I remember walking into Affirmations for the first time in 2003, at the age of 16. It was also the very first time I had ever been in a space with so many people who were like me. A safe space! Where I could socialize, create friendships, be connected to invaluable resources, and gain the courage to truly be myself. During that time as a teenager, I was closeted at school in fear of being teased or persecuted. I was also closeted with my family in fear of rejection. Yet, Every time I walked into Affirmations for the ‘Friday Night Drop In’ it literally felt as if this heteronormative mask I was wearing was instantly lifted…Even if it was only for an hour or two. Eventually, I became brave enough to take this ‘mask’ off permanently, and start on the road to becoming the person I am today.
Over the years, Affirmations remained a source of guidance and support for me when I needed it. Including in 2018, when I walked in feeling frustrated and powerless, due to everything that was going on in politics, and the world around me. I spoke to a young man at the front desk and explained that I wanted to give back…I wanted to do SOMETHING to help the world around me become a better place. Affirmations connected me with the HRC. An organization I have since spent countless hours volunteering for.
The very definition of ‘Affirmation’ is emotional support and encouragement! And I am grateful to this organization for being just that!
I first became involved with Affirmations in 2014. I was looking to meet people in the community, and frankly, joining a group or attending a social event felt a little scary to me. I’m an introvert and meeting new people doesn’t always come easy. So, I began as a front desk volunteer. Talking to strangers felt far more comfortable when it was my “job”. I volunteered on Monday evenings for about a year and a half. Then I became involved in event committees such as the Fall Fling Planning Committee and later helping with Spring Bash. From there, I started to represent Affirmations at various events like Pride. The more involved I became, the more passionate I felt about Affirmations’ mission. I got to see firsthand now Affirmations made a significant difference in people’s lives. I fell in love with the people and the place. I have heard it said many times and I agree, Affirmations feels like home. It is a true honor to serve as a board member.
I grew up in suburbia Michigan, in neighborhoods where most of the houses looked the same and so did the families. Conformity was not only desired, but seemingly enforced. I witnessed the kids who were perceived as “different” being intentionally made to feel bad as if an attempt to force them to fit the mold. When I was in kindergarten I worked up the courage to share with my older sibling that I might be different too. They had also witnessed how those kinds of kids were made fun of and put down. I cried as I was told to never tell anyone out of fear I might become an outcast as well. I didn’t want to be hated or treated poorly, so for the rest of my life I would try as hard as I could to be the person whom my family and friends expected me to be. Years of depression and self hatred followed.
As an adult I realized my attempt at being someone I’m not wasn’t working. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I needed help. Eventually I found Affirmations where I was introduced to the various support group services hosted there. These groups were life changing. Being able to meet openly and without judgment with like minded people going through the same struggles is wonderful. Sharing advice on self acceptance, coming out, family issues, relationships, health, and all the other challenges that come along with being LGBTQ+ is such a valuable resource for our community. Affirmations is a judgement free zone, so don’t ever be scared to walk up to the friendly face at the front desk and say “hi, I’m [L/G/B/T/Q or unsure] and need some help.”
People that are different contribute to an ever changing and vibrant world. These people are amazing! Affirmations is a home base for cultivating this celebration of our differences. I joined the board of directors at Affirmations with the goal of helping as many LGBTQ+ people as we can. I’m specifically working towards the goal of increasing awareness of these valuable resources at Affirmations and promoting the end of discrimination.