This picture of the San Francisco harbor was taken about 5 years after the arrival of the Mormon pioneers
The Way to Yerba Buena
Let's Go to San Francisco to Loudly Claim Our Right to Practice Monogamy in the Open
by Hugo Salinas
How long will it take you to get to San Francisco for the Affirmation Conference? Thirty minutes by BART? One hour by car? Five hours by plane? I was recently reading about the first Mormons who arrived to San Francisco in 1846. It took them 5 months and 27 days to make their pilgrimage from New York in a ship named The Brooklyn. Will you have a layover in Denver, Atlanta, or Dallas-Fort Worth? The Brooklyn stopped in Valparaíso (Chile), in the Juan Fernández Islands, and in Hawaii.
On of the biggest ironies of the 1846 journey is that when the Saints set sail to San Francisco, they were escaping persecution by the U.S. government, and thought that Yerba Buena, as it was then called, would still be part of Mexico. By the time they arrived, it had just been claimed by the U.S. "There is that damned flag again!" Samuel Brannan exclaimed as they approached the harbor. Yet when an U.S. officer climbed on board and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, you are in the United States," the Saints responded with three hearty cheers.
Even though generations of gay Mormons have fled from Utah to San Francisco, often to escape the abuse they experienced in church and with their families, California is no longer the place it was just two years ago: In a campaign inspired by lies and by fear, LDS leaders who are great-grandchildren of proud polygamists raised millions of dollars to ban marriage equality. I wonder what Parley P. Pratt, who when visiting San Francisco had to introduce one of his wives as his sister, would have thought of the flagrant meddling of the Church in civil affairs.
Think of this trip to the Affirmation conference as a Mormon pilgrimage. While the Saints of 1846 practiced polygamy in secret, let's go to San Francisco to loudly claim our right to practice monogamy in the open. Two years after angry demonstrators gathered at the Oakland Temple, let's go to San Francisco's City Hall to tell the world that we, too, were disgusted by the lies and the money flowing from Salt Lake City.
Let's go to San Francisco October 8-10 to STAND UP for what's right. Let's go to San Francisco to turn upside down the misconceptions Mormons have about Californians and the stereotypes Californians have about Mormons. And in two years, when Californian voters repeal Proposition 8, let's respond with three hearty cheers.
STANDING UP at My Workplace
This is the third in a series of articles featuring stories of people who decided to STAND UP rather than being indifferent in the face of opposition. If you have an idea for a STAND UP article, please send me an email at www.affirmation.org/contact/hugo.
While working at University of California, San Francisco campus I was stunned to hear stories of lesbian or gay employees who were afraid of being out at work. We were in San Francisco, of all places. Yet, there were reports of very powerful tenured professors and high ranking administrators who were determined the campus community was not going to go the way of the city surrounding it.
I worked with campus organizations developing employee training programs on many topics. One group was hosting a conference on "Managing Change" for 150 campus business officers. We planned a guest presenter who had a very engaging process for identifying steps participants should implement to manage change in their campus worlds. To cap the day, he wanted to have three success stories told by people who had managed significant change. He wanted an organizational change success, a professional change success, and a personal change success. I was helping to identify possible storytellers in the planning meeting. When we got to the "personal" story, they wanted a dramatic one where someone had lost a lot of weight, overcome addiction, or something significant. I said, "Well, if you'd like, I'll tell my coming out story in the context of managing my own change and the impact on my family." The surprised reply was, "You'd be willing to stand in front of an audience from across the campus and share that?!?"" I was also serving on a campus committee seeking ways to shift the underlying anti-gay sentiments I mentioned earlier. I said yes I'd be happy to.
On the day, when my turn came, I introduced myself as a Gamofite, a Gay Mormon Father. I said that if it sounded like a triple oxymoron, it is. I briefly told of my Mormon background, my marriage and children, my family and religious culture, and the struggle I experienced for the first 30 years of my life surrounding my sexuality. I commented that I spent many years trying to convince myself and the world around me I was straight. I then told of reaching the point where staying alive depended upon coming to terms with who I really was, a gay man and father of eight. I told of being suicidal and going in to a psych hospital for intense recovery and therapy, twice. I told of finding good therapists and nurses who were a significant help in working through processes which helped me change my spiritual and emotional perspective. That changed perspective could then help me take on the family changes my wife and I faced. I told of how Debbie and I worked every part of our divorce together so it was a positive change in our relationship, not a destruction of our family. I told of finding friends who supported my difficult journey. I told of how I'd moved to San Francisco to start a relationship with a man, only to have that vision disintegrate before my eyes. I told of how I then met another man with a delightful family and how we created a very unique blend of family structure and love. I concluded with how I was really no different than anyone else in the room. I just wanted to live a life of contribution to the community around me and be myself at the same time. I gave credit to those who surrounded me with support and steps I could take to make the journey of change successful. I then asked if there were questions.
The room was silent for a moment and I thought maybe I'd blown telling the story well. Then many hands went up at the same time. We all started laughing as I said, "For a moment, I thought I'd really bombed." We then had a delightful dialog about what it felt like, how my wife and children handled the transition, what gave me the strength to keep going, etc. As the questions slowed, a person on the top row, stood. I said, "Yes, what question do you have?" She said, "Actually, I don't have a question. Rod, your story here today has given me the courage to say something I've never said in public. I'm a lesbian and will no longer hide who I am, in any part of my life, including where I work." There was applause and I started crying. I told of the newly opened LGBT office on campus and how we loved helping departments learn to embrace their whole staff.
Over the next few weeks, the LGBT office phone and walk-in traffic increased and people either told about hearing my story or that their business officer had told them about the center and how they might enjoy meeting the people there. Once in a while, I'd hear about someone criticized for being gay and then how others around them would stand up for the right to be who they are. Then they'd say there was someone in Human Resources who would take the side of the gay or lesbian person and there was a center where they could meet others like us.
I was proud to be at least a whisper of the shifting wind of change on the campus at UCSF.
STANDING UP for Ourselves—and for Others
We need to work together to make a better world for all of us
by James Kent
This is the second in a series of articles featuring stories of people who decided to STAND UP rather than being indifferent in the face of opposition. If you have an idea for a STAND UP article, please send me an email at www.affirmation.org/contact/hugo.
I've been out of closet and to myself for almost 22 years. I consider myself very fortunate that being gay is mostly a non-issue for me. My immediate family loves me unconditionally and is very supportive. A lesbian cousin of mine lives just a few houses away from me. Where I volunteer at an aquarium or culture arts center, everyone is either gay or gay friendly.
I've discovered over the years that most people who have problems with gay people have been given misinformation, or were taught by their families and peers to feel that way. The best way to educate this people is to either challenge their remarks and/or come out to them. The nice thing to come out to someone is that you will know whether or not they are really your friend. And on several occasions when was not around, my friends have stood up for me when dealing with homophobic people.
I remember many years ago a co-worker mentioning how he thought how wrong it way for to guys "get it on with each other." I was kind of a mentor to this person. I replied, "It shouldn't make a difference as long as they are not wanting to get it on with you." " And besides, maybe you just haven't found the right guy for you to want to get it on with."
You should have seen the shock on his face. Then he was silent for a few seconds. Then he started chuckling to himself. And finally, he said to me, "You know James, you're right, maybe I haven't found the right guy." From that point onward I never heard an anti-gay remark from him.
A couple of years ago, a fellow volunteer usher and I were visiting with each other after a show. She leaned over to me and said in a whisper, "See so-and-so over there, I hear she is a lesbian. That's disgusting." And turned to her and smiled, "Dear, it doesn't make a difference because she isn't sleeping in your bed." "But the Bible says it's wrong," she replied. I patiently told her, "The bible can be interpreted anyway you want. What's important is to live and let live. You have a right to your happiness, and she has a right to her happiness. As long as it's consensual, whatever floats your boat." She replied, "You're right James, live and let live. Whatever floats your boat." And I haven't heard an anti-gay remark from her since then.
There are also times when some of my gay and lesbian friends have been disowned by their families and friends. And I have stood up on their behalf. I personally knew the brother of a gay friend of mine. This brother was and still is very homophobic. I penned him a letter telling him that if he refuses to love and accept his brother as is, then his brother will find a family of choice who will love and accept him as is. I continued telling him that he had no right to treat his brother in that manner, and did not deserve to have him as I brother with that attitude.
As Affirmation Gay & Lesbian Mormons gather in San Francisco in October, the theme of the conference is Stand Up. We need to stand up for ourselves. We need to stand up for others who cannot stand up for themselves. We need to work together to make a better world for all of us.
by James Morris
This is the first in a series of articles featuring stories of people who decided to STAND UP rather than being indifferent in the face of opposition. If you have an idea for a STAND UP article, please send me an email at www.affirmation.org/contact/hugo.
STAND UP! This is the theme of the Affirmation 2010 Conference. Sometimes to stand up is to participate in a large and loud public rally. Sometimes it is to draft and send a persuasive letter to the editor of a local paper. Or sometimes it takes form in the quiet resolve within one's heart to live a different way.
I remember when I was first trying to come to terms with my sexual orientation. I was back from my mission and living with my parents while resuming my college studies at Berkeley. My life was pretty much just centered around my education and my participation in the local Ward (I was a Sunday School teacher) and the local stake (where I was very involved in the Young Adult Program). I did very little dating, and if the subject of homosexuality came up I tried to be invisible or switch to another topic. The last thing I wanted was to expose my own inner conflict, or to be in the awkward position of defending a segment of society that my church had so publicly condemned.
At the time, my youngest brother was also living at home. One night at the dinner table, he launched into what had come up in his seminary class that morning. Of all things it was about a married man who had announced to his wife of many years that he was gay and that they needed to dissolve their marriage so he could move on with his life. This was somehow connected with the lesson topic of the last days, signs of the times, and the greater iniquities that were upon us in the latter days.
I continued to quietly eat my dinner, but the topic persisted. And now my parents and brother were talking about homosexuals who had committed suicide. Now I was very uncomfortable. My brother concluded, and my mother agreed, that the suicide victims were better off being dead than living a life as depraved homosexuals. Was this how they really felt? Did they know what they were saying? Would they really rather see me dead? These and other troubling thoughts boiled within until I could no longer keep silent. With all the calmness and clarity I could muster, I said I thought it was tragic that anyone should be so despondent as to take one's own life and how terrible it was for anyone to feel they had no one to turn to. No one should see suicide as the only out.
My brother and mother were quiet, as my father agreed with me. I was so very thankful to hear his words of support. Though I was years away from coming out as a gay man, I vowed to myself at that time to never remain silent when these issues surfaced again.
For our 2010 conference, we want to encourage group involvement and participation as we explore the many ways of standing up for what we believe in. I invite all Affinity readers to share with each other some of their personal moments of standing up.