My mind has been flooded with thoughts, ideas, inspiration, motivation and excitement. I attended my very first Affirmation Conference this weekend. It was a wonderful concoction of people with their own views, stories and experiences. It was far better than I had expected it to be. I am not sure I can recite every thought I had this weekend and quite frankly, I am not sure I want to. Some thoughts and revelations should just be for me. However, there are some I want to share with you.
Growing up LDS and gay I had heard of Affirmation. Though from my perspective, today's Affirmation is not the one I knew growing up. I had come to see Affirmation to be a community of inactive or former Mormons, who had been so hurt by the church they wanted nothing to do with it. In my understanding that hurt often turned into opposition. Today's Affirmation is a place of love, community and inclusion of all reaches of the Mormon spectrum. I am so glad that I have come to understand Affirmation better and that Affirmation has come to a position of power and influence for good in the lives of LGBT Mormons.
I have known Evan for five to six years (we counted). Back in the early days of the MOHO blogging community, we found each other's blog and commented back and forth. Then came the Facebook friending. There was even a close encounter down in San Francisco a couple years back where I missed the opportunity to meet him.
I know some of Evan's story and have been in awe of his growth and strength in life. I was honored to be sent a wedding invitation last year, though I was a thousand miles away and was not able to attend.
Monday before the conference, I got a Facebook message from Evan asking if I would be at the conference. I informed him I would be and he said he was going to be there too. Then, Friday night, I was able to meet Evan for the first time. It was great to finally put characteristics and personality to a face and story I have known for so long.
I also met other amazing individuals who I hope will stay friends and in touch for a long time to come. I am extremely shy in social gatherings where I don't know people and thus lacked the courage to meet as many people as I could. However, the few that I did meet are quality people, who I am excited to get to know more over the coming years.
I saw so many parents and siblings at this conference with their gay son or daughter. The large presence of supportive family members at this conference was pretty awesome to see. Evan noted at the end of the first evening that he was going to invite his parents (who live in Utah), though he doubted they would come.
It really wasn't until the second evening that I wondered how my parents would react if they were sitting the audience with me. There would be a few comments shared that would bring disapproving thoughts and there would be a few which would make my parents (particularly my mom) uncomfortable. However, I like to think, that overall, my parents might walk away with an increased understanding of what life is like for a gay mormon—what life is like for their son.
On the third day of events I told myself several times that I need to invite my parents to next years conference. I don't think they will come. However, I will continue to invite them every year hoping one invitation would be surprisingly accepted.
Since they know I went this year maybe I'll start by asking them now to attend next years conference. Then I can ask again before it starts and get two invitations out.
The first night, with Darius Gray, I had so many partial thoughts I have had over the years come together in a single coherent thought. It was a spectacular arranging from Darius which made my thoughts whole and then expand.
Then there was Eri Hayward, such a young woman but such a old, wise spirit. I am amazed at her ability to cope with societies cruelty and comprehend the eternal picture.
There were so many fantastic speakers and wise words to ponder. I believe I am a changed man and a better person because of them all.
Because this was my first year and moving expenses took a toll on my budget, I only bought tickets to the evening sessions of the conference. However, after having such a positive experience, I am most definitely planning on attending the conference next year in its entirety. Thank you to all those who put time and effort into making it happen.