09 November 2010

Nightline's Journey Into Manhood

Note: For a more complete picture of my views on Journey Into Manhood and related efforts, see my blog entries marked with the labels Journey Into Manhood or Therapy of Homosexuality.

I was going to title this "JIM-Dandies on Nightline", but a friend who has been quite heavily involved with JIM for quite some time seemed genuinely offended when I said "JIM-dandies" a few weeks ago, and though I've wondered how he couldn't see that it's not meant to be "pejorative" as he said but good-natured ribbing, cheekiness isn't what this post is about, so I refrained...except for this paragraph. *smirk*

Nightline finally aired a story about Journey Into Manhood they filmed this summer, and it's a bit shorter than I expected, and less a personal narrative than I had the impression it would be, but it seems like a pretty fair approach to the issue of certain efforts of guys to deal with "unwanted same-sex attraction", probably as balanced as I've seen on any major news media.

The weekend portrayed was a reunion of sorts, not an actual, regular JIM weekend. The report included some exercises, but not nearly all of them. There are more intense and personalized exercises throughout the weekend, I understand. The ones portrayed in the report reminded me of some in which I participated at an Evergreen Conference in 2006 or 2007, when Rich Wyler presented about the experiential weekend in a workshop. For example, I was to stand face-to-face with another workshop attendee, just inside our comfort bubble, look into each other's eyes, and think of the "story" I was telling myself about who he is, why he's here, where he came from, what his traits are, etc. And hold the stare despite discomfort, paying attention to the feelings arising in that discomfort, letting them surface. Were we feeling vulnerable? Were we laughing nervously? Did we want to look away? Why? Etc. Not life-changing, but interesting and instructive. He told us this and a couple of others we did were just a small sample of the more intensive, deeper exercises we could expect from the weekend if we were to go.

But regardless of whether we got any real feel for the weekend from the story, I think I'm glad the story has been told. And to be honest, what stood out to me more than anything about the Journey Into Manhood weekend was just the personal perspective and story of a gay guy who married a woman and is choosing his path forward. I won't comment in much detail about the subjects, Preston and Megan specifically, since I do know them personally. I'll just say I believe them when they say they're doing well now, they're happy, and they're looking forward to their new addition to the family!

I have to admit that when the reporter talked about Preston achieving his dream of becoming a father, my heart swelled a little at the thought, and despite fighting some resentment towards him in connection with feeling like he contributed personally to my pain this summer, I couldn't help but feel warmly happy for him and Megan because I, too, have always hoped to one day have a family. I know that dream. I believe in its joy. And while I'm busy trying to sort out whether I'm prepared for the challenges of building a family with another man or the challenges of building a family with a woman, he is actually living that dream.

I couldn't help but feel a glimmer of a wish that I could have that, the picture I had in my head when I was young, before I realized my own attractions weren't geared towards women. I couldn't help but acknowledge my recurring notion over the past month that maybe I'm not cut out for this whole gay crusader thing, or not interested in the struggles accompanying same-sex companionship, and would be better off finding a woman who's willing to take on the challenge if I am, or at least being open and available should such a woman come along. In that state of mind, I've considered doing whatever it takes, whatever others have experienced as working for them to work towards being prepared for that step--marriage with a woman--even if I don't necessarily have the same motivations for doing it or ascribe all of the same explanations to the exercises.

Maybe I want to "drink the Kool-Aid" if the end result is the kind of happiness I have always most wanted and if the alternatives just don't work for me. Maybe I can't "have it all", and I have to choose what I most want and value, and what I most want and value can be found with a woman as well as with a man. Maybe I'll find that if/when a woman comes along for whom I genuinely fall, as I'd need to in order to marry in good conscience, it won't feel like a compromise after all, like being with a guy hasn't felt like the compromise I once thought it would be.

In that light, making this admission (which admission I suppose may anger, frustrate, or elate some of you), and at the risk of validating what they're saying by questioning rather than "confidently" decrying their dastardly self-deception, how can I blame the guy I dated for choosing to end whatever we had to try to find happiness similar to what such a good guy as Preston testifies has worked for him? And if I can experience what I'm thinking and feeling without even bringing God into the equation, how can I possibly demean anyone for wanting to try efforts to reject a "gay identity" in favor of hope for heterosexual marriage which will bring less friction socially and will allow them to procreate with their spouse, especially when they believe such marriage is key to celestial glory and that same-sex companionship is not only strictly temporal but also completely opposed to a most fundamental 'purpose' of our existence?

Whether or not I would do it exactly like Preston or think it's "right" to do it exactly like he has, how can I not feel love for his happiness and respect for his and Megan's right to pursue what they want according to their beliefs and desires? As much as I worry their story may seduce many young men into years of unnecessary conflict before realizing it didn't have to be that way and there is growth, joy, and love in value- and principle-based living outside of the JIM or reparative paradigm, I can't possibly fault Preston and Megan for wanting to share their experience, to make their story known to those who would like a similar life for themselves. And as much as I believe their past hasn't always been so sunny, I can't help but set aside childishly defensive cynicism in order to take them at face value and just be genuinely happy that they're happy.

On that vein, I enjoyed the end of this clip (from 4:10 on):

NOTE: For some reason, the video isn't working lately on ABC's web site, but you can see it on Hulu, and the clip I refer to at the end begins at 19:54. I'll embed it below:


playasinmar said...

Who wouldn't want a baby? Procreation is easily the single most natural thing in the world.

Even if it means shoving your limp penis into a vagina.

The Impossible K said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I've been wanting to view this episode of Nightline since you mentioned it at Bellissimo's, but I'm still trying to figure out Idaho's weird TV schedules, so...yeah...

I totally agree with Meghan's statement in that clip too. I'd much rather have my husband openly acknowledge his attraction.

Oh, and personally, I find it's easier to recognize and believe Preston when he says he is attracted to his wife now, though it may have just started as a spark at first. Although I may never have experienced SSA, I definitely experienced a lack of attraction to the opposite sex for most my life, and even though I can honestly say I didn't feel that way before, I can also honestly confess the attraction is there now. Of course everyone is different, but yeah, it helps to be open to other possibilities from the get go (shrug)... and no matter how big or small the "spark" may be in the beginning, relationships are meant to evolve. Don't overanalyze relationships TOO much (c'mon, I know you do) - by the time you think you figure things out, things change, so just follow your heart and enjoy the ride :)

Original Mohomie said...

Impossible K, I'll nod to your 'over-analyze' comment in the sense that I might agree with what you mean to say with that, though I believe you and I have both long been finding our own balances of 'figuring it out' and 'letting it go' and 'trusting our instincts/heart/hope/Spirit/whatever' which work best for each of us.

I've found that when I'm in a romantic relationship, and in most (almost all) friendships--unless they end or go sour and I'm trying to cling to what was good and learn from them and to identify what, if anything, I can do to repair them--I'm just not bothered by plaguing questions, doubts, or hang-ups. I enjoy the moment, and I work on building on what we have, I treasure the 'now', I work towards understanding each other, and I...enjoy the ride. I have questions. I have doubts. I have hang-ups. But I balance them against the hope, faith, and certainty I do have, and I communicate them as appropriate, a little here and a little there, to work through and resolve them, a process I find to be bonding and which increases my love and trust. I hope to pursue that for a lifetime with someone someday..."but if not..." :-)

With girls, however, I don't know. I've never felt with a girl what I've felt with some guys, though I've felt elements to varying degrees, sometimes certain of them just as strongly as with guys. Maybe I'll find out someday whether I can 'trust' a romantic relationship with a woman, but in the past, no amount of 'just trusting' overcame the quiet voice that something clearly was not quite right that I couldn't ignore in good conscience. Maybe it would be different now, as I'm more open and know what it's like to be vulnerable with someone. Maybe not. Who knows?

Dreams aren't always right or real for the dreamer, or they may be fulfilled in different ways than we imagined. I'm trying to acknowledge what I most long for, what I want, what I believe, and working from there, not ignoring the bits which might get lost in the din of party lines and indoctrination.

It's funny. Reading over these comments, I'm tempted to think, "Has nothing changed since my first post years ago? Am I just coming full circle?" But I have definitely grown and learned, and whether I'm pulling old ideas and memories out of storage and dusting them off or am taking them off the forgotten shelf before storing them, I'm confident the picture will keep coming together.

Matt said...

4:10 on was sweet. I'm happy it's still working for them. I hope they make it.

Rob said...

I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but here's the reality. Statistical odds are against Our Hero's success. I've been in one of those marriages, which I entered for exactly the same reason Our Hero apparently did. And it was disastrous. I'm in the majority.

If he wants to try it, that's his choice. I'll be curious to see where he is in 20 years.

As to Journey Into Manhood, I think it's largely a scam. It may do some guys some good with feeling more masculine, but I don't think that has anything to do with sexual orientation per se, which is something that doesn't change. When asked all the key questions during the Nightline interviews, Our Hero clearly equivocated and hedged.

So when someone says "It's his right to choose this if he wants," that's fine, but that's not the issue. The issue is that Journey into Manhood and other such organizations exist only because of their premise that there's something wrong with gay guys that needs fixing. Since such organizations need income, they will push their product and advertise by trying to persuade innocents like Preston that he/they need JiM's help. While it may be Preston's choice to succumb to such persuasion, that doesn't make it any more right, or honest, or ethical. IMO organizations like this border on priestcraft, preying on the trust and faith of people who think they're hurting because of those same organizations' propaganda and which then purport to give them a cure. All for a hefty fee, of course. If that isn't priestcraft I don't know what is. And we all know what the Book of Mormon says about priestcraft.

Anonymous said...

Preston was super cute!

Anonymous said...

Rob, you've got company. I'm feeling pretty stinky about this myself. When Megan posted on the Northstar Wive's group (which I have since taken a step back from-) I thought, oh, how nice that everything is so peachy! My marriage was equally as peachy when I was in your spot. Let's give it a few years, some job stress, a few more kids, and some life experience and then take a look.
But maybe they will have an equally shiny outlook after all. God bless them!!

Original Mohomie said...

Anonymous, ha ha, is that you, Megan? ;-) Well, whoever you are, you're certainly not the only one who thinks so: I've been hearing that for years! I didn't really see it for a long time 'cause he's not exactly my 'type', but he's a cutie. Sometimes I've wanted to pinch his cheeks when he's being his cheeky self.

Rob and mtam, I totally get where you're coming from...OK, probably not totally...anyway, no need to think of yourselves as skunks. I've been working on a follow-up post that started as a response to Rob's comment.

Megan used to regularly read my blog. Not sure if she still does, but if so, I hope it's clear that despite whatever differences of belief and whatever resentment I feel in connection to my own personal pain, and the fact that I rarely see them anymore, I really like Megan and Preston and care about them, and I have complete faith in their marriage.

Original Mohomie said...

I've published my response as a post.

Matt said...

@Rob--In recent years I haven't gotten a "there's something wrong with gay guys" vibe from JIM. It's been more of a, "and here's something else you can try" vibe. Perhaps because I listen with a skeptic's ears.

Regardless, isn't it a little condescending to explain away Preston's decisions by blaming them on his supposed innocence?