As many of you know, North Start International held their second annual conference in Provo, UT this past weekend. For those of you who are unfamiliar with North Star International, here is a link to their website so you can learn more about what they offer. www.NorthStarInternational.org
Any views expressed on this blog are the sole responsibility of HelpImGay.com and should NOT be interpreted as views or beliefs of North Start International or the LDS church.
I’m not sure why but I felt a little nervous about attending. Perhaps because it was the first community gathering I’ve attended since coming out. Until now, all my openness has been shielded by the cloak of a computer screen or personal relationships.
As I walked into the building I was greeted with smiling faces and eager helpers to point me to the registration desk. Walking up the stairs I notice many fashionable dressed people who fit exactly within the gay stereotype. I also noticed clean cut young men no older than 18, senior citizens, lesbians with short hair, transgender people and EVERYTHING in between. I felt ‘at home’ with my people.
The conference started promptly at 9 am and North Star spared no expense. Having some experience with putting on events I know the cost to present in a professional manner and they did a great job. The center stage looked crisp with black back drops and projection screens for those in the back of the room.
Ty Mansfield, president of North Star, was the first to speak. His presentation was scripted and he literally read it from printed pages at the pulpit. I was a very disappointed because he is a FANTASTIC speaker when he speaks from the heart and it wasn’t until 20 minutes into his speech that he started doing so. He was a huge influence on me letting go of my shame associated with same sex attraction and I hope that next year he throws the speech out the window and speaks from the heart.
I was able to see two other platform speakers throughout the day. M Catherine Thomas was the second speaker and it was her presentation on empathy, love and serving others that lead me to attend the breakout session for transgender people. I thought, If I expect other who don’t experience same sex attraction to empathize with me, I too must try to empathize with those who I don’t understand (transgender individuals).
The first break out session for gender dysphoria changed me as a person. I entered the room full of cross dressing men and women feeling uncomfortable and left wanting to give every single one of them a hug. Shannon Rants (shannonRants.com) was the instructor of “Now What? Understanding the many facets of gender dysphoria.” Her personal experience with gender dysphoria and unconditional love for those in the audience was enough to being any homophobic person to tears. If you ever want to witness Christ-like love (assuming God exists) spend an hour getting to know these people. They are beautiful.
Following the first breakout session was a lunch break held on the lower level. Seating was unassigned and with round tables to encourage conversation. I made friends with a couple of men and enjoyed some small talk.
By the third keynote address my nervousness was gone and I felt comfortable with my g-men. I attended two more breakout sessions and enjoyed them both.
Overall, I’d recommend this conference for anybody in a mixed orientation marriage or single and trying to live the teachings of the LDS. Although I’m no longer a member of the church and there was little more spiritual influence than I like, I feel there are LOADS of great information and resources to take away. If nothing else, you can gather in a safe environment to meet like-minded men and woman who experience same sex attraction.