Thoughts on the Affirmation Conference
Two weeks ago I attended the annual Affirmation Conference in Salt Lake. It was well attended and overall a great success. Kudos to the Affirmation leaders who put it together. For specifics on the conference I’ll just refer you to Affirmation’s website. There really isn’t much point in me going over things that are already online there.
These conferences are wonderful in helping gay people realize that God loves them just as they are, and have great value in “harm reduction” for gay youth. Caitlan Ryan, one of the presenters and a professor at San Francisco State, is a hero who has done much research on helping people of faith to be less rejecting of their LGBT family members thus greatly reducing risks for suicide, drug abuse etc. I have tremendous admiration for her and her work. Getting young LGBT people to adulthood emotionally unscathed and healthy is a very worthy goal.
Having said that, I must concede some misgivings. Affirmation at times seems too focused on helping gay Mormons maintain their faith in, and ties to the Mormon Church. It was pointed out that Affirmation is for everyone regardless of where one is on the Mormon spectrum, but the conference failed to adequately address the feelings of those of us who no longer believe in the Church and feel that Mormonism is still, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, a toxic place for gay people. Even if “loved,” we are very much second class. I say we need to get young people to adulthood in one healthy piece, but self-loathing gay adults are also a problem. I understand the need for a “big tent” and really believe we need to love and accept each other even if we have conflicting world views. Affirmation simply needs to address more world views.
As I’ve said before, you can take a person out of Mormonism but you can’t take Mormonism out of the person. At least not completely. Mormonism is such an all encompassing way of life that it’ll always be a part of us. Some of us non-believers want to maintain some ties to our Mormon past but have no desire to ever again be a part of the Church. Affirmation needs us, and needs to address our concerns too.