28 September 2014

Meet the Mormons at Affirmation

I had the great opportunity to put together a short video that highlights the work that Affirmation does within the LDS LGBT community. The were awarded the Allies Award at this year’s Allies Dinner which is an annual fundraiser put on by Equality Utah.

I went to an Affirmation meeting sometime last year upon receiving an invitation by some good friends that were participating in the conference. I would be dishonest if I said I was very comfortable at that meeting. It felt like a church meeting and used church language and structures throughout the meeting and for me, having left the church, it felt like stepping back into a space that reminded me all too much of the oppressive environment that destroyed my sense of self-worth… something I still struggle to heal. That was my first and only experience with Affirmation until now.

I am very cautious about lending a voice of support to LDS LGBT groups because I have never felt comfortable with the idea that we can still adopt and accept the status quo and promote “living in accordance with church teachings” and truly be of any real help to LGBT members- especially youth. I don’t agree that simply tacking on, “we love our LGBT brothers and sisters” to a history and tradition of treating LGBT people and their love and relationships as enemies does any good. I also don’t agree that anyone should encourage or promote the idea that LGBT people should stay in the church before the church has made the institutional changes necessary to make it a safe space for those people. As important as LDS allies are, they cannot protect LGBT people from institutional homophobia. 

Having said that, I had a really wonderful experience in interviewing members of Affirmation and I feel that the organization does much needed good- more so than other Mormon LGBT groups who may even receive more media attention. The reason is that these people are not necessarily active members of the church or care to be active ever again. While some do actively participate, it seems to me that they have made their own choice to do so and have not been encouraged to stay by the organization. Affirmation’s goal is to help people get to a healthy, productive place in their life- whatever that may mean for them. So whether you wish to get married one day to a same-sex partner or whether you have adopted another religious tradition, you are welcome and supported. The group acknowledges LDS background and heritage because, whether we like it or not, it is a part of our personal stories. It has shaped our lives in profound ways. That will never change.

Those people that are active mormons seem to be speaking up and out against the policies and teachings that the institutional LDS Church adopts. They stand for what they know and feel to be right- full acceptance, inclusion, support and affirmation of LGBT people. That is radical! And it is wonderful. Rather than accept the narrative the Mormon church uses which now acknowledges (at least somewhat) that gay people exist, that it isn’t a choice, and that it cannot be “fixed” but that continues to deny LGBT people their full humanity or acknowledge their love and relationships as good and authentic, members of affirmation stand for what they know is right- LGBT people are equal in every way.

I intentionally branded this video with the “Meet the Mormons” title because the church has done all the work and spent all the money to ensure LDS people will look it up and share it online. I did it with the hope that it will help us get to a tipping point where enough active LDS people feel that they don’t have to accept a narrative they don’t feel is right that it will spark a wider change in the institution. I did it with the hope that these short stories will serve as examples for others to follow- not to paint the Mormon church as accepting and supporting of LGBT people. I did it with the hope that the members of the church will reclaim their religion. Christ said that we are the body of Christ. WE are his church. And he also said that every part of that body- right down to the gays and the trans* people and the lesbians and the bisexuals, are essential. I hope that members of the church will reclaim that title- they ARE His church and they do not have to accept a narrative that makes them feel uncomfortable. If we can’t stand up for what we believe to be right and true in our own church- why are we there? That is one place we should ALWAYS feel safe to stand by our convictions.

Thank you Affirmation, for stepping up to the plate, leading the way, and being the example. Well done.