told us he was gay about ten years ago. I didn’t react well. I tried to convince him he could be straight. I tried to convince him that even if he was “a little gay” that he could marry a woman. I couldn’t believe that “this” happened in my family. The first time my son brought home another young man and introduced him as his boyfriend, I nearly became sick to my stomach and I treated them both like lepers and didn’t want them to come into the house.
I finally came to accept my son – and to love all gay, lesbian, transgender, purple polka-dotted people (i.e. everyone), but when I tried to find support and a way to reconcile my son’s sexual orientation with my church’s doctrines, I found absolutely nothing. There was no manual for how to be a parent or even a friend of someone who was LGBT. I decided to stop looking for support in the church as an organization and hoped that I might find what I needed from individual members of the church. I met a woman on a business trip who told me about Affirmation.
I attended the Affirmation Conference in 2014 with Jonathan. I didn’t really know what to expect, but what I experienced was profoundly spiritual, and it healed my relationship with my son. He knows now that my former homophobia is totally gone and that I love him unconditionally. Everything about Affirmation – the speakers, the group sessions, the music, the informal gatherings for meals – all of it combined to make us feel whole again. I met lots of other parents of gay kids and learned from them. The best part was meeting so many of my LGBT brothers and sisters and expanding my circle of love.
I often feel inadequate and overwhelmed when LGBTQ people are referred to my partner and I for help and guidance. We are just two people with two voices with our own limited and unique experiences and perspectives. Comforting someone who feels at odds with the world, their faith, their God is overwhelming and you feel like the “right words fail you.” Comforting someone who is suicidal or feels like all is lost is overwhelming and scary and again, the “right words,” “sufficient words,” seems to fail you.
Yet I have access to this beautiful safety net know as “Affirmation,” “Mormons Building Bridges” etc where I can gently guide someone into an immediate support group, an immediate safety net of love and genuine concern, an immediate buoy to a sinking soul. This is truly one of my Pearls of Great Price, an invaluable asset that so many long for but don’t know exists, something that so many need and so few have.
Truly I am in awe, I ask for help and it’s immediately given. I offer my raw desires and feelings and they are immediately validated or attended to.
Thank you for the life saving work you all are engaged in. Thank you for allowing me to tag you in a post and see you all immediately respond and come to the rescue. Thank you for allowing me to pour out my heart and soul and for considering my words and for loving me, my family, and my friends whom I care for so deeply. Thank you for loving complete strangers and not suffering the “beggars petition” to be put up in vain. Thank you for being genuine and sincere followers of Christ. Thank you for mourning with us that mourn, thank you for comforting those of us who stand in need of comfort, thank you for standing as witnesses of Christ in all things and in these remote places of His vineyard. Individually we have very little but collectively we have “sufficient” to abide the day. Thank you for always making up what I feel I so desperately lack.
From Nick Einbender
In October 2014, I realized that I was gay. A gay Mormon. I fell into a deep depression as I started processing everything I had experienced as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I felt isolated, confused, and betrayed by the church that I trusted and obeyed completely. I had heard about congregations with gay members that were accepting, but I was not near any of them; I was in an isolated community in Northern Ontario trying to reconstruct my life. I became suicidal and was also committing acts of self-harm. I could not connect with my past to gain understanding, for it was in that past that everything started. I did not know what to do.
I was told about Affirmation. I looked it up and was directed to a Facebook group called Affirmation, Prepare. As I sat down at the laptop and started writing the requested bio, I cried so much I could not see the keys. That very act alone was healing for me. I was able to sort out clearly in my mind the stages in my life that brought me to this point. I posted it. Within minutes I received likes and comments and support. I sat on my bed crying and feeling loved for the first time in years. Not just loved but accepted for the person I really was, not what I was expected to be.
I received personal messages from many men my age who also went through reparative therapy, got married, and struggled through life as I did. I was not alone! I quickly became friends with many of them. They offered love, support, and a place to talk through these issues. Some of us still talk every day. I had a community I could trust and belong to. This feeling of belonging that I have has been a great help in my recovery. Which is a huge thing for me considering I am hundreds of miles away from anyone who could understand.
Affirmation, its Facebook groups, and its various members have had an enormous impact on my life. I honestly believe if not for these people and this community I would be dead. I have become a stronger person and am now able to support others as they come into the groups feeling scared, lost, and alone. Affirmation has made my world a whole lot safer.
Kashechewan, Ontario, Canada
When our teen came out to us as gay last year, we hugged her and told her we loved her and that everything would be okay. But, the reality is that being a gay Mormon can be extremely lonely and isolating. We didn’t feel we had any church resources that we could turn to for practical help in how to raise our LGBT teen to be happy and healthy. The whole subject felt taboo at church and in most other circles. We desperately needed help. Trying to find sources of support were difficult to come by, and finding the help we needed was overwhelming and discouraging.
When we learned of Affirmation, we immediately registered. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we knew we needed something, and as we talked to others who had attended past conferences, we became even more eager to go. We were looking for others who had been where we were and had found a path forward. For resources and support. For friends for our teen who could understand and relate to her lived experiences. For some spiritual uplift and hope that we could forge a path to happiness for our daughter and our family.
Affirmation was everything we’d hoped it would be and more. I felt uplifted, renewed, reenergized and ready to take on life again. We met in groups with other LDS parents with LGBT kids and shared our experiences with each other. We listened to beautiful music and inspiring speakers. We had spiritual meetings that helped me feel a reconnection with my faith. The best part of Affirmation was seeing our gay 16 year old come, find, and bond with other teens. They laughed, talked, sang, and danced. There was a light in her eyes that we hadn’t seen in too long. She had found her people. Those connections made the whole weekend worth it for our family. Her emotional health got a big boost, and I loved that she had the opportunity to meet and associate with positive role models. She was able to see that it IS possible to be a happy, healthy LGBT woman with a good, productive, positive life. That was invaluable. Affirmation was an incredible experience for our entire family, and I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to go.
Idaho Falls, ID
I attended an Affirmation testimony meeting last year. It was amazing to me that I could be in a room full of hundreds of strangers and yet feel so absolutely loved and unjudged. I felt like the love and acceptance there has to be what heaven will feel like. It was incredible to feel absolutely zero judgment.
Rosie Bodily Cressall
I am trans. My gender assigned at birth isn’t what I actually am. And that’s rough.
I am Mormon. I was raised in the church singing primary songs and playing general conference bingo and reading my scriptures.
Those things don’t seem to fit together all that well.
I found the Affirmation website through my dad and finding it changed my life and my understanding of myself and my hope for the future. I realized there were other people like me, other people who had similar experiences. I found youth resources that became my guideline for setting my personal standards, and I found amazing role models who can understand my situation as both a Mormon youth and a queer youth and can help give me advice.
My life still doesn’t make sense to me all the way, and it sure isn’t easy. But it’s a lot better than it used to be. I feel safer being who I am. I feel less stressed and alone. My future is so much brighter knowing I have the chance to be able to stay in the church and keep my faith strong regardless of my seemingly conflicting identities.
I have tried to share this wonderful organization with as many people as I can who could benefit from it, and I hope that it can continue to grow because it makes such a huge positive impact. It’s been vital in my life and I know it is to other people as well.
Alina Pickett—Age 16