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I would like to congratulate all of the staff, the Board, the youth, the volunteers, and the donors of Affirmations GLBT Community Center. It brings me great joy and excitement that the community is going to have a permanent home in Ferndale. I am proud of Michigan’s GLBT community for coming together to raise the funds that were needed to make this dream a reality.
If it hadn’t been for Affirmations Youth Group, I have no idea where I would be today – if I would even be alive to be honest. I grew up in a very small, redneck town in a small, very redneck family. I never thought that I would ever meet people who would accept me for being gay, let alone people who actually were. A special teacher in my high school and the staff, volunteers and youth group at Affirmations changed that for me.
I remember the first time I went to the youth group at Affirmations. It was 1994, I was 15 years old. I remember not being able to sleep the night before – almost that, “Santa Claus is coming tomorrow” feeling. I was excited, excited about the chance to have such a freeing experience. Then the day came and I became nervous…no scared is a better word…even better yet, TERRIFIED!! Terrified to the point of literally getting sick multiple times, scared to death of, “What if everything ‘they’ say is true about gay people?” What if every stereotype was true and I wouldn’t fit in with “my people?” Where would I go from there?
I can honestly say that I don’t remember much about my first day at Affirmations. It happened so fast. I just remember all the things I had been so scared of just fading away. I remember having fun. I also remember being freaked out by how these young people, like me, where talking about boyfriends and girlfriends. They were talking about coming out to parents and classmates. It made it all seem possible to be happy AND live a happy life. Affirmations became a second home to me through my teenage years and into my twenties.
Now here I am at 27 years old. I have come along way. I have watched as various Affirmations staff and volunteers have come and gone. I have watched my teenage years come and go. Thanks to Affirmations I was able to do things like attend dances, parties, and even Prom’s (I was even Prom King in 1998) that were for “us,” for the people who could not do those things at their schools. I have found my voice in the GLBT community, I am an activist, I hang my rainbow flag with pride. This is because of Affirmations
My hope is that the GLBT community of Michigan knows how lucky they are to have a place like Affirmations. I live in Richmond, Virginia now. We don’t have a GLBT community center – we barely have an active GLBT community. There are not the wonderful resources here. There are a handful of people trying to change that, but it is a long ways away.
Thank you Affirmations, for all our years of service to the community.
By Bill Johnson, Richmond, VA
former Youth Group Member 1994-1999