Will’s Testimony

Into the Masculine:

An Eyewitness Account of What is Possible

In the Beginning:

I was born in Columbia S.C., July 5th, 1996 at the age of 29.  My physical presence had survived the calamities it was given to by a mind led not by spirit and wisdom, but of flesh and animalistic instincts; surviving only for a time before death became an all too familiar enemy with whom I maintained too close an acquaintance.

This is not the story of that acquaintance, the little boy that was molested by a family member, beaten and verbally abused by his father, emasculated and effeminized, smothered and overprotected by his mother, and kept isolated from society by a family that lived their lives controlled by their fears.  This is rather the story of when that little boy ceased to exist and life began for a 29 year-old man.  I am that man.

Through a series of choices, rebellious in nature and manifested by the need to fulfill deficits of “being” suffered as a child, I became sick with AIDS.  This would be the first in a series of steps that God would choose to use to assist me in becoming the man He always knew I could be.  While in the hospital I had time to think and reflect.  I thought I was going to die.  During my 10 days in the hospital, I began to see how hollow my life was.  None of my “friends” came to visit me or call me.  No one truly cared about me.  In retrospect, I do not believe my diagnosis led me to call out for God, but rather the great lonely wasteland that the diagnosis allowed me to see was my life.

Change:

How did I go from actively living an openly gay lifestyle to striving daily to live in God’s will?  How did I go from being plagued by lustful thoughts that ceaselessly tortured me 24 hours a day to being at peace?  Trust.

After I left the hospital, I began to think on matters spiritual.  At this time I had a friend, a lady who I knew that had an affinity for gay men.  She also considers herself a Christian.  We began talking about faith, discussing scripture, etc…  One thing led to another and I began attending services with her.  The church we attended had a liberal flare, and I felt at home.  I also fooled myself into thinking that this was God’s way of telling me I can have my cake and eat it, too.  As I followed that feeling, the desert of loneliness returned.  The more I availed myself to the practices of this religious community, the more I prayed and listened to scripture, the more I was able to see that it was “I” that needed to align myself with our Heavenly Father and not the other way around. The question then became, “Will I follow God, Himself, or follow the god of my desire’s creation?  The first option leads to life and peace and the second to a life of loneliness, shame, and isolation; the life I was desperate to leave behind.   My choice was clear.  After searching I found a religious community that accepted the way of God without human intervention to make Him socially acceptable.  I am now at peace.

My Journey Continues . . .

When I was 18 I left home and dove head first into the gay lifestyle.  I lent myself to promiscuity, alcohol, drug use, etc…  This went on for some 15 years.  Through a course of events that had been set in motion by a power greater than myself, I was led back to my faith.  My faith led me to counseling, counseling to Journey into Manhood, Journey into Manhood to the Mankind Project, and all of these combined to lead me to continue my education and see the value contained in my being.

During my growth journey, one of the largest hurdles I overcame in restoring the value I saw in myself was my decision to continue my education.  That was one big thing that helped me see that I could over come fear.  The story I told myself was, “I can’t do it, it doesn’t matter, What good will it do?, I’m not worth it. “  What I see now is that the decision to overcome this hurdle, this one big fear, opened a floodgate of past fears upon which it was built.  The past is very strong and I had chosen to ignore it.  Emotionally scarring events in my life manifested themselves in focused singular fears, such as the fear of returning to school, creating a lie in my mind that gave me a propensity to devalue myself, and placing me in a continuing system of victimization in which I had no power to act or take control of events that took place in my life.  I was being affected by the world around me, and not affecting it, whatsoever.  I was allowing myself to be controlled by events instead of taking control and planning events and happenings in my life.  Going back to school was about more than receiving my education, but about investing in myself; seeing myself as having worth that required myself to care for myself and invest in myself.  The sense of self, or lack their of, is a gargantuan hurdle to overcome when dealing with many emotional issues, including SSA.

The reassessment of personal value allowed me to be open to the possibility of friendships with what I referred to as “regular guys”.  My involvement in the “Journey into Manhood Weekend” was a first step toward learning how to connect appropriately and intimately with men.  It allowed me to see some of the deficits that I was faced with and how huge the emotional potholes were in my life.  The work done through this weekend was not easy and actually led me through a very tough period of depression.  The events in my life that I had buried for so long were now being excavated.   The rebuilding would soon begin and I am very happy of it.

I continued my foray into “Men’s work” by attending a weekend known as “The New Warrior Adventure” sponsored by the Mankind Project. [1]      

This particular group is controversial in some circles because of its acceptance of everyone regardless of how a man chooses to identify himself, but the strength I receive from it is my ability to identify myself as a man and to be recognized as a man in a community of men.  I attend a men’s circle once a week.  It is not religiously affiliated, but it is supportive of my decisions in how I choose to live my life.  While it is a secular organization, it builds my character by giving me associations to men that I would never had had contact with otherwise.  I now have a list of 20 men that I can call and talk to at any time about any subject.  In that list of men are college students, doctors, lawyers, financial planners, teachers, carpenters, etc…  What this group has done for me; it has allowed me to see myself as a man first and foremost.  Everything else that has happened in my life is just stuff, and every man has stuff to deal with. These associations have given me a proper and right perspective in how I see myself.

What I learned through my process of “growing into my ‘masculine’” is that it is not a series of steps that have a beginning and an end.  This journey is a lifelong process.  It has not stopped with my battles and victories with same sex attraction.   Once I had made progress in my battle against SSA, I was able to see wounds I did not know existed.  The one thing I learned is that the work I have done in reparative therapy ultimately is not about sex or sexual attractions.  It is about how I see myself in perspective to other men; how I compare myself to men around me and seeing the value I have as a man created by God.  The road is long and painful.  There are moments of great joy.  The introspective work that I do is not easy, but it is a welcome and rewarding work.  JIM and MKP, mentioned above, are both experiential weekends that assist men to see themselves in a healthy light.  There are many paths to healing.  The key for me was to keep trying different methods until I found ones that worked for me.  There is no one path, no one solution.   Many times when I started a process I felt like I was diving into a pool without knowing how deep it was or the temperature of the water…. many times I was shocked.  I gave myself permission to risk.  I also, reached a point that I told myself, I didn’t care what these therapies and experiences cost, I would find a way.  When I made that decision, God took over.

Scriptural Reflection:

Matthew 11:29-30 (NAB)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

In a recent homily, my pastor illuminated this passage.  He further explained that the word “easy”, in most modern translations, could also be translated as meaning “well fitting and comfortable”.  He explained that an ox, after being bought would be taken to be fitted for a yoke and measurements taken.  In this manner, the ox would be able to complete the tasks it was given.  (Fr. Patrick Farley, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church)

I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NAB)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body.

We are told that we were “bought for a price.”  My life has been bought, ransomed for a price.  I allow myself to be fitted with a yoke that will allow me to do the work that my Lord deems fitting that I do.   My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  I have chosen to allow God to continue the architectural design of the temple in me.  I have chosen to be fitted for the yoke; to take up the tools He deems I need.  The work is not easy, the way may be painful at times, I become tired and at times have battles of lust and temptation,  but there is a joy that abides in my spirit constantly that did not exist before.  Whatever emotion I may feel at any given time, when I stop to listen to myself, my body, my heart…..I can feel the joy that indwells in the foundation of my being, my temple.

[1] A cautionary note: MKP, The Mankind Project, is a men’s organization that attempts and works toward strengthening men in their individual paths.  I recommend this work with a warning that the man choosing to do this work be grounded in his faith and his personal belief system so as not to be unduly influenced by others with differing beliefs.  There is also a women’s weekend sponsored by MKP, HER weekend.  I personally know several women who are strong in their Christian faith that have and recommend this weekend with the same warning.

Will