My Journey Into Manhood IV

Ted Cox is a Sacramento writer who follows the gay “conversion” movement: Organizations that claim to “cure” gays of their homosexuality. This week we’re running excerpts from his report of an undercover visit to a weekend retreat held near Phoenix last year. The entire article is available online.

Some details have been altered to protect the identities of participants.

One-by-one, the “Journeyers” (as participants are called) in our small group take turns reenacting painful childhood memories. Jason, a baby-faced, barely-out-of-college guy, struggles for a minute to come up with something. Then, finally, he half-heartedly recounts the time he tried to get his dad’s attention. But Dad rebuffed him, saying that he was busy reading the newspaper.

“So what message did you internalize from your dad that day?” prods the “Guide,” a staff member.

Again, Jason struggles. “That he wanted to read the paper?” We chuckle.

The Guide fills in the blanks. “He was telling you that the newspaper was more important than his son.”

The Guide instructs Jason to reconstruct the scene. Jason picks men from our group to play his young self and his dad. Dad grabs a scrap of paper sitting in the sunny cabin, takes a seat in one of the folding metal chairs, and buries his face in the paper. Young Jason approaches Dad, trying to get him to play. Dad brushes him off: “I’m busy.”

Young Jason and Dad play out the scene over and over again, while the Guide and Jason stand off to the side.

“You were a boy who needed his father’s attention. And do you know what you got instead?” asks the Guide. “He told you you were worthless. He didn’t have time for you.”

Dad picks up on the Guide’s words and incorporates them into the dialogue. “I don’t have time for you. You’re worthless. Leave me alone.” For the fifteenth time, young Jason approaches Dad seated in his cold metal chair, and Dad rejects him. Young Jason skulks away.

Much like Jason had trouble coming up with a traumatic memory, he draws a blank when the Guide asks him what he can do to change the situation. Each Journeyer, after recreating his memory, must step into the role of his younger self and take control to change the memory.

This final step is vital to the process, and it varies based on the memory. When Charles, a young evangelical minister from Oregon, recreated the day his father beat his mother because she wanted to buy Charles designer jeans, the Guide told Charles that to take control of his memory he had to remove his abusive father. What ensued was a four-minute wrestling match, where Charles struggled to drag the Guide out the cabin and slam the door shut.

With few exceptions, most Journeyers took control of their memories the same way. Whether one of the three Guides played a father sneering about the “faggot” behind a fast-food counter or the high school locker-room bully, Journeyers dragged the offending character out of the cabin and slammed the door shut.

The Guides put up a good fight. When Charles the minister didn’t completely close the door to the cabin, the Guide pushed his way back in. “Are you kidding me?” panted Charles when he was told he had to start all over again.

My resolution was different. I recounted the time in fifth grade my father stormed into my bedroom when he heard me fighting with my little brother, punched us to the ground, then walked out. I played the part of my younger self. While I lay on the floor of the cabin, the Journeyer playing my brother lying two feet away, the Guide pulled out a blanket and draped it over me.

“You never got up from the bedroom floor, did you?” he asked. “You’ve been lying there all your life.”

He had the other men in the room kneel around me, their knees pinning the blanket so that I was wrapped tight like a taquito. Only my head poked out from an opening.

My resolution was to finally, for the first time in my life, get up from the floor where my father had left me physically and emotionally bruised all those years ago. On the Guide’s mark, I struggled to push myself up, but the weight of the men kept me pinned. Sweaty and exhausted after several futile minutes, I switched strategies: Wriggling like a worm out of an apple, I freed myself out of the topside of the blanket. My shoes were pulled off in the effort. I think my feet stank.

But for Jason and his newspaper-reading father, the solution took a violent approach. First, the Guide playing Jason’s father rises from the metal chair to stand in front of him, repeating the lines about Jason being worthless. Next, Jason is handed a baseball bat and told to kneel on the floor. A punching bag is placed between him and the father.

“What you need is a new father,” the Guide says, moving another Guide to stand behind the first. “But this old father is standing in your way. You need to get rid of him.”

Jason looks wide-eyed at the man standing in front of him. The Guide who has been leading Jason through the exercise makes an over-the-head swinging motion. Jason grips the bat, lifts it up behind his head, and swings it down, the bat thudding on the punching bag.

“Again!” yells the Guide.

Jason obeys. He swings over and over again.

“Yell! Let it out!” commands the Guide.

His yells are weak at first, but with each swing, they grow deep and primal. Every few swings, Jason’s old father buckles a little, clutching his body as though wounded.

Another Guide motions for the rest of us to encourage Jason.

“Yeah, man!”

“Do it!”

“C’mon!”

I’m horrified by what I see — Jason beating his dad to death in effigy — but I join in the growing roar of voices. Jason seems like such a nice kid, the kind of guy whose biggest regret was the day he forgot to do his algebra homework.

After several minutes, Old Father crouches close to the floor. Jason wails away, his timidness fleeing with his wide-eyed, belly-deep screams.

“Finish him!” commands the Guide. A few more swings, and it’s over. Old Father lies motionless on the ground.

The room is silent, except for the New Father, who stands with his arms open, repeating the lines that have been covered by the thudding and screaming: “I love you, son. I care about you.”

Jason drops the bat, stands, and approaches New Father, who wraps his arms around his son.

Many of the other scenarios end the same way: the Journeyer is held by the Guide playing his father, who tells him how much he loves his son. I’ll admit feeling a twinge every time I see it. What son doesn’t crave his father’s love?

After our group has finished the exercises, we walk from our cabin to the carpeted lodge room. Inside, the lights are low. While the different cabins slowly file in, two staff members off to the side of the room sit in the Motorcycle position. The man in back gives the other a back rub.

Once all the men have assembled, a Guide speaks briefly about the work we did with our father issues. He then instructs us to take out our pens and notebooks. We are instructed to write the letter that we wish our ideal father, the Golden Father, would write to us. After a few minutes, Guides take their places for another holding session. When my turn comes, I opt for the side-by-side hold. I don’t need to feel another erection in my back.

While the Guide reads me my letter, I think about the beatings and bruises and black eyes my dad gave my brother and me. Mom was the breadwinner most of my childhood years; I think Dad took out on us his frustration over feeling emasculated. In the patriarchal Mormon faith, a stay-at-home dad never fully lives up to his manly obligations. Dad and I haven’t spoken much in the ten years since I left the Mormon church; in fact, I haven’t heard from him at all in three years. And yet, despite being raised by an abusive, spiritually castrated father, I have a strong preference for women.

When each man has been held, we adjourn to our cabins.

Just a few hours left. I want to go home.

Friday: Aftermath

My Journey Into Manhood [Stinque@Scribd]

Excerpts: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V

60 comments:

9:16 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

Hey, what if Old Father was busy looking for a fookin job in the classifieds?

9:42 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

sad update
Im sorry I have to write this. I am sorry I have to tell you this at all but after last weekend I would feel dishonest not writing about it.
Loudon Wainwright 3.5 died on wed morning early in the am. I cant even verify the egg story because I never actually saw it. that was second hand from a friend who called around noon to tell me that.
when I got home at about 6:30 (that would be monday) it was obvious something was wrong. he was swimming erratically as if he was having trouble keeping is balance.
I called the fish expert and he said ‘take the female out of the tank’. which I did. I have a smaller one she could go in temporarily.
but it was to late. his condition deterioriated that night the next day and into the night and he finally died wed morning early. it was not a quick or easy death.
watching that magnificent creature die slowly after spending the previous amazing weekend with him was an experience I am unable to put into words.
we dont yet know for sure why he died. we may know more later. for now John says he thinks it was simply the stress of being relocated to two new environments with a few weeks after being in one for his whole life and then the stress of mating.
everyone else including Mary Jane seem fine. although she seems a little confused and sad. but perhaps thats a projection of my own feelings.
rip Loudon. you will be missed.

9:46 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: I’m so so sorry to read this.

9:48 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Sorry to hear that. Aren’t there some species where after they mate the female kills the male or the effort of shooting the wad kills the male?

BTW, best name ever for a fish.

9:49 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
it was one of the worst things I have had to deal with for a long time.
it really effected me. that may sound silly. but it did.

9:51 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@SanFranLefty:
yes
mating is often very stressful. but he should not have died from it according to John the fish guy. also the bigger a fish is the more stressful it is to relocate them.

10:11 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Of course it did. It must have been terrible to watch and not be able to help. My thoughts are with you.

10:22 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy:
so so sorry howdy…losing a beloved pet is heart wrenching.
i’m with you in sadness. i understand. hang in there.
my sincere condolences.

10:30 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

thanks for the condolences.
even my asshole coworkers buddies who usually joke about everything are not making jokes about the taking two days off for fish bereavement leave.

@Benedick:
yep
being able to do nothing was the worst.

10:46 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Sorry to hear about this.

10:50 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy:
so sad for you i’m not even making wanda jokes.

11:00 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

to the subject of the post. wow. it amazes me that people hate themselves so much they will even consider going through this.
amazes me but it does not surprise me.

11:10 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: I feel sorry for these guys. Re the article, I’m waiting to see whether the author thinks the organizers are sincere or just trying to rip off vulnerable men.

11:15 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Dodgerblue:
I actually think they are probably as sincere as the deluded can be.

11:19 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: I wonder how a program like this defines success.

11:20 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy:
amazing isn’t it?
i’ve written about this before…
my husbands brother has teh ghey and with the urging of his parents, went into a facility to ungay himself. pathetic. he’s such a bitter asshole, but like a good little boy he married a woman who looks like a man and has 2 daughters with santorum face. his hobby? flower arranging.
his name is david and practices law in philly.
sad. sad. sad.

he also happens to be gorgeous…looks like robert downy jr. i hear he’s still trolling the glory holes, so.
if you are gay and find yourself in philly, i will be happy to provide contact info.

11:26 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Dodgerblue: I think they think they’re sincere, like Howdy said. I haven’t read ahead (in part because I can’t get the whole thing to print at once) yet, but I’m getting the vibe that there must be some hook-ups going on at this place, what with all the men sitting around in darkened rooms hugging one another. It seems like a socially-acceptable way to express their same sex attraction…

11:39 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@SanFranLefty:

this got my attention:

two staff members off to the side of the room sit in the Motorcycle position. The man in back gives the other a back rub.

11:43 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@baked:
oh listen
I actually know more about this stuff than I would ever want to know.
the reason? I was always attracted to these guys. I even “married” one.
I met Billy exactly one month after he had finally decided to announce to his wife at the breakfast table that he had to have sex with men. this is after doing it while married to her for 10 years. she said get out.
he did. he gave her the house the car and all the money he took his clothes and split.
I met him one month later and we fell in love. it was without a doubt the worst mistake of my life. he was tormented by his failure as a husband and father (two boys who were taught to hate and disown him) and was intent on making his own life miserable and by association mine as well. it worked. I credit my relation ship with him as “curing” me from relationships for the rest of my life.

11:44 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@SanFranLefty:

This is what you hear a lot from people that have gone through this kind of thing. It ends up providing them with a base of “friends” that can relate to their struggle after they inevitably figure out that it is bullshit.

11:49 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

As before stated this is giving me a bad case of the harsh. However, I think the organizers are entirely sincere and entirely convinced that they are doing the right thing. They see themselves as trying to rescue the afflicted. That they make a good living from it only demonstrates that God is rewarding their efforts. And they all make me sick.

@baked: Flower arranging? Flower arranging!!!!!????? Are you fucking kidding me?

I can only throw up my astonished hands.

11:53 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: I am so very sorry. It must be especially dreadful not to be able to hold or comfort your suffering pet. RIP, Loudon 3.5

11:54 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

to be clear. my former partner we not involved with any “exodus” like group. but just more generally in the group of tortured homosexuals who can not accept what they are.

11:56 am • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Mistress Cynica:
it was absolutely awful. he would sort of float vertically in the tank for long periods barely breathing punctuated by brief violent periods of swimming aimlessly and banging into things. it was very very hard to watch.

12:00 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: My condolences, Mr. Howdy. Loudon Wainwright 3.5? What a wonderful name your fish had.

12:01 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy:

That sucks, bud. Nothing can really comfort somebody who has lost a pet but time, but if I could make you feel better, I would.
Sorry to hear of your loss.

12:02 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick: @baked:

How is flower arranging a hobby? It is a commitment. A lifestyle.

Oh brave new world…

12:03 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: By watching you honored him.

12:04 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
i kid thee not…and he’s quite good at it !
my mother in law is so delighted with his creations!
imbeciles.

12:09 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

thank you all for the kind words. he was only a fish and not a warm and fuzzy pet and all. but he was so beautiful. even more, they were so beautiful and seemed so happy together.
anyway enough maudlin-isms. Loudon would not want it. but its sad when any beautiful thing is lost to the world.

an odd thing. I put Mary Jane in a smaller tank on the other end of the living room. which is quite large, something like 20 X 40 – the living room I mean, but she could still see the other tank and she did not take her eye off it for the whole time.
I know this because she is blind in one eye. she kept the good one on him the whole time. which is not an easy thing for her to do and keep swimming.

12:10 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
silly but I really felt I had to stay with him till the end. and I did.

12:15 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: How do you know the fish is blind in one eye?

12:16 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@baked: How many men lead lives of misery so they won’t embarrass their mothers? Or mothers-in-law. Yours sounds like she stepped out of Suddenly Last Summer.

12:20 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: We love our pets, whatever size, shape or color they may be. My kids love their stuffed animals as I did when I was their age, no it’s not the same but we give value to things we love, it doesn’t matter whether others understand what we love or why we love them, what counts is how they make us feel. And when they are gone, we grieve.

Somehow that is perfectly on topic with this post. If only these guys could learn to accept how it is they love, and who they love, they’d be a lot happier and healthier than trying this ‘rowboating’ bullshit therapy that is just making the closet bigger, not brighter or more open.

12:20 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@SanFranLefty:
I learned it by feeding her. if you drop something in the water on one side she cant see it.
and it looks a little funny. not horrible or anything but a little funny.
I think maybe she banged it one of the times she jumped out of the tank.

12:23 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Not silly at all. Perfectly sensible and right.

Spoiler alert: baked, don’t read this. You’ve had enough to cope with.

A few years ago we were both going to be away for the summer when our crazy old girl was too sick to be left with anyone else. So we made the decision to have the vet come and put her to sleep. Which went about as well as those things can. However, we kept the other dogs away till the vet had taken Daisy away. The next night we had to be in the city and as we approached the house we could hear our pi-dog, who had been raised by her, barking out the window. Just one bark at a time. Then a pause. Then another bark. It’s something he’d never done before and hasn’t since and I’m convinced he was calling out to make her come home.

So listen, I’m about to suggest that we all sit in a circle and sing cowboy songs.

12:24 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
that made a lump in my throat.

12:27 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Cowboy songs?

12:28 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
she’s a text book passive aggressive, with a great need to have her world the way she sees it.
the first time i attended a family dinner there, another brothers wife sitting next to me said of our MIL–“watch your back”

these are the sort of people behind the movement.
and yes, she makes me sick.

12:31 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick: and HOWDY

“the franch mistake?”
“i’m tired?”

12:41 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@baked: I was thinking more Turning Tricks in Abilene. Or I Been Bustin’ Broncos But I’d Rather Be Busting You.

12:43 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Benedick:
I have a ringtone that causes cringes around here.
its from Big & Rich.

“save a horse and ride a cowboy”

12:46 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

on a slightly related subject I just googled “does Barney Frank have teeth”

try it.

12:53 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: One of these days I’m going to go through my iTunes library song by song, applying the “skip when shuffling” setting to ones that would embarrass me if they came on during a party, and that will be one of them.

1:37 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@mellbell: I didn’t know there was a “skip when shuffling” setting, I usually run in panicked fashion to the ipod and frantically hit “skip.”

1:56 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Capt Howdy: Oh wow, those people are serious. What a strange thing to get worked up over?

Also: Sorry to hear about your fish. That sounds really tough to bear.

10:54 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Prommie: Ain’t nuttin on my iPod I’m a-skeered of. In fact, like RML (and you, I suspect), my song list is something I’d gladly spend hours defending/explaining/extolling to anyone with the patience to stick around for it. And those people usually end up convincing me to add shit.

Ma Nabisco asked me the other day why I continued to buy tunes from eMusic (a kind of cut-out bin for downloadable music, imho) when I already “brought hundreds of hours of music with me”. I asked her why she bought a new handbag every couple of months.

11:01 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

Ted’s full article has been viewed over 9,000 times! Huzzah!

@Nabisco: I need a new handbag. I’ll take a Cole Haan satchel, please. Brown.

11:07 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Nabisco: Don’t go there, ese, unless you 6,000 miles away. . . oh, yeah. Well, go for it then.

11:12 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@JNOV: I’ll see what I can find (offshore garment industry here, ya know). Did I share the “bloody secrets” ad about the campaign to boycott VS lingerie because it’s made here? Sure I did…

11:12 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010
11:14 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Nabisco: What? I missed it. Oh, and their stuff makes me itch.

11:18 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@JNOV: Here

ADD: if you don’t hear from me for 48 hours, send in the A-team. Gubmint don’t truck no dissent.

11:20 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Nabisco: Whoa. And I though Handmade for Haiti was catchy.

11:23 pm • Thursday • April 15, 2010

@Nabisco: Yikes! Please do take care.

12:02 am • Friday • April 16, 2010

@Nabisco:

I could get on board with a “No Blood for Panties” campaign.

ADD: Ma Nabisco knows how to send up the bat signal for Stinquers in case of radio silence from the Land of the Lotus Eaters? Because I’m sure between all of us we’d get you out of a wacky situation within 24 hours. And I’m not just bragging as a Den Mother.

12:58 am • Friday • April 16, 2010

@SanFranLefty: She’s a very occasional lurquer, I’ve been told. NabiscBro is as well. An alert on el Libro would suffice, but so far, no worries.

1:26 am • Friday • April 16, 2010

@Nabisco: Henry Rollins got away with some shit there, according to what he said at his show last month. Still, be cool. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Commencing countdown, engines on. Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.

What the hell. Go all alligator on them.

FWIW, I do have that friend who works for Biden if stinque has to get all Thunderbirds Are Go.

2:34 am • Friday • April 16, 2010

@redmanlaw: That’s right, and I was just up there where he went. Dayum, forgot to look for the kid with the Thrasher shirt.

7:35 am • Friday • April 16, 2010

@SanFranLefty:
i recently had to write the final testament.
there is a notice attached to it to inform the stinquers…really.

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