ABC Nightline Tonight: ‘Journey Into Manhood’ to be Profiled,
Critiqued in Nationwide Broadcast
ABC Angle: “Controversial Retreat Helps Men Deal with Unwanted Attraction”
November 8, 2010
Three months after People Can Change gave an ABC Nightline news crew exclusive access to a private reunion weekend of Journey Into Manhood graduates, the resulting broadcast is queued up to air on ABC Nightline across the U.S. tonight, November 8, at 11:35 pm (10:35 pm Central).
On the Nightline page, there’s a 45-second preview of tonight’s broadcast, with a quick sample of a visualization process (connecting to Golden or King energy).
Also on the Nightline page, there is a 2,500-word companion article to tonight’s piece. This article gives a good preview of what to expect from the broadcast story.
The story will be told in part through the perspective of a journeyer named Preston, who has grown and benefited greatly from his Journey Into Manhood experience.
At least two critics will also be interviewed — two past Journey Into Manhood participants who have since embraced a gay life and become public opponents of all change efforts.
Reaction from People Can Change
“Based on what I know and have seen so far, the piece looks like it will be about as fair and balanced as one can expect from national broadcast media on this topic,” said Rich Wyler, founder and director of People Can Change.
“By that I mean, plenty of air time will be given to our critics, and some of what our critics will say will be highly slanted and perhaps even outright false. But I believe there will also be sufficient air time giving a fair look at who we are and what we believe in as an organization and as fellow ‘journeyers’ on this path. I think viewers will get a small sense of what Journey Into Manhood is, and how it benefits men,” Wyler said.
In the companion article online, past Journey Into Manhood participant Ben Unger is quoted as saying “the therapy tried to instill in us…that it’s impossible to be gay and happy [and that gays] are alcoholics and drug addicts and they are never in serious relationships.”
“That’s absolutely not true about us,” Wyler said. “That’s not who we are, that’s not how we think, that’s never what we say. In fact, we tell the men — quote — ‘If you gain nothing else from this weekend, we want you to know you are good and valuable just as you are, today, unchanged, and even if you never change.”
Perhaps Unger was making a judgment about some of his other therapeutic work, and Nightline took it out of context to imply mistakenly that Unger felt that way about People Can Change, Wyler said. “But the idea that anyone could come away from Journey Into Manhood with that idea is absolutely wrong,” Wyler said.
Unger and another past participant are also critical of Journey Into Manhood’s teachings and processes about “healthy touch.”
“We teach that male-male touch does NOT have to be sexual, and in fact the desire for touch can be a healthy drive to meet a need that every child is born with — to be held and comforted by Dad,” Wyler explained.
In response to follow-up questions from Nightline about this criticism, Wyler wrote:
“One small but powerful element of Journey Into Manhood is that we offer non-sexual, father-son-style holding that can touch a core unmet need from childhood. It is completely optional, fully supervised, done in a group setting, with clearly taught guidelines to keep it therapeutic.
“As a result, we’ve never seen any inappropriate touch on a Journey Into Manhood weekend. Instead, many have discovered that non-sexual brotherly touch and affirmation — not homosexual relationships — were what they had really longed for all along.
“To critics we would add: How can you mock or criticize non-sexual, therapeutic holding but then accept and even celebrate sex between men?”
Unger was quoted in the written article alleging that at one point of the weekend the participants were instructed to remove all their clothing.
Wyler responded that there are no naked processes at Journey Into Manhood. “Hundreds of past participants — including an undercover reporter and gay-rights activist who lied his way into Journey Into Manhood once last year — will tell you they never experienced anything like what Unger is describing,” Wyler said.
The article reports that “Unger said the weekend left him feeling depressed and even suicidal because he was convinced it was his fault he wasn’t changing.”
“I can’t imagine that,” Wyler said. “The vast majority of participants leave the weekend feeling far happier, more whole, more hopeful, more grounded, and with a larger network of support than they’ve ever had before. Many times I’ve heard them contrast that to the depression and hopelessness they once felt when they thought their only option was to live a gay life, with no hope of change.”
ABC Nightline first approached People Can Change last April to explore the possibility of filming some of our weekend and interviewing volunteers and participants.
“Of course, bringing cameras onto an actual Journey Into Manhood weekend is absolutely out of the question,” said Rich Wyler, founder and director of People Can Change. “But in the interest of spreading our message to other men who are looking for what we offer, we considered allowing cameras to film part of a JiM reunion weekend where all the attendees are JiM alumni already and would come to the weekend knowing that a news crew was going to be.”
Fourteen men gathered in July for a one-day, two-night reunion at a camp near Houston. Rich and David flew in to facilitate the weekend and give interviews. Five of the attendees also agreed to go on camera and share their own stories and attest to the reality of change and the positive impact of Journey Into Manhood on their lives.
Preston, a “journeyer” and frequent staff volunteer from Utah, was the primary focus, and the experience of the weekend and the journey itself is primarily shared through his eyes. The news crew later flew out to Utah to film an interview with Preston’s wife, who is now expecting their first child.