By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
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Then Jose says, "These are unique cases, but different people can respond to different images differently. (Pause.) Some people are terrified of Jesus because they can use Jesus as a man, a godly man, and they can transform that onto other men in their life or maybe their own father."
"How would you take the steps if that is the sexual image in my mind, and when I try to go to church and pray, I only end up being really aroused?" I ask. "You know, like, fully erect?"
"Uh-huh," Jose says. (Pause.) "Is that what you're obsessed with currently?"
"Yeah, it's this weird scenario. I want to go to church and get close to Jesus, but these sexual feelings come up, and it's really inappropriate."
Game plan:Posing as someone who wants to become an ex-gay, I decide to dress reallygay. This will show how much help I actually need.
Disguise:A very tight Enrique Iglesias T-shirt with his large, hunky head blazoned on the front. An open, pink, button-down shirt. Leather pants. Rings on every finger. A cowboy hat. Most important, a neckerchief. I also wear a large 49ers football jacket, so they'll cut Monty some slack and see at least he's trying to make the attempt to be straight.
Approximate distance from San Francisco: 42 minutes.
I'm directed to Marin County and "A Christ-CENTERED MINISTRY designed to help people struggling with homosexuality leave their past lifestyle and to fully EMBRACE THEIR TRUE IDENTITY IN JESUS CHRIST." Here's what the group's Web site professes:
The homosexual lifestyle often proves to be a painful and unrewarding way of life, particularly for older gays who are no longer desirable sexually.
Thousands have left homosexuality behind and become "new creations in Christ." Many have married and raised families, while others remain celibate yet lead joyful lives devoted to God's service.
Satan is not pleased when someone sees through the deception of homosexuality and discovers the way out.
If there were ever a group to organize a Gay Shame Parade, this would be it.
The group's monthly Friday night meeting is held in an office complex that resembles a meth-addict trucker motel. As I enter a cramped back office that has a large shelf filled with numerous books centered on the subject at hand, about a dozen Fellow Warriors, mostly older men, are gathered in a circle.
"Welcome Monty and Steven," announces the second-in-command, who has excited eyes and wears a large wooden cross. "It's their first night. Make them feel welcome."
After being trumpeted as fresh meat, I take my lead from the other new guy -- Steven, a teenage kid with tattoos on all his knuckles who's gripping a Bible and acting really intense, to the point of psycho -- and stare straight ahead with a distant look in my eye.
For the most part, it's a congenial bunch. I'm offered tea and cookies and note that only two really old guys would be described as "creepy." (They remain silent throughout the whole meeting.) I'm instructed to take my place on the cozy couch next to the second-in-command. As laughter and talk of a fallen member who is back in the lifestyle die down, the meeting begins.
"Father, thank you for turning my life around ...," prays the leader, who wears a Promise Keepers T-shirt and mildly resembles a Mel Gibson with 30 years of hard living under his belt. Like a wise, ex-gay prophet, he tells how the "program" began in 1995, bitterly noting, "That's when I started my walk out of this mess."
The group's goal isn't necessarily for members to become heterosexual, but for them to be holy in God's eyes. "I know straight guys who are screwed up as Grogan's goat," the leader admits with arms folded. "The focus right now is walking with the Lord." He then adds, "When it's time, God will pray my wife into me."
The leader asks the others what they've found to be the hardest thing to deal with; for him, it's been the visual. "Several years ago, there was some construction going on down there. And there was this kid down there. Really nice body," he vividly describes. "And he would have the jackhammer going and have his shirt off ...."
Laughter erupts amongst the group. I sense some are slightly aroused.
"It's important to recognize that men are attracted to men. We're drawn to masculinity. There's nothing sexual about it," explains the leader, prompting me to wonder, What about guys who are into Thai lady-boys? "For me, it was to deal with the visual, to get that under control, that was my big first step."
The conversation turns to a heated discussion about masturbation: the amount members of the group were doing it, when, and that sort of thing. As the talking continues, it becomes clear -- surprisingly, or perhaps not so -- that most all the Fellow Warriors have had serious drug and alcohol problems, but have attributed their most severe problems to being in the gay lifestyle.