Thursday, January 26, 2006

struggling "ex-gay"?

I read this post the other day on the Yahoo! Group, exgaymensministry, which is a group for 'ex-gay' men:

I was just chatting to a 22 yo male student, on teaching practice in my school. I'm his mentor and I check how his day has gone after school each day.

Today I was checking on his well-being, tiredness, pace, leisure/wind down activities. I brought the conversation around to sharing, caring and trusting, because he'd had no lunch and didn't tell anyone. Then asked the question "Are you a Christian ? " He said "YES ! Are you a believer, too, Tone? I had my suspicions as you're often whistling hymns and choruses".

He is such a handsome, manly, sporty guy with bulging muscles and my height - so huggable. Praise the LORD. We hugged tightly and prayed, seated, heads bowed, holding hands in my classroom just before we left.

Tone <><

PS: On a different note, I'm going to see 'Brokeback Mountain', with a friend who's a pastor, tonight.

Maybe it's just me, but the tone of this posting creeps me out. This 42-year-old man (according to his Yahoo! profile) who apparently struggles with same-sex attractions is mentoring and tightly hugging a 22 year-old student who he describes as "a handsome, manly, sporty guy with bulging muscles and my height - so huggable. Praise the LORD.".

It's been some time since I was in the ex-gay lifestyle, but I remember there was a big deal about developing boundaries such as having "A-frame hugs" and being careful about friendships with same-sex people who you may be attracted to. However, there was also a simulataneous emphasis on developing non-sexual relationships with straight men -- preferable straight Christian men. So this ex-gay man seems to be providing a praise report that he has befriended a straight Christian man.

On the other hand, I'm not sure why it was so important for Tone to provide a physical description of the younger man. Nor, do I think very many ex-gay leaders would consider this an ideal relationship. Afterall, this is hardly a relationship of equals. This mentor has befriended a younger student who seems to have some vulnerabilities. I wonder if Tone told the student about his own "struggle". I also wonder if Tone's true motive was to seek input from other ex-gay members'.

I'm still debating whether to respond to this guy's post on exgaymensministry. As a member with an opposing viewpoint, I'm probably on the verge of being banned. I'm just surprised no other members have questioned this guy's post.

UPDATES: As noted in the comments, I did post a reply to Tone noting several of my concerns.

Tone defended his relationship stating, "EVERYTHING we have done is above board." and that "cwtching" (a Welsh word for masculine hugs?) is "NORMal in my country". He used a silly word play with my name and accused me of not having "mormal male friendships". He did not respond to my concerns that he was attracted to his friend and that he did not disclose his sexual orientation to his friend. He did clarify that his friend was a fellow teacher -- not a subordinate student.

So I thanked him for his clarification, specifically qouted his "handsome...bulging muscles..." description, noted my surprise that the other members did not hold his comments accountable, and again apologized if I offended him.

Tone further clarified that the misunderstanding was due to differences in British and American English. He stated that his 22-year-old friend was a "student-teacher" and that he would never have conducted such a relationship with a "PUPIL" (which is apparently a minor student). Although his new friend is a co-worker and not a subordinate student or illegal minor, it still seems he has some authority as the student-teacher's older mentor. He again avoided specifically responding to questions I and others had about whether he was attracted to this younger man.

Our exchanges seemed to have sparked other interesting conversations, so I don't feel the need to press the issues with Tone.


CrackerLilo said...

I'm a 31-year-old bisexual woman, and if I had thoughts like that about someone I was supposed to be mentoring, I'd be dropping them like a hot potato and/or going to my therapist. That poor 22-year-old!

I do hope a few people on that forum and in his real life have some sense.

Norm! said...

I decided to post my reaction to Tone's message on exexgaymensministry:


I understand that many people with unwanted same-sex attractions feel the need to form healthy, non-sexual relationships with same-sex individuals. So, I understand why you would praise finding such a relationship with a young Christian man.

However, I find a few disturbing aspects of the relationship you have described with this young man. First, it does not appear that this relationship is between men of equals. If you are his mentor then you would appear to have some authority over him -- especially if you are his academic teacher. Also, this significantly younger man seems to have some vulnerabilities (according to your profile, you are 42 and he is 22, right?). Have you disclosed to your young student your struggle with same-sex attractions?

I'm also concerned about whether you have developed healthy boundaries with this young man. I find it disturbing that you felt the need to provide a physical description of this man which may imply that you are attracted to him. Most men in ex-gay programs are advised to maintain physical boundaries such as "A-frame" hugs and yet you describe tightly hugging and holding hands with this man. I wouldn't describe these acts as crossing boundaries in and of themselves, but they may be inappropriate if there is an underlying sexual attraction.

Please forgive me for questioning your intentions or sincerity. Since I'm a gay liberal Christian who is a former ex-gay, you may dismiss my observations as bias or some kind of attack against you. However, your description of your relationship with this young man is disturbing."

It should be interesting if there are any responses.

CrackerLilo said...

Can't wait to read that...but honestly, I could see your concern. I bet if they're honest, they could, too.