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What Happened When I Went Undercover at a Christian Gay-to-Straight Conversion Camp

My weekend was filled with crying, singing, and wrestling, as 30 men struggled to overcome their attraction to other men. It was also the first time I felt another man's erection.

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I had also ignored all the calls and emails from the other Journeyers. Most of the men stopped after the first few tries. Dave, however, didn’t give up.

He eventually emailed me: “Dude, I miss you… I hope you’re doing well. I called you a couple of times. If I’m harassing you just let me know.”

I wrote back: “I’m okay. I miss you, too. The thing is, I have something to tell you, and you’re probably not going to like it. We should talk over the phone.”

So now Dave was calling me, and this time I answered.

While pacing back and forth on the shop sidewalk, I tell Dave everything: how I’m a straight writer, how I was at JiM undercover.

“I knew it!” he says. “I knew something was off!” Apparently my explanation at JiM about my faith proved less than convincing. It seems, though, that Dave was suspicious of my religion, not my sexual orientation.

But that doesn’t matter now: Dave is upset. He has every right to be.

“This is why I have this issue!” he groans. “I’ve had trouble trusting men. Now here we go again!”

I may have lied about my involvement, but I wasn’t about to let him pin his issues on me. I go on the attack.

“C’mon, do you really think straight men go off into the woods and hold each other?” I demand. “What about that all-night holding session you told me about? Does that sound like something straight guys do?”

Surely he would see the absurdity of it all.

Silence on his end for a moment. Then, quietly: “I don’t know, man. I don’t know.”

We end the call, and I walk back inside. I’m worried about how this will affect Dave. Dave is a stable guy, but what if word spreads among the Journeyers? How will they take it?

Dave calls back after a couple of hours. He is more composed, but he wants to know more about my motivation, about my stance on homosexuality.

I tell him that I think he’s normal, and that professional, reputable psychological organizations agree. I tell him that biologists have observed homosexual behavior in hundreds of species. I doubt I get through to him. How much does science really matter when God has spoken?

And there’s more to consider than just Dave’s feelings. “What do you want me to do?” he asks. “Leave my wife? Leave my kids? Just go live with some guy?”

There’s no easy choice for Dave. Either way, he loses something. Leaving a religious philosophy like Mormonism isn’t as simple as changing underwear brands. Often your friends stop calling, and your family members stop inviting you to dinner. Sure, Dave could finally live out and proud, but at what cost?

“I don’t know, man,” was all I could say. “I don’t know.”

 Some details have been altered to protect the identities of participants

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