By Nathan Kitchen
On the evening of April 6th, 1986 I sat alone in a dark and empty meetinghouse foyer trembling. I had made an appointment to tell my Bishop I was gay. From my limited understanding, I felt that being gay was something shameful that required repenting of. I fully understood what a pivotal moment this was for me as a 17-year-old boy and I was terrified by what might happen. A few weeks earlier a young man in my stake was kicked out of his home for coming out.
Through the sobs of my confession, my Bishop kicked me off into a life trajectory of ignoring my sexuality. He counseled me to tell no one, marry in the temple, and everything would turn out OK. With much trust, I faithfully followed this counsel.
Despite obedience with exactness, the silent lonely hollows created by completely ignoring my sexual orientation eventually and catastrophically imploded. I was in personal danger. I realized the path to self-care and healing for all involved was to abandon the counsel of the 80s. I came out to myself, spouse, brothers, sisters, parents, children, co-workers, and friends. Much was lost, including my marriage of 23 years. But much was gained.
I am the last generation of LDS youth who were officially taught to get married as a remedy for and therapy to overcome “homosexual inclinations.” The entire collapse of the pathway laid out for me when I was 17 by my Bishop was frightening and traumatic. And in every sense of the word, traumatic to everyone I loved and everyone who loved me.
Every generation, every individual, at the intersection of LDS and LGBTQ+ has their own unique and powerful stories. I made my entire personal journey of traumatic reconciliation before I found Affirmation. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I want to do all I can to ensure that no one exercising self-determination of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression does so alone. Affirmation is the place where you will be seen, heard, and respected.
As president of Affirmation, I want to see Affirmation flourish with a brightness of hope that will illuminate the most vulnerable in the LDS LGBTQ+ community. I want to see a robust network of supportive communities within Affirmation available for those who have made or are making their own reconciliation journey, where ever you are (or are not) on the faith spectrum. Post exclusion policy, we have a huge population of LGBTQ+ who have left Mormonism whose needs are just as relevant as those who remain. I want to see Affirmation be a safe and healing community welcome to all, no matter where or when you intersected with the Mormon faith.
It was here in Affirmation that I finally discovered the power of becoming a part of a supportive community. My first Affirmation conference was in the spring of 2015 in Palmyra, NY. I found strength in hearing the stories of others who had been on similar paths as my own. I met leaders who affirmed my journey. This was the very first time anyone had ever affirmed my journey as a gay Mormon and it was electrifying. I met friends with sexual orientations and gender identities other than my own and learned the stories of their own intersection with Mormonism. This built for me a diverse and rich community of fellow LGBTQ+ to draw strength from as I rebuilt my life.
I am a firm believer in giving back to your supportive communities. In the fall of 2015, I co-founded Affirmation’s father’s group to specifically support GBT+ fathers. Here I spent three years moderating our Facebook group and co-creating three highly successful father’s retreats.
In February 2018, I was asked to join the board of directors of Affirmation. Here I gained a respect for the organizational issues Affirmation faces and felt the camaraderie of a diverse board who are passionate about Affirmation and its members. I began my service on the board with the Spirituality committee where I became the first certified QPR Gatekeeper trainer in Affirmation and presented QPR suicide prevention training at our 2018 International conference.
From my experiences, I realize that Affirmation is not just one person. Each of us has a responsibility to give voice to our thoughts and opinions, for a diverse marketplace of ideas brings strength to Affirmation. Because of this, your vision is my vision. My job as president is to dialogue and listen to everyone in Affirmation throughout the world to understand needs and implement resources.
During the Friday morning leadership session at the International Conference, Affirmation leaders were asked to individually share their thoughts about “What can Affirmation do?” In the afternoon the leaders of Spain, UK/Europe, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Chile, and US/Canada reported on the activities and support needs in their countries. These feedback sessions gave a valuable foundation to inform where Affirmation can grow and better serve the individual.
I have created a Facebook campaign page “Nathan Kitchen for Affirmation President 2019.” I have asked Laurie Lee Hall to join me on the ticket as Senior Vice President and Jairo Fernando González Díaz as vice president. All three of us have listened to the feedback and the needs expressed by our worldwide leadership and will share our “Affirmation 2020 Platform” on the campaign Facebook page, detailing plans to support the organization and you during the next two years if elected.
We look forward to answering your questions and hearing your thoughts about the direction of Affirmation.
I ask for your support to lead Affirmation as President during these next two years. My executive strengths are empathetic listening, collaboration, dialogue, and executing plans and procedures. My chosen vice-presidents compliment my areas of weakness and I am grateful they are running with me. We are at a juncture of change as we enter this next era with our new inclusive charter and bylaws. We face explosive worldwide growth and an annual budget of almost a half million dollars. Despite these administrative tasks, I want to convey that my first love is to you, the individual member of Affirmation. Affirmation exists for you. This space of love will be home base for me as president as we create together safe and supportive communities among friends.