A Little Affirmation History
First Affirmation Pride March. Los Angeles, June 1979. The Rev. Troy D. Perry, MCC Founder, poses next to Paul Mortensen.
March in Washington DC, 14 October 1979. Notice the banner "Gay Mormons United." The four chapters listed on the banner are Washington DC, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Leaders of the LA Chapter, circa 1983. Shari Glenn, Gary Booher, & Paul Mortensen.
By Paul Mortensen
Source: Affinity, October 2000, p. 5.
The Los Angeles Chapter January 2000 meeting was a celebration of Affirmation's
22nd year. Just for the record, our actual birthday is January
28th. These events got me musing about the beginning of Affirmation,
and I felt a need to pass on some of that history... After all, I'm
the oldest fossil in Affirmation, and if I don't make an effort to remember
it, it may be lost forever. I assumed nobody was interested until Ben Jarvis
reminded me at a board meeting that it was actually important to preserve
Affirmation in Los Angeles began January 28, 1978. Six of us met in my
home that evening and organized the group. It was like the heavens were
opened. Affirmation finally (after other attempts in other cites) took
off like a bursting dam. We advertised in the limited gay publications
of the time and we immediately skyrocketed in membership.
In the first year or two we had many "firsts." We published Prologue,
which is our premiere publication. We marched in the first gay pride parade
as gay and lesbian Mormons--it was so groundbreaking that we were featured
on the Today Show. We participated in the first march on Washington
DC. We were so successfully that we were able to get speakers at our meetings
like Leonard Matlovich, Morris Knight, Evelyn Hooker, Door Legg, and David
Goodstein. (If you don't know who these people are, you'd better brush
up on your gay history.)
And in that first year and a half, the LA chapter successfully established
the national Affirmation organization. These were heady days. Within a
year and a half, we had to rent a hall to accommodate all of us. For the
first year, we tried meeting every Monday evening to make it
like Family Home Evening.
Now you come to Affirmation for the first time at one monthly
meeting with only 25 people in attendance and may feel tempted to ask,
"What happened?" Well, 22 years ago, there was no gay community to speak
of. The words "homosexual" and "gay" ("lesbian" didn't exist then) were
yet to be uttered in the Los Angeles Times or on TV. Neither
had the Church ever uttered these words in public or private!
Thousands of gay and lesbian Mormons were smothering in the closet. We opened the door for the first time and there was a flood. At long last you could meet with someone of your own kind who was also a Mormon. It was an amazing time. It was like nobody could get enough. We saturated ourselves in our new-found freedom. And it was the same in the whole gay community. Gay and lesbian groups took off everywhere. We had all found freedom.