For Immediate Release
Contact Anne Peffer
Salt Lake City, UT – January 9, 2013 Circling the Wagons conferences for LGBT and same-sex attracted Mormons and their families, friends and allies will continue its tradition of selecting keynote speakers of various beliefs and life decisions. Therapists Lee Beckstead, Ph.D., and David Matheson, M.S., will speak side-by-side on February 22nd in Salt Lake City to address the theme Coming Together: Listening to Gain Understanding and Find Common Ground. Beckstead is a former-Mormon psychologist who was a member of the APA task force that, in 2009, made the official recommendation that the appropriate therapeutic response to sexual orientation be LGBT-affirming. Matheson is a Mormon clinical mental health counselor who helps men who experience their same-sex attraction as unwanted diminish their homosexual feelings and change their self-perception. Beckstead, Matheson, and other therapists who have had disagreements about how to respond to same-sex attraction have met on several occasions during the last year in hopes that constructive communication will make it possible for them to work together for the benefit of all LGBT and same-sex attracted Mormons. To our knowledge, this is the first time an LGBT-affirming therapist and a therapist who helps individuals diminish homosexuality have spoken peacefully together at one conference.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to speak at Circling the Wagons and to tell people about the hope Lee, myself and the other therapists have that LGBT and same-sex attracted Mormons and their families and friends can work together to help the people we all care about,” said Matheson. “Too many families experience too much conflict regarding same-sex attraction. I want to work towards healing those families and relationships. Sure, Lee and I have differences, but we’ve been genuinely surprised at how much we have in common and how much we genuinely care about each other. We want to demonstrate how we can work together for the good of everyone.”
The recent and unexpected legalization of same-sex marriage in Utah has intensified the conversation surrounding LGBT issues among Mormons. The LDS Church has reiterated its opposition to same-sex marriage and many Utahns feel that that the decision to legalize the practice directly challenged their rights as voters. “The purpose of the conference is not to bring Mormons together to stir up more conflict,” said Anne Peffer, president of Circling the Wagons and founder of the conferences. “Instead, we’re working to create a safe space where all Mormons can gather to authentically share their life experiences and discuss what they have in common.”
Despite the current controversy, many Mormons have publicly vocalized their support and love for their LGBT and same-sex attracted brothers and sisters over the last few years. “I have felt an outpouring of generosity and support from Mormons that I never could have imagined feeling just five years ago,” said Randall Thacker, president of Affirmation, who will also be keynoting at the conference. “A substantial number of Mormons are no longer willing to see their gay brothers and sisters excluded. I am an out, gay Mormon and I belong at church.”
The conference, planned before marriage legalization, has not been altered in response to the ruling or the recent stay. “We want all Mormons to feel safe at our conference regardless of whether they are personally for or against legalization of same-sex marriage in Utah,” said Peffer. “We’ll be discussing ethical communication and healthy conflict resolution strategies and will be spending our time genuinely listening to each other in hopes that we’ll individually gain a greater understanding of each others’ perspectives.”
In addition to the conference, Circling the Wagons will be hosting the inaugural meeting of the Circling the Wagons Coalition. The Coalition will be made up of professionals, community leaders, religious affiliates, and others who work diligently to improve the lives of LGBT and same-sex attracted Mormons and who have a variety of beliefs and political ideologies. During the meeting, Coalition members will begin drafting the contents of written standards of ethical communication and conflict resolution in hopes that having such standards will make it possible for Coalition members and the diverse organizations they represent to collaborate, despite and in consideration of their many differences, for the benefit of all LGBT and same-sex attracted Mormons.
An art show featuring original pieces by LGBTQ and same-sex attracted Mormons as well as straight Mormons will be on exhibit during the conference. Both professional and amateur artists are encouraged to submit work.