I remember the morning of the 2012 Salt Lake City conference featuring Josh Weed, Allen Miller and Joseph Broom as being very tense. The invitation of keynote speakers who had made different life decisions had not settled well with the public. Media were bustling and requesting interviews with Josh, last-minute conference details needed to be attended to, and we had concerns that the sanctuary might remain empty due to the public disapproval of our decision to give voice to people of different perspectives.
I remember, especially, a good friend who had been deeply hurt by the notion that being gay meant that he was somehow bad, wrong, or in need of fixing visiting me in the morning to demonstrate his support of my efforts, but also to tell me that he was too anxious about what might be said at the conference to stay for the day. He felt a weighty apprehension related to his memories of having so often received the message that his sexuality made him inherently less valuable. That anxiety made it difficult for him to feel safe in the presence of Josh Weed. I gave him a hug, acknowledged his pain and wished him comfort before returning to my management of the many conference tasks.
The most striking happening of the day, to me, was the change that occurred in the audience when Josh spoke. The morning began with Josh’s heartfelt advocacy for unconditional love, surprising conference-goers and demonstrating the value of coming together to listen to those different than ourselves. It made apparent the power of truly seeking to understand who others are as individuals and members of our community. Before Josh gave his talk, the same apprehension felt by my friend was also reflected in many members of the audience. After his talk, we collectively experienced a new sense of togetherness and community that we had not previously known could exist. When the meeting was over, attendees surrounded Josh, thanked him for his courage and wisdom, and acknowledged that their previous fear had not only been dispelled, but was misplaced.
That evening, when the conference was over, we gathered at a restaurant to relax. There at the table, together, were Josh and my good friend who had felt so anxious about Josh’s presence earlier that morning. They sat near each other and laughed and chatted, enjoying friendship, good company and the knowledge that both of them were inherently valuable despite the different decisions they had made.