The 2021 Affirmation International Conference will be held virtually from Sept. 11 to 19. This year’s theme is Lighting the World Together, and programming for the conference is being finalized. This conference is for the entire LGBTQIA+ Latter-day Saint community, including current and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, family members, friends, and church leaders.
Several featured speakers with a diversity of sexual orientations, gender identity, faiths, and life experiences will participate in the conference
Emmett Preciado is an American transgender actor and singer-songwriter of Spanish, Mexican, and European descent.
He served as a sister missionary for 18 months in The Salt Lake City, Utah Mission. When Emmett returned from his mission, he attended a semester at Brigham Young University–Idaho. In the late summer of 2015, Emmett dropped out of college and moved to Utah to pursue his physical transition from female to male. He remained as active in the Church as possible for a couple of years and has spoken at and participated in conferences and events for LGBTQ Mormons.
In the Spring of 2020, Emmett was cast as Rowan, a recurring character on Freeform’s Good Trouble. At the end of 2020, he shot his first guest star role on The Good Doctor as Rio Gutierrez. In the spring of 2021, Emmett guest-starred as Mateo Cruz on ABC’s Rebel.
Blaire Ostler is a philosopher who is specialized in queer studies and is a leading voice at the intersection of queer, Mormon, and transhumanist thought. She is an author who recently published her first book, “Queer Mormon Theology: An Introduction.” She is a board member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association, the Christian Transhumanist Association, and Sunstone.
Blaire is no stranger to Affirmation or the International Conference. She was the Master of Ceremonies for the 2019 conference held in Provo, Utah, and interviewed award-winning filmmaker, writer, and social activist Dustin Lance Black for the 2020 conference. This year, she’ll moderate a panel discussion featuring BYU LGBTQIA+ student leaders.
Hao Lee is the president of Affirmation Hawaii, which was started by BYU–Hawaii students in 2020. During her time as a student, she advocated for LGBTQ+ students through communication with the BYUH administration, including both the president and vice president of BYUH.
Carolyn Gassert is a cisgender demisexual lesbian woman who grew up in the Mormon church in South Carolina and is the president of USGA BYU–Provo. Her academic and professional goal is to become a therapist in Utah working with marginalized groups, especially LGBTQ+ youth, and young adults.
TJ Thomas is an active Latter-day Saint therapist and bisexual. He served a mission in Benin and Togo, West Africa, and attended BYU for his undergraduate degree. He went on to receive his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. He now works as a therapist for a wide variety of clients, with a focus on youth in the LGBTQ+ and LDS intersection.
He strives to make mental health resources more accessible to all and provides free resources on his Instagram page (@tjcounseling) and his weekly podcast, Therapy Thursday. He has also been a guest on many podcasts to discuss mental health and the LGBTQ population, including “Questions from the Closet,” “Listen, Learn and Love,” and “Oh My Health There is Hope.”
Rev. Marian Edmonds-Allen is the executive director of Parity, a New York City-based national nonprofit that works at the intersection of faith and LGBTQ+ concerns, and the director of Blessed by Difference, a project that seeks to promote curious and collaborative bridging across the LGBTQ+ and faith divide.
In 2013, Marian was named Person of the Year by QSaltLake Magazine for her visionary leadership, and in 2015 was named a Petra Fellow for her work with LGBTQ+ homeless youth. She is formerly the executive director of OUTreach Resource Centers, the national program director of the Family Acceptance Project, and the executive director of the Utah Pride Center.
Three special tracks have been scheduled, including one for youth aged 11 to 18 years of age, parents and allies, and church leaders.
The conference will be held virtually. While the group would rather meet in person for the conference, being virtual does have some advantages, say conference leaders. With a virtual conference, people can attend from anywhere there is a good Internet connection. Last year’s program brought many people who had never traveled to previous conferences.
There is no cost to register thanks to a grant Affirmation received to support this year’s conference. Organizers hope that, with there being no cost to register and with the conference being virtual, this year’s conference will be the most accessible conference ever.
While there is no requirement to pay to attend, there is a suggested donation of at least $35, which will get you a limited edition enamel pin featuring this year’s conference logo and theme and those who donate $65 or more get a pin and a conference t-shirt.
For more information on the conference, go to conference.affirmation.org