In an attempt to turn ex-gays into real men, some in the ex-gay camp recommend a weekend retreat called New Warriors Training Adventure to their clients. An interesting and enlightening discussion of the New Warriors program can be read at Dr. Warren Throckmorton’s blog , where the following retreat activities are described as taken from a recent article in the Houston Press.
• Blindfolded walking tours in the nude;
• People blowing sage smoke in his face while 50 or so naked men danced around candles;
• Men sitting naked in a circle discussing their sexual histories while passing a wooden dildo called “The Cock”;
• Naked men beating cooked chickens with a hammer.
The New Warriors Training Adventures are put on by The Mankind Project (MKP) and are described eloquently at their website as an invitation to step forward and look in the mirror. However, red flags are raised soon after by a barrage of yes or no questions phrased in such a way as to make one feel wimpy who dares to answer “no”.
- Do you have the courage to face your own fears and insecurities and discover the tremendous power and beauty that lies within you?
- Are you willing to step into the fullness of who you really are?
- Are you willing to discover the real joy and terror of being a man?
From the descriptions given by the Houston article as well as commenters at Throckmorton’s site, it appears the New Warriors Training focuses more on terrorizing than discovering joy. Participants are literally stripped down, physically and emotionally. In the article, one woman retells her husband’s description of an activity.
…everyone was sitting Indian-style in a big circle in the lodge when the man leading the group said, ‘If you wish, you may reach over and grab your brother’s dick. If your brother doesn’t want your hand there, he can remove it.’ Well, my husband told me he just froze. And from that point on, he just wanted out.
According to Dr. Throckmorton, many of the activities sound like group therapy, and, in fact, part of a wrongful death lawsuit currently being leveled against MKP, and featured in the Houston Press article, is for practicing psychotherapy without a license.
Of course, as with any controversial practice, there’s at least one positive testimonial to counter each negative. It becomes interesting to note, as pertains to our interest in the retreats, that the New Warriors Adventure Training Retreats are attended, and in some cases led, by gay men. Furthermore, we’ve heard no reports of the gay men questioning their sexuality after having positive experiences at the retreats. Apparently, gay men can be initiated into manhood and remain gay. This would seem to fly in the face of the reasoning used by NARTH and Richard Cohen in their recommendation of the $650 weekends to ex-gays.
There are no cautions or disclaimers listed at the New Warriors website. In fact, it seems mandatory that prospective attendees be kept in the dark about just what goes on there. However, I was able to find this warning from one doctor, who is not connected with the ex-gay movement.
I don’t, however, believe the program is appropriate for everyone, and so I don’t send everyone across the board. I don’t send clients who are exceedingly fragile or suicidal. I don’t send clients who are in active alcohol or drug addiction. I tell them to get sober first. I don’t send clients who have unresolved sexual abuse issues. I encourage people to do their work around these issues before attending a weekend.
This doctor’s disclaimer, according to NARTH’s research, would exclude most, if not all, gays or ex-gays from eligibility for the New Warriors Training.
The Houston article goes on to describe the follow-up Integration Group (I-Group) meetings that participants can attend for eight weeks for an additional $190.
… where men discuss how to incorporate the organization’s philosophies into their everyday lives. Suggested activities to do during the Integration Group meetings include shaving another man’s face, kidnapping a member of another Integration Group, and changing clothes with another man.
Ex-Gay Watch is interested to know if any of our readers have attended the New Warriors Training Adventure. Our concern with the program relates mostly to its prescription and potential harm to those seeking ex-gay therapy. But whether your experience was positive or negative, we would like to hear about it.
Addendum: Since posting, we have received a copy of the MKP’s position statement (PDF) on reparative therapy from earlier this year.