The Transformative Power of You: Be a Part of the Life-Giving Work of Affirmation in 2021
by Nathan Kitchen, Affirmation President
On the last day of 2020, my husband Matt and I went out to the Buckskin Mountains in the desert of Western Arizona to explore the old abandoned copper mines. These mountains are exactly the stereotypical landscapes you see in the old Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons with towering jagged red cliffs, perilous canyons, and barren plateaus spotted with the occasional lonely Saguaro.
Trekking mile after mile under sun-centered wide blue skies, the unending desert views from each peak remind you of the seemingly insignificant scale that your human frame occupies in this immense land that was lifted in the Triassic age and folded in the Mesozoic.
This vast scale of geology and time makes it all the more remarkable when you reach a summit and are suddenly greeted by the Colorado River, coursing through this desert. To those who first see this sight, the river can seem out of place as you stand there amid stone and sand. This water originated a thousand miles away, in a completely different climate high in the Rocky Mountains, yet is responsible for much of the geography and peoples of the desert southwest in what is now the United States of America. You can feel the life-giving, transformative power of this river.
It is the one thing that tames this desert and sustains millions of people living in the southwest.
As I watched the river, I was struck by the life-giving, transformative power of another great force I witness every day: the great network of LGBTQIA+ colleagues, mentors, and peers.
Affirmation is an important part of this network river of support. Every year, Affirmation serves thousands around the world as we provide a refuge for LGBTQIA+ people and their families to land, heal, share, and be authentic.
We not only provide programming, resources, and community for those who are and have been a part of the LGBTQIA+/Latter-day Saint intersection, but we stand as an institutional voice that recognizes and empowers LGBTQIA+ people.
Affirmation creates worldwide communities of safety, love, and hope. This is a life-saving and life-giving effort that takes a whole community of mentors and peers to support.
We often talk about Affirmation being a place to land and get our bearings as a queer person, but not a lot about the resources and service that we can give back to our queer peers to help make the road easier for those who follow. A part of Affirmation’s new vision is to not only be a place to land and heal, but to also be a place where you can share. No matter your time restraints, your interests, your belief or non-belief, Affirmation has a place for you where you can share meaningful service in ways that interest you.
Your experience and credentials as a queer mentor are more powerful than prejudice, discrimination, or policy. You know that rejecting words and exclusionary statements do not accurately reflect your life. Your example shows those newly arriving in Affirmation to land and heal that their life is not meant for the margins!
The queer experience, especially in the LGBTQIA+/Latter-day Saint intersection does not have to be navigated alone. Silently reading a mission statement provides little impact, however, when a queer mentor personally affirms your inherent self-worth, sees you as a complete, equal, and valuable person, and supports you as you define your individual spirituality and intersection with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that is life-changing. That is the transformative power you can instill in others who are reaching for community. Providing a meaningful connection for someone during a vulnerable time is the tide that raises us all.
As you take an inventory of your time in 2021, I invite my LGBTQIA+ colleagues and allies to volunteer in our great network of mentors and peers as we accomplish the mission and vision of Affirmation. We have many areas you can be a part of:
- Leading people-centered in-person chapters, online groups, conferences, and parent support.
- Behind the scenes organizing, conference planning, administration.
- Cultivating well-being through suicide awareness and prevention.
- Bilingual or multilingual translation.
- Social media/website/personal interaction strategies.
- Relationship building with other LGBTQ organizations, fulfilling stake and ward requests for resources/speakers, media relations.
- Financial relationship building, business management, accounting, and NGO organization.
- Being a peer mentor for someone with similar experiences and beliefs.
You have the ability to be a transformative power and sustain our queer peers in times they feel insignificant in the personal deserts that surround them. We need you wherever you are located. Affirmation is not tethered to a specific location; instead, we are out in the world supporting people wherever they need to be supported. When people reach to us for help, we reach back with community.
2021 is going to be a great year! I look forward to hearing from you and working with you.