November 25, 2012
The Story Continues... Part 3
When I first heard about Journey into Manhood, or simply JiM, I was apprehensive to say the least. I didn’t know much about it but what I did know freaked me out. There were about 30 men, called journeyers, and 20 staff. Most, if not all, were men who experienced SSA. And we were going to be camping…
Okay, I’m not totally brilliant, as you’ve probably realized from earlier posts, but 30 guys who all experience same sex attraction all bunking together? Dude! You’re asking for trouble!
Well, I carpooled down with another journeyer, which was a little scary. No, the guy wasn’t scary, but I was just nervous. But all of that went away when within ten minutes of our drive we popped on some show tunes and starting singing. (Yes, some stereotypes are accurate.) By the time we arrived in Southern California, we were already brothers. And that was exactly how it was as the guys started showing up. We weren’t allowed to get too much into the area yet, so we hung out in the parking lot, laughing and chatting as if none of us were anxious for the unknown things to come.
Now, I’m not allowed to talk a whole lot about the specifics of that weekend, but let me tell you this. I have never felt and accepted and reciprocated love like I did there. I had 50 men who all understood what I was going through. I learned a great deal about how I see people, how I label (judge) them even before knowing anything about them, what it is that scares me about people, and most importantly, why.
There were a lot of activities we did, we got to play, and cry, and work, and role play, and cry, and laugh until it hurt, and cry… Yeah, I cried a lot. In fact, I continually thought that I was all cried out and so volunteered myself for things only to realize that, nope, I still had plenty of tears left in me.
During the weekend, I discovered that we were made up of many different people. There were deeply religious people of all faiths, and some who believed in no deity. There were people from other countries and ethnicities. And there were even guys there who did not experience SSA at all! Think of that! Guys who knew full well that they were going to be in a position where the majority of the men present had SSA. If it were me, I’d be a little worried. But when I asked the guy why he came he told me, “I want to be a better husband and father.”
And when it came time to leave, I didn’t want to go. I cried on the shoulder of one of the guys and told him that I wish we could do this forever. It was just so packed with love and understanding and wisdom that going back into the crummy real world scared the crap out of me! But eventually, our time was up and it was time to go.
I’ve thought a lot about my time during that weekend, reflecting on things learned, friendships made, and how wonderful it was to be alive. I’ve never experienced a lot of the things some of the guys at my JiM weekend have. I’ve never been married with children only to inform my family years later that I was attracted to the same sex. I have never been physically bullied to the point where hospitalization was necessary. Nor have I ever been totally alone, ostracized by my friends and family because I was attracted to men, even though there was no action towards those attractions. But it didn’t seem to matter. At no point did it seem like anyone was comparing their problems to others. We related, sure. But the sharing was pure and unadulterated.
I would recommend JiM to anyone, LDS or no, straight or no. This is an experience that will help you become a better man, a stronger husband, and a more loving father. JiM changed my life, ladies and gents, and I’m a better person for it.