In a recent conversation, I was explaining that I believe there are benefits to some exercises and group methods of organizations like Journey Into Manhood even if I believe the language typically used to hook the interest of potential participants is unethical and disingenuous, language strongly implying and evoking orientation reversal, such as "overcoming homosexuality", "accessing your innate heterosexuality", "becoming a man among men", and "learning to identify as a straight male"
I mentioned that I've had conversations with a few friends who have shown interest in the idea of something like Journey Into Manhood but without the high, for-profit price tag, the imposed narrative, the secrecy with nondisclosure agreements, and the disingenuous marketing. But having nothing available, they've shrugged and mentioned they might just go to JIM because so many good people they know have sworn by it. And I've debated how much an alternative could compete without--and I'm just gonna call it as I see it--the snake oil promises and dangling prospect of getting close to attractive men within the assumed safety of supposedly "nonsexual" physical and emotional intimacy. But I also believe my friends when they say JIM taught them a lot about themselves even though it didn't do a thing to make them any straighter. And goodness knows I'm not so cynical as to believe all cuddling is sublimated sex...not all.
So we speculated: if there ISN'T a promise to "change" couched in terms of vaguely implied orientation reversal, would most of these guys even want to go to something like that? Isn't it the possibility of change that piques their interest to begin with? JIM is a business, after all, and there's a bottom line, and while I do believe helping people is a sincere motive, it seems there's an end-means game happening there. So can you get interest in a weekend or program designed to offer benefits like JIM offers but without dangling the "straight" carrot or the possibility of cuddling-cum-masculine-bonding? I'm not sure, to be honest. And the reason is what I think of as "the orientation lottery".
The "orientation lottery", as I conceive it, works like this: the player says he didn't have any illusions about winning, and he admits he doesn't know anyone who has ever won, but he goes ahead and buys the ticket anyway because, hey, lots of people have won $10, and that's something, and some of the money goes to help pay for schools, so it's for a good cause anyway. The analogy has its limitations, but as I see it, the dangling carrot of "overcoming homosexuality," even or especially if left vague, is the $50 million jackpot you "could" win, even if everyone playing objectively knows it's probably not gonna happen. I don't mean to diminish what many of the participants have experienced by comparing the personal, emotional, or spiritual rewards they've perceived with the monetary rewards of the lotto. For some, their experiences are spoken of in similar tones to the sacredness of temple worship. While I suspect, based on my own experience, that those experiences were part real change and part emotional manipulation, I don't mean to dismiss the real change just because of the supposed emotional manipulation. What I see is some truly valuable learning and growth that unfortunately happens to be found within a framework of smoke and mirrors. And I'd like to dispense with the trickery and find truer, more honest and reliable motivations to bring people to similar learning and help them (and myself) continue in it.
When people marvel at how much energy and how long so many guys put into groups and treatments without ever seeing anyone actually go from mostly same-sex attracted to mostly other-sex attracted, and why in heaven or hell anyone would do that to themselves or whether you'd have to be insanely desperate to do it, I remind them: many of them honestly don't actively think they'll become straight. It's not necessarily about that. Sure, there's a $50 million jackpot that's nice to think about because it seems like it could make life so much easier in so many ways (right??...), and some players invest relentlessly, believing the jackpot is always just within reach and end up exhausted, impoverished, and embittered when the lotto does not pay out as they hoped it would. But others understood, a bit more, how remote those possibilities were when they started playing, and they have other reasons for it. And I'm less worried about those players.
Shifting to a different analogy, I'm more worried about the sick and oppressed who desperately seek a remedy for the condition they're in and eagerly buy up what the traveling snake oil salesman promises will fix everything that afflicts them. They spend all of their money, and it does do some positive things for them, but what was really afflicting them remains unresolved and destructive because they clamored to the teaching of a miracle man while the local doctor who could have helped them was ignored, because he wasn't saying they'd be stronger than ever by drinking a potion, nor did he promise a fountain of youth, so what he offered...well, it just sounded too true to be good.