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: