26 Years of Affinity: A Shoestring History
Some of Affinity's former editors|
T. Robert Axelson
Pen Pal Coordinators
Ina Mae Murri
Hoyt Hilton Grant
By Hugo Salinas
During the year 2006, Affirmation prepared a CD-Rom containing all
the known issues of Affinity from March 1980 (charter issue)
to April 2002. The following history was included in the CD-Rom as an introduction.
Affinity, the official newsletter of Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian
Mormons, saw the light of day in March 1980. "With the issue of Affirmation's
first National Newsletter we have begun a new era of communication
and sharing with our brothers and sisters around the word," wrote
editor T. Robert Axelson in the charter issue. "We have begun an organizational
movement which will unite and solidify all of us who have been in
some form or another forgotten or ignored by the Church."
It took a few months for Affinity to find its name. The first
few issues, March - August 1980, did not have a name other than Affirmation
Newsletter or Affirmation National Newsletter. The September
and October 1980 issues were entitled The New Times and Seasons
and New Times and Seasons, respectively. Starting in December
1980, the newsletter was known as The National Affinity.
In December 1981, it started to run as Affinity.
From the very beginning, Affinity helped inform, raise awareness,
and inspire Affirmation members. Before the days of the Internet,
the newsletter played a crucial role in promoting GLBT LDS-related
events. Affinity provided the only forum where gay and lesbian
Mormons could express thoughts, share ideas, and get to know each
Past editors include: T. Robert Axelson (1980), Gary Booher (1981-1982),
Gordon Miller (1983), Mel Barber (1984-1986), Dic Dudley (1987-1989),
Mark Cochran (1989), Alan David Lach (1990), Marty Beaudet (1991; 1993-
1994), Kevin Payton (1992), Debbie Dexter (1995-1996), James Kent
(1997, 2002), Ricky Hans Gilbert (1998-1999), David Johnson (2000-
2001), and Hugo Salinas (2002-2006). The heroic efforts made by these
editors over the years have been complemented by writers, contributing
editors, typists, artists, photographers, and many anonymous volunteers
who spent 26 years making copies, preparing labels, and stuffing
Affinity—This Is the Place
Affinity has been the place where important issues affecting
the gay LDS community were first discussed. The charter issue, for
instance, included a note on the serious problem of suicide. The role
of women in Affirmation has been explored since August 1980, when
Ina Mae Murri first tried to investigate why so many women choose
not to join Affirmation. AIDS was first mentioned in October 1983.
By October 1986, when the scientific community better understood how
the HIV virus is transmitted, Affinity had its first article
on safer sex.
Affinity has also been the place where ambitious projects
were launched, calls to activism issued, actions and speeches by LDS
leaders analyzed, and differences of opinion debated. Should the focus
of Affirmation be religious, support-oriented, or social? What can
we do to advance a gay-friendly Mormon theology? What is the best
way to respond to homophobic attitudes in society and in the LDS Church?
These are just a few of the many issues debated in Affinity
over its 26-year history.
Last but not least, Affinity has been the place where many
single GLBT Mormons first connected with their peers, made friendships,
and sometimes found their life partners. The Pen Pal program was started
in January 1983 under the coordination of Ina Mae Murri. In December
1984, Hoyt Hilton Grant took over as Pen Pal coordinator. He held
that position for nine years, from December 1984 to January 1994—the
longest any Affirmation member has served, perhaps with the exception
of Paul Mortensen, in a national position. During the 1993 national
conference, Grant was deservedly honored for his many years of service
to the organization.
Affinity's production tools, length, and format have changed
dramatically over the years. The first few issues were rustically
composed with a typewriter—sometimes with more than one, as the sequence
of nonmatching fonts often suggests. Newspaper clippings, ads, and
graphics were first pasted onto the newsletter in a primitive fashion.
In the mid 1980s the newsletter acquired a more consistent look and
increased in size, filling eight pages with announcements, inspirational
articles, and debates—all composed in a tiny font.
In the years 1989-1994, Affinity dramatically improved its
presentation. Editors experimented with bond paper, incorporated pictures,
and eventually added some color. Dedicated editors such as Alan David
Lach, Marty Beaudet, and Kevin Payton played an important role in
making Affinity not only informative and inspiring, but also
In the mid 1980s, GLBT Mormons discovered the Internet. From humble
beginnings —Affirmation postings on CompuServe and Gladys in 1985—
to the launching of a national website in 1996, the web became a favorite
place for Affirmation members to obtain information, exchange opinions,
and debate ideas. For years Affinity and the national website
lived separate but symbiotic lives: the website posted articles taken
from the newsletter, while the newsletter promoted the website, posted
members' email addresses, and reproduced entries from the website's
guestbook. Finally in May 2002, the entire newsletter began to be
posted on the national website, available free of charge, under the
name E-Affinity. In 2003, Affinity began to be created
primarily as a web-based document reproduced for print format, rather
than as a print document adapted for publication on the web.
Today three versions of Affirmation's newsletter are produced every
month--all three under the name Affinity. An small email
version, with headlines, opening paragraphs, and links to the full
stories, is sent monthly to over 400 electronic subscribers. The newsletter
contents are posted in full on the national website, with abundant
pictures, graphics, and links. A printed version of the web version
is photocopied and sent by regular mail to a handful of Affirmation
members and libraries who still favor the printed form.
In one sense, Affinity has today returned to its humble origins:
The newsletter is much smaller than what it used to be in the late
1980s, and it focuses almost exclusively on Affirmation events, people,
and announcements. But through the miracle of the Internet, Affinity
has also grown tremendously larger. As hypertext, today's stories
link to countless articles on the Affirmation website and point to
a universe of topics, debates, and ideas.
Like the newsletters of so many clubs and small non-profit organizations,
Affinity started as a shoestring operation, yet over the
years it managed to transcend many of its limitations. From a single
typed page plagued with typos, it became first a professional publication
and finally an electronic hypertext resource. Affinity articles
are a crucial primary source for understanding the history of Affirmation
and of Mormonism's gays and lesbians; articles from the newsletter
have been reprinted and quoted in books and master's theses.
That is, in a nutshell, the history of Affinity. The new
collection in CD-Rom format ensures that all past issues of the
newsletter, along with the history of Affirmation, will be preserved
for many generations to come.