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Reflections and Farewell from Affirmation President Nathan Kitchen

Nathan and Melissa-Malcolm
Nathan and Melissa-Malcolm

by Nathan Kitchen

December 18, 2022

As we approach the holiday season, we also approach another season for Affirmation. 2022 was a presidential election year, and as we ring in 2023, we will also welcome a new president of Affirmation. I am excited to see the leadership of Melissa-Malcolm King as Affirmation’s new president. Both of us met at our very first Affirmation conference in Palmyra in the spring of 2015. Through the years, I have watched Melissa lead in many ways within Affirmation, culminating in their addition to Affirmation’s Board of Directors in January of this year. I captured one of my favorite moments with Melissa in a selfie when we were together at Salt Lake Pride this summer at the Affirmation booth. Melissa’s personality and optimism are infectious.

I began my first term in 2019. Just three months in, the November 2015 exclusion policy was rescinded on Thursday, April 4th, the day before April General Conference. I will always remember that I woke that day to my phone buzzing almost nonstop with message notifications. Affirmation had been tipped off that a significant announcement would be made later that morning concerning LGBTQ Latter-day Saints and their families. We knew the time of the announcement, but we didn’t know what it was. Our communication committee’s rapid response team within Affirmation made plans, created an empty shared Google document, and then we waited.

When I got to work, I arranged my patient care so that I would be available to sit with whatever was coming. At the appointed hour, I shut my office door and started refreshing my screen to capture the announcement as soon as it dropped. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh…

And there it was.

Within minutes our empty Google Docs page began filling in real-time with the paragraphs and ideas from our team that would soon become Affirmation’s official response. I began to get calls from the press wanting my personal comments and interviews about this breaking story. It was a busy and intense morning weaving this with my professional obligations in a busy dental practice.

Yet something was missing still. The exclusion policy was an event that affected each one of us in ways that cannot be captured by an organization’s official statement or represented by a president’s voice in an interview. That morning my mind continued to gravitate to Affirmation’s charter that recognizes the members of Affirmation are the ultimate governing authority of the organization. In all this official business, I did not want to hide your voice or your own experiences. I cleared space on our official platforms and called for your personal stories so that your voice might stand right alongside the institutional voice to communicate and amplify your own intersections with the exclusion policy.

I see Affirmation as a mirror, reflecting each person as we center around our mission to create worldwide communities of safety, love, and hope. Reflecting and amplifying your voice is an important part of affirming who we are. Our collective reflections reveal a strong and beloved global network of mentors and peers who care about you and what you are experiencing. We are absolutely at our strongest when we are queer-centric and affirm one another and our self-determination as we navigate life, our individual spirituality, and intersection with the Church.

One of the defining moments in these past four years was the seemingly never-ending worldwide COVID pandemic. The core of Affirmation has always been our superpower ability to gather people together in person so that affirming relationships can be built. Such connections shore us up as we make critical decisions about the intersections we navigate. What do you do when the very foundational face-to-face element of the organization you lead is kicked out from underneath you?

You do what Affirmation has always done. We rely on one another.

Bringing everyone safely online into our virtual spaces, participating in virtual events, and then safely returning us in stages to pre-pandemic gatherings has been both an art and a science. Something on the top of our minds as leaders in Affirmation is that Affirmation has a continual influx of new queer folks, their families, and friends. Along with this heavy inflow, many who seek communities within Affirmation as they get their bearings and figure out what to do, continue on to other supportive communities as time goes on. It is a cycle that continued during the pandemic and created a phenomenon where Affirmation is currently housing a large population who have only experienced Affirmation virtually as an online entity. For our first in-person Affirmation International Conference in two years, well over half of our participants were at an in-person conference for the first time. The experience was life-changing for many.

Providing virtual programming taught us much and raised the expectations of many who prefer it, but we are now in the middle of dusting off Affirmation’s foundational aspect of gathering people together in person to build connections with one another. Those personal friendships and relationships are both life-saving and life-sustaining. Through Affirmation’s in-person programming, I have met and become friends with people whom I would never have had a chance to know on my own. In this process of connection, I become a part of a worldwide network of mentors and peers who are helping make the road easier for those who follow. It is a remarkable community of strength waiting to welcome you with open arms as you prepare to exit the closet.

And the beauty of what is happening right now is that we can witness a transition to a new executive committee and new president of Affirmation and still see the rise continue of an organization that has been dear to past generations of queer Mormons as it becomes exactly what it needs to be for this generation of queer Mormons.

It is here, in the last two weeks of my presidency, that I reflect on those whom I have had the honor to work with. First of all, the vice presidents of Affirmation. Both Jairo Fernando González Díaz and Laurie Lee Hall have exemplified thoughtful and strong leadership. Both are forward-thinking leaders and have taught me by example. We have been complementary to each other, building upon each other’s strengths. I will miss my daily interactions with them terribly, but am grateful for our friendship that will endure. I will always look back with fondness on our time together as an executive committee. I also am grateful for Rebecca Solen, who came on board with the EC at the beginning of my second term as president. Rebecca brought a new set of skills into the EC and was a voice I could rely on. She felt conflicted when she needed to step away for family reasons after her first year, but family always comes first, and Affirmation would be so very selfish to insist otherwise.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with our current staff. Joel McDonald is a very capable director of operations; he literally built the plane as were flying it when we had to bring Affirmation into its virtual space during the pandemic years. It would have been impossible and cost-prohibitive to have provided the virtual programming at the scale we needed without his skills to create those in-house. He has been very open to change and suggestions and is an invaluable resource to all our chapter leaders around the world. I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with our Latin America Network Coordinator, Alejandro Alcántara Carbajal. Latin America is Affirmation’s largest, most active area with many countries to coordinate. He is phenomenal at what he does, and I will miss my monthly meetings with him greatly.

Over these past four years, I have had the honor to lead a diverse and capable Board of Directors. Each member has my respect, and each has had an important impact on the mission and vision of Affirmation. A big thank you to Samuel Tew, our ever-efficient Board secretary. You are amazing. I also am grateful for Paul Winward, who serves as Affirmation’s treasurer. He is a non-profit accountant by profession and brings those skills to Affirmation in his volunteer capacity.

Most of all, I am grateful for the friendships and connections I have made around this world with all of our volunteer leaders and members of Affirmation.

Occasionally I will hear queer leaders and allies, especially those who have built up a personal brand around their work, say that they do what they do because they feel called to this work. Some cast it as their mission in this life to enter into this space—the liminal space where queer people are courageously navigating their personal intersections with the church at the margins of religious, sexual orientation, and gender power centers. Calls and missions are noble indeed, however…

I am here in this space because I love you.

I hope that as we all move forward, we hear less and less that personal callings and personal missions are the motivators of both leaders and allies. It makes all the difference to me, as a queer person, when someone tells me that they are in this space to help because they love me.

Four years ago, I entered this space as president of Affirmation because I love you. I could do so because I was first loved by you, my community of mentors and peers. I am grateful for your trust and the opportunity you have given me to take a turn for a season leading this great organization. It doesn’t matter to me the title I carry in Affirmation, president or regular Joe, I look forward to continuing on in my full support of Affirmation, where together–in whatever capacity we are able—we will build lifesaving and life-sustaining communities of safety, love, and hope for our peers, families, and friends.

Queer joy will always be found within the boughs of Affirmation when we are rooted in love.

Thank you all,


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