I wrote a post back in December highlighting a gay conversion therapy camp that has been around for a long time but re-branded itself into The Brother’s Road. The article is called “The Brother’s Road—The New Face of Gay Change Therapy”.
I was personally involved and invested in this organization at one time in my life and I talk about my—as well as my other experiences—in exgay camps within my book Discoveries in the Closet The reason I bring all this back up is because recently another founding father has fallen, Dave Matheson. He was a pillar of this organization, The Brother’s Road, as well as for Mormon exgay ministry. Dave was the go to person for all things regarding gay-change. He was a leader in his faith, ministry and to many men through being a therapist and his involvement in other men’s organizations.
I have been out many years since I was involved with “People Can Change” aka. The Brother’s Road, which has morphed itself into a men’s adventure weekend to “straighten” gay men out. I wasn’t expecting to have mix feelings when I heard of his decision to divorce his wife and go gay. If you know Dave, he is a handsome guy with a brilliant, charming personality. He isn’t like every other guy you meet. He carries a powerful sense of masculinity and it fills the rooms he enters—as does his smile when he chooses to give it, sparingly at these camps. Dave Matheson knew how to make us feel like men largely by laying down his intimidating masculine energy at times to embrace us and call us to step into manhood. He called us to risk stepping out as men. Albeit, a deluded sense of manhood that was supposed to be exclusive of anything homosexual. He shamed us through his kindness because we drank it like lemonade. We wanted to be him so we ate up everything he had to say. I have to share that I remember some real touching moments and also some not so good moments. For example, he led our group of men in an exercise where we each walked up to each other and told the good we seen in one another. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget. But also, a driving force behind psycho drama to get us to heal the gay and leading men who were unqualified to handle our psychosis, and using typical macho stuff as an example of playing as men. I feel shame for having been involved, that this was indeed the hoax I feared it was. There is a part of me, to be honest, that is disappointed in my gay experience and I at times revert into questioning if men such as him were right because I get so put off by things in the gay community. There are parts of my gay experience that are just like the harsh realities these men had described it to be when we huddled into our fear and shame circles looking for guidance from such men as Dave. Then, I have years of religious teaching that also gave me a ticket to hell for my sexual drives. Matter of fact, many of us did. Though it wasn’t touted as a religious organization, the founders were deeply religious so it attracted the religious. Though they never shamed us in the “you are going to hell sense”, in reality they all knew..., we all knew what drove us, religious folk, there. A fear of hell and being broken. They fed this no matter the psychological spin they put on it.
This news really makes it more real—even more than Arthur Goldberg of the ministry J.O.N.A.H, another fallen leader of the camp who was subject criminal charges. Dave was not a person out to hurt anyone intentionally. Unlike the founder, Rich Wyler, I never found Dave malicious in his absolute denial as much as he was more distant and stoic—save for set periods of time. He only turned on the lights and charm at specific moments, which made us all hunger for more. It drove our need for his acceptance. This is something good manipulators know how to do to get what they want out of wounded people. He was a man into being fix-er upper for men who only saw themselves as a “sissy”. As per every leader, he wasn’t there to be your friend. He was there to fix your masculine brokenness. Period. End of story.
This story is timely. It comes at the heals of another story in the news of a man who broke up with his boyfriend, went celibate for a year, and insists he is now going to be straight. No evidence. More delusion. Let’s see you in another year or two fella. It is not that I don’t believe there is sexual fluidity out there where people may make surprising shifts, but this man’s story was circulated around the media like this was evidence for “change”. It greatly concerned me how his story would be perceived. Here is the article on Christianity Today
The one part of Dave’s story I am certainly angry about is his weak apology. I am reminded of that same tough exterior that Dave and all change therapists hold. His statement that he “may have hurt some people” made me do a double take and jaw drop. Earth to Mars man, men flocked to you like flies to a light zapper. We all got zapped. Years of more sexual oppression for ourselves delivered by you with a mask of glowing kindness and brotherhood. I wish he would at least pretend to hold more grief about it even if he really doesn’t. I know I hold a lot grief about it because I not only attended but volunteered on staff once. But, in thinking about this, it goes right along with the denial of feelings and emotions both him and Rich Wyler have about the wrongs they commit. It is more an inconvenient truth they skirt over because of the thrill of their own popularity they experienced. Meanwhile, they in turn conveniently forget the “wolves” they threw many of us within their own circle.
So, while I’m not cheering this, it is too personal for me to feel great joy about it, this is more evidence for me that "gay change” indeed is a hoax not just in theory but in reality. I know this. It just hit harder today and it probably needs to.