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Sunday, September 14, 2014

My First Affirmation Conference

Several weeks ago I was up late, couldn't sleep, so I got on the computer. No, I was not looking for porn. I was just surfing the Web. Every now and then I check out the Affirmation page. Affirmation has always been interesting to me. I remember when I first came out that I was very skeptical of them. I was afraid to become involved with any group or organization that would lead me astray, and I saw Affirmation as being that way. I can't exactly remember why, but I had the impression that Affirmation was for angry gay ex-Mormons who hated the Church. It did not seem like an organization for me, who at the time was a BYU student who finally realized that the straight fairy was not going to come one night with her magic wand and fairy dust. I had a few close gay friends, but no one else knew (or so I thought).

I don't know what's happened over the years. Have I changed, or did Affirmation change? It really seems to be a much more positive organization. Granted, I no longer attend Church, and I'm much older. Maybe it's's quite possible that my perceptions at the time were just wrong. Maybe Affirmation has changed, but whatever it was, that evening when I was looking over their Web site, I started reading about their upcoming conference. I little bit later I decided to give it a go and I registered, bought my plane ticket, and made hotel/car reservations. I was going to attend my first Affirmation Conference.

I flew up to SLC on coach. (Um, Delta...I'm a Gold Medallion. What was up with the long upgrade list with me near the bottom? haha) I went to the opening dinner and program on Friday night. Now, I totally accept responsibility for what happened because it is my fault. I think when people get to know me they think I'm this gregarious person who loves to be the center of attention. The truth is, it's an act. I am very much the introvert, and I am painfully shy when I am in a situation where I don't know anyone. I do this thing when I'm in a situation where I don't know anyone, I start humming to myself, sometimes loudly. I get so irritated when I catch myself doing it because it's such a crazy thing to do. Either that or I try to act disinterested and I yawn or focus on my damn cell phone.

That's how Friday night went. I was a wall flower. Ugh, it was awful. (Again, my fault, not the Affirmation's.) I did watch the different groups...everyone seemed to know each other. It really seemed like a gathering of friends, but I knew no one there. Looking back on it, I probably should have gone to the First Timer's Reception that they had before dinner. You'd think I never learned any social skills! :)

Anyhow, the opening program was actually very good. The keynote speaker was an African-American member named Darius (pronounced duh-RYE-us) Gray. He isn't gay, but he spoke from his experiences being a black man in the LDS church and one of the first black men to receive the priesthood in 1978. He became a member in the 60's. He talked about the letter (?) that the Church put out last year called Race and the Priesthood, where basically the Church explained that all of the reasons that have been previously given for denying the priesthood to black male members of the Church were false. Basically, it was due to racism that existed at the time: "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."

He explained in his talk that the Lord never told the Church to deny the Priesthood from the blacks. It was a decision made by man, not by deity. The Lord allowed it so that we would learn. Of course many parallels can be made to the issue of gays and the LDS church, especially with the whole gay marriage issue. It makes me wonder, and I have wondered this for years, if one day, the Church will lift the ban on gay marriage, change its stance on homosexuality, and suddenly welcome gays with open arms. There is this part of me that says it's logical that this should happen, but another part of me says that I should not hold my breath.

After Brother Gray's talk, we had the wonderful opportunity to hear Spencer Day perform. Spencer is gay and was raised LDS, and he's a terrific jazz singer. His voice...oh my word, I can't even. I just can't. He's can hit those low sexy tones that send chills up your spine as well as those high notes that give you goose bumps. And he's quite pleasing on the eye too. ;) I bought his most recent album off of iTunes as soon as I got back to the hotel. I am in love with his song Missing Tonight. It's just plain sexy. Just listen to it, you'll see what I mean. If that's not all, there's this...

This is one of my favorite songs...

Anyhow, moving past my new obsession with was much better. I was very impressed with myself in being more social during dinner and the evening activity. I met a few people and had some good conversations. I even chatted with a few people who live in Las Vegas. Hooray, I'm not the only gay Mormon in Sin City! (I know I'm not, but I'm the only one I know.)

One of the highlights of the evening was hearing Spencer Stout and Dustin Reeser talk about their story. If you don't know their names, you probably have seen them. Spencer proposed to Dustin a year ago in a Home Depot in Salt Lake City via a flash mob. They uploaded the video to YouTube at it's been seen by over 12 million people. Of course Dustin accepted the proposal, and they were married during the Grammy Awards this year by none other than Queen Latifah! :) If you haven't seen their video, get some kleenex and watch. It's the cutest thing ever. I've seen it multiple times and I ALWAYS get teary eyed when he pulls out that ring and gets on one knee.

I got to talk to them for just a little bit tonight. I'm so happy for them, and I'm so glad that the whole thing took place in UTAH!

Well, tomorrow is the last day of the conference. I am planning on attending the morning broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, but I have to be at the Tabernacle by 8:15. It's 1:30 a.m. right now, so it's not looking good that I'll be up, dressed, and checked out of the hotel by then. Afterwards is the closing luncheon. The speaker is Professor Bradshaw from BYU who has done research into the biological origins of homosexuality. It should be interesting.

Attending the conference makes me think that maybe I ought to try going to church every now and then. If nothing else, just to Sacrament Meeting. I do love singing the hymns, even though I can't hold a tune. I don't know, I'm so on the fence about Church...

Will I attend another conference? I don't know. I might...I've enjoyed everything. It's good for me to push myself out of my comfort zone. I definitely need to do that more often. I didn't used to be such an introvert. I can't even pinpoint when it started being this bad. Weird...something to think about for a later post.


Trevor - INSIDE gay Mormon said...

This was my first Affirmation Conference as well. I wish I would have got to meet you.

And as far as the socializing goes, I stayed close to the one person I knew, but I was right there with your social anxiousness too.

James said...

An idea I'd like to share: I participate with a bunch of other language teachers in an online listserv. Every year at our annual language conference, those of us in the listserv all wear a red dot on our name tags so that it's easier to identify each other. It's always fun to put a face to the names I see online so frequently. Maybe those of us who blog and/or read these blogs should do something similar. Another idea, at our conference we usually get together one evening for an annual "red-dot dinner." It's always fun, and we are quite a crazy, but nerdy bunch. I was thinking we could do something similar as Mohoes. ;)

Trevor - INSIDE gay Mormon said...

James you are spot on with some thoughts I had while attending this conference. I am brain storming with another blogger/friend some future MOHO Directory events and ways to identity (if the blogger so chooses) each other at events. You are more than welcome to join in our brainstorming. Feel free to e-mail me (address is on my page).

Trev said...

So glad you could come and that you enjoyed it! I wonder if I talked to you? Who knows, ha ha.

Nate Oxymormon said...

It was my first time, too! And I SOOOO Agree. We should wear our own version of dork dots or something next year. I plan on being active in helping out with Affirmation...I'll mention it to them and see what they think.

Maybe we could have a MOHO Bloggers Affinity group

James said...

"Dork dot" -- Wow, I haven't heard that term in years! Talk about a blast from the past. :)