So this last weekend has been wonderful and amazing and depressing and emotional and all-around powerful. It was the weekend of the Affirmation Conference. I wanted to write down my own thoughts, feelings, and impressions, so here it goes.
I'd signed up a couple of months before and I was asked to advertise for it a bit among the gay Mormons that I know up here in Logan. I didn't do too good of a job of that, just basically posted it on Facebook and asked a few people if they were going. Surprise suprise, nobody showed much interest (which is what happens when you don't show much interest yourself), and I had work on Saturday so I couldn't go until later anyways, so I ended up going myself.
So I was mostly with a few guys, and I'm not sure how open they were to being public and whatnot, so I'm not going to use real names in this blog, I'm just going to use pseudonyms which will probably change next time I write about the same people, so don't bother trying to keep them straight. They're all gay anyways.
I probably wouldn't write so stream of conscious if I actually thought that people read this blog, but I don't really think many people do, and since I've decided it's going to be more personal now, I've decided just to write as it comes to me and not worry about being persuasive or uplifting or whatever, and just focus on being real. And in real life I wander allot, so for those few people who actually do read this blog, I apologize.
Back to the conference.
So I showed up around 3 and people were already doing things of course and I came in the wrong doors and got shown to the lobby where a friend directed me to the service project and then from their I was directed back to the lobby of the hotel to check in and the hotel check in desk told me I needed to find Peter Pan so that I could get into my room, and I had never met Peter Pan in my life and had no idea what he looked like, so I went back to the service project thoroughly depressed wishing I could crawl under a rock and that I'd never come because I recognized nobody and felt alone and uncomfortably self-conscious and irrationally upset that I couldn't find Peter Pan, even though I did find Aslan and made a call to Lao Tsu. But I didn't sit with Aslan and the rest of the Narnians, I went and met a couple sweet ladies from Mormons Building Bridges and cut up blankets for children in Mexico, I think that's what the service project was for, and basically was super quite and moped until Gorgeous Locks sat at our table and started being really friendly to everyone sitting there, and then I started joining the conversation and after awhile I started feeling more human and less alone, even though I still didn't really know anyone.
Then some camera guys came to the table and asked how comfortable we were with our faces on video, and we all said sure. So the camera man pushed the camera right up into my face, and I started giggling and scurried away a little. If that video ever becomes public I wasn't laughing because of something funny, that was just nerves from the camera being in my face. But after awhile I did start laughing because of things that people were saying, so I guess it doesn't really matter about the camera thing anyways, because even though it wasn't true at the time, it was true just a few minutes later.
Cutting up felt blankets is harder than it seems, by the way. It's nearly impossible to get a straight line until you get the technique down, and of course the nice ladies at the table told me I didn't have to worry about it, but I figured out the technique and then it was good. In case anyone is wondering, you start on the side of your dominant hand and work your way in, using a ruler to help with spacing and length, and you fold the blanket over so the fabric doesn't pull on itself from falling off the table and mess you up.
After that I found the room, where Lao Tsu was just getting up and Peter Pan was still sleeping. Peter Pan woke up and we went to the front desk and finally got me taken care of, and then we went back and we all went to choir practice. Julia Child was leading the music and she was awesome, hilarious and well versed on getting people to give her the sound she wanted. She told the women in the choir that they needed to sound like grown women and sounded so much like the real Julia Child that the whole choir busted up laughing. Gorgeous Locks sang with the ladies for some extra sound support, and he had an amazing voice. Their was a scary looking guy their as well, almost exactly like Argus Filch from Harry Potter, but skinnier and taller and more solemn. But he turned out to be very nice, and everyone knew so much about music that I felt I was slightly out of place for only having a pretty good voice. Of course Julia, being the passionate music director that she is, kept the choir late, so we didn't get to the food until the line was 500 miles long. Well, if you consider each person a mile, then a little over 500, because that's how many people were there. So we inched through the line, and then we finally got our food, and everyone sat down for the testimony meeting, and I snuck out to call my mom.
I hadn't meant to tell my family that I was in Salt Lake, because they'd have wanted me to come down to see them, and I didn't know if I would have time, but it had been bothering me. And it had been bothering me that I never told my family my gay stuff. That's been bothering me pretty much since I came out. So I went and called my mom, and I was surprised when she actually already knew that I was in Salt Lake and she knew about the Affirmation Conference, which isn't something I had expected. And I'd been getting little messages from the universe telling me to tell my family what was going on- literally, I kept having the urge to tell them, and then I couldn't because all of these doubts would surface. I even got a fortune cookie that told me to "share your news with your family," and I don't know about you, but when fortune cookies become that relevant, that seems a little creepy. But I did, I called my mom and told her, and then I realized that the reason I'd been so upset wasn't just that nobody was there that I knew, it was because nobody was there that I loved. My family wasn't there, and that was pretty much heart breaking for me. So I called, and I got a more positive response than I had expected, and then I went back down to catch the tail end of the testimony meeting.
I didn't end up hearing too many testimonies though because I almost immediately got pulled outside by Dick Tracy. Dick Tracy is a guy I was enamored with for a little while, before he went off and decided that he was going the celibate track. For those who don't know, gay Mormons tend to have 3 major tracks: leave the church, stay celibate, or marry a lady friend. Those who'd rather not pick any of the three are pretty rare.
So anyways Dick Tracy was out talking to Aslan and the other Narnians, so I decided to go talk to them, since I missed him quite a bit and he was off having adventures in semi-foreign lands. Then we went to the conference hall where we talked some more waiting for the show to start, which was about an hour late in starting because of course it takes an extra hour to feed everyone when you're trying to feed 500+ people. So finally everyone trickles in and then we sit down and things get started. This guy from Hawaii Aloha's us and asks us to remember people, so one by one we got up and named someone who we had lost. I had someone I wanted to name, but I wasn't sure, and anyways it was done before I could, which is fine. It got us into an appropriate frame of mind. Then he introduced Carol Lynn Pearson, who in the gay Mormon community really needs no introduction. However, if you haven't heard of her, I point you to Wikipedia, as Sister Pearson herself did when she introduced the Youngs. Then Steve Young got up and gave a speech which had allot to go with football and not very much to do with being a gay Mormon, but which I thought had some interesting spiritual points anyways. Then Sister Young got up.
Sister Young spoke about growing up with a fabulous gay brother. She then spent some time sharing the story of a friend of hers that happened during Prop 8. Since I don't even remember her name anyways, I'll call her Pele. So Sister Young thought that Pele, who had a gay nephew, was on the same page as her regarding gay rights until she found Pele's name on the donation page for Proposition 8. She confronted her friend about it. Later, when Proposition 8 passed, Pele locked herself in her bathroom, crying. Finally she ran out across the street, to where a lesbian couple lived with their children, sobbing that she was sorry, sorry. The women came out and hugged her and told her that it was all right, that it didn't matter now, and that that moment in the street, crying, that was the moment that really matter. Later Pele found a book written by a lesbian couple about Proposition 8. One of the illustrations showed their neighbor pounding a Prop 8 sign into her front yard. She teared up again, saying, "I can't believe that was me."
I don't care if I messed the story up, that's how I heard it, and that story meant a lot to me. It showed me how things could change, and how heart could be softened.
We had Benji Schwimmer give us a dance performance, which was so much more incredible than I could possibly put into words here. Dance, like art or music, is an incredibly difficult art form to describe adequately. Let's just say that his performance kept me at the edge of my seat and left me somewhat breathless and thoughtful, and inspired.
We the choir sang. It was inspiring and powerful. Then, after everyone had spoken or performed, we broke up for dessert and just talked to each other. Like LDS meetings everywhere, we spent a good 5 minutes putting up the chairs, but then people lingered for an hour or more afterwards, just talking, not wanting it to end. I made a few new friends and got to personally thank John Gustav-Wrathall, a personal hero of mine whose blog helped me realize I didn't have to lose my faith because of my sexuality. I definitely recommend giving it a read.
Afterwards we went up to our room, Peter Pan and Lao Tsu and I, and Lao Tsu left and I ended up getting to know Peter Pan a bit. He's really an amazing guy, very nice and even-keeled. He has a special Captain Hook in his life, and he showed me the pictures, and they are a very cute couple. The Gemini's were also a cute couple. I love seeing gay couples so much. It affirms what I had to take on faith for so long when I was coming out and didn't know anybody who was gay: that gay people are in Love, and that it is not just about bodies bumping awkwardly, but about real emotions and connections and that gay people in love can have relationships as lasting as those of straight people.
I grew up thinking that wasn't true, and that gay people were all about the sex. I resisted coming out for so long because I thought it was about sex, and I thought I was a horrible person because I thought it was about sex, but it's not. It's about so much more, it's about love and connection and companionship and intimacy and genuine compatibility. It's about two women holding hands and watching their little girls play, or a man and his partner cuddling as they listen to conference. It's about hands brushing, and kisses of affection as well as passion, and calling home to say when you'll be back, and cuddling just to cuddle, and unexpected gifts. It's about doing the dishes before he gets home, making breakfast or dinner, cleaning the house, going to work, going out to the movies, or whatever it is that "regular" heterosexual couples do, that is what it is about for homosexual and transgender couples too.
So Peter Pan and I stayed up till 2 talking, and then Lao Tsu got back, and then after awhile Aslan came in and crashed. And here again is proof I think that it's not about sex, because even though their were only 2 beds so we had to share, Aslan shivered away if I accidentally brushed his leg with my foot, and slept over the blankets while I slept under, and Lao Tsu slept soundly and Peter Pan missed Captain Hook, and no canoodling WHATSOEVER took place, which if you listen to the naysayers is practically an impossibility for 4 young, good looking (I flatter myself) gay guys sleeping in the same beds to not do. That's probably a little personal, and might be taken the wrong way. I'll let this paragraph stand for now, but I think I might erase it later, because I think it could be misused out of context.
Anyways, I woke up at 8, and Lao Tsu and Peter Pan were going to music and the Spoken Word, and Aslan was still sleeping, and I KNEW that I had to go down to Provo right away and get my family to come up with me. I felt it as a strong spiritual prompting, and it scared me. I didn't want to. I dressed and got up and packed all my stuff and took a shower and left as quietly as possible, and drove down from Salt Lake to Provo with the radio off, in silence, gripping my steering wheel in terror, and probably speeding a little bit. I'd read a piece of pop-psychology recently that talked about overcoming problems by pushing through the pain, and I'd learned that mental anguish and physical pain light up the same parts of your brain, did you know? And I PUSHED. I pushed hard through that dang fog of pain. By the time I got into the Provo city limits I was crying, pretty much balling my eyes out, which I haven't done since watching Les Miserables, and that's a really good movie. And I stood in front of the garage for a couple minutes trying to get a grip on my emotions, and when I walked through the door of our house I started bawling again and my deer sister, my little sister who I've always thought of as a child, my darling 18 year old sister came out of the bathroom and I hugged her and she hugged me back. I didn't say too much, but she was there for me. And then I strode to the church building and walked into the back of the Sacrament meeting and sat next to my mom, and she was there and I was there and it was beautiful and scary, and I asked her to come with me to the last few minutes of the Affirmation Conference, and then I started crying again, and I had to go blow my nose. Of course she said yes. But I didn't know she would, and she did, and I kept having all of these fears, that we would leave to late and not make it, that she wouldn't like it, that during the long ride there she would berate me, all kinds of crazy things running through my head telling me it was a bad idea to ask her to come with me, and she came, and I don't care what she thinks about me being gay. It doesn't matter anymore, because I know that she loves me and cares about me, and that is enough for me. I'm not going to worry about whether my parents are pro-gay, or anti-gay or gay-whatever, because they are pro-Ryan, and they want the best for me, and that is enough.
So I went to my friend Yellow Fluffy Unicorn's Fairwell talk, and then I rushed back home and my mother and I drove all the way back to Salt Lake, and we had a wonderful, pleasant, open conversation that I've wanted to have ever since I came out, and it was so much better. I'm not going to share what we said because it was a personal conversation. But we got there and she met Lao Tsu and his family, and said hi to Peter Pan, and we met some other people and had some desert and sang some children's hymns and left. It was only for a few minutes, but it meant So, SO much to me and mom if you read this I just want you to know that I love you and thank you so much for coming.
Their were other things that happened, but that was the most personal for me. I was surprised and the number and variety of people there. We had people who came in from Hawaii, China, South Africa, Europe, all parts of the Eastern United States, everywhere. It was amazing. I've never thought so many people like me were out there. I didn't expect it to be nearly so spiritual. Their are other reasons I enjoyed the conference as well, but mostly I'm glad I went, and I intend to go next year as well.