On February 11th, 2000 the board of directors of Affirmation: New York City met over dinner. Attending were John Adrian, M. Ross Burningham, Peter Paulino and Frank Susa.
I called the meeting because attendance at second Sunday monthly meetings at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center had fallen to less than a handful of people in each of the preceding four months and had been only slightly more than a handful in the four months before that.
When we moved the meetings from Frank's studio to The Center we hoped attendance would increase as members of the queer community in New York who have or had ties to the LDS Church would become aware of Affirmation. Sadly, after remaining static for a few months, it started to drop.
Meeting at The Center entailed making a financial commitment to The Center for rent. The Center never pressed us for payment and we never paid for the space we used. We are in debt to The Center several hundred dollars for the meetings held there.
Because only five members paid dues in 1999, we don't have the money to pay the rent. The chapter has maintained a post office box in the hope people would write to us, and a voice mail account, in the hope people would telephone us. The only mail we receive through the post office box is mail from other Affirmation chapters, and junk mail. No one used the voice mail account.
Because, as Frank succinctly phrased it, "We haven't been able to achieve a critical mass," the board of directors decided to abandon the monthly meetings, the post office box, the voice mail and the AOL website, which was on Frank's AOL account. We will have a new website as soon as it can be set-up, as part of www.affirmation.org since that is the venue through which new contacts reached us in the past year.
I am sorry to see Affirmation: New York City disappear again, but it is obvious that the real support necessary to keep a chapter going, which is both financial and participatory, doesn't exist in the Greater New York City area.
I am especially sorry to see it go because it, which means you who were attending meetings in Spring 1997, was very important in making the coming-out process easy for me. Affirmation: New York City made the most difficult part of coming-out, the church, easier that I could have ever hoped it would be.
If 23,000 Latter-day Saints were in Madison Square Garden on the last Sunday in April 1998, statistically there must be 2,300 queer Latter-day Saints in the Northeastern United States. Affirmation is aware of less that ten percent of them.
When I interviewed my bishop, after leafleting the saints exiting Madison Square Garden, he asked me, "How many members of the church are gay or lesbian, do you think? I asked him, "What does the church published as its membership, ten million? He thought so, and I answered his question, "One million." He said nothing, but looked shocked.
I miss the fellowship of Affirmation meetings. I took great joy in seeing Chuck and John together when they were dating and was saddened when they broke-up. Chad and Tim arrived from Florida: "Such a nice young couple." They're back in Florida, but still, blessedly, together. I honor Larry and Bing for the quarter century they have been together. These and many more whom I have not named are role models for my new life.
What of the future? Sadly, this support and fellowship and these role models will not be available to the queer saints in New York who have yet to come-out. To whom will they turn in their hours of need? Their bishops? Stake presidents like Brent Belknap and Alejandro Soffiantini?
I'm not concerned with expanding the Jell-o Matrix or devising new, more artistic macaroni projects. I am concerned with having out, proud, active lesbian and gay Latter-day Saints available to every Latter-day Saint who suffers from "same-sex attraction". I want to see the suffering end, not the same-sex attraction.
I am attempting to set-up a contact network throughout the Northeast with the hope that small local groups of queer saints will gather socially occasionally. If it is to succeed, I must have help from queer saints throughout the Northeast. Are you on-line? Are you willing to correspond with questioning Latter-day Saints in your area? Would you talk with them on the telephone and/or in person?
If you want to help the good work move along, contact me. Affirmation: New York can now be contacted:
c/o John Adrian
8 Phelps Place
Staten Island, New York 10301-1605