Image by Dylan Anderson
David didn’t want to be attracted to men, so he created a program to fix it. Guess how that went.PLAYLIST
Kate NV – If Anyone’s Sleepy (Full Instrumental) – Room for the Moon
Joseph Shabason – Deep Dark Divide – Anne
Dialect – An Archipelago – Dialect
Kate NV – Sayonara (Full Instrumental) – Room for the Moon
Dialect – Avert Yr Path – Dialect
Joseph Shabason – I Thought That I Could Get Away with It – Anne
Joseph Shabason – Dangerous Chemicals – Anne
Kate NV – Tea (Full Instrumental) – Room for the Moon
Dialect – Avert Yr Path – Dialect
Kate NV – Plans (Full Instrumental) – Room for the Moon
David Matheson – Psychologist
I can describe the process that I remember most intensely though. They call this guts work, and it’s because basically you spill your guts. This process is about a half hour for each man. You volunteer, and you go into the center of this rectangle that’s taped onto the floor. The staff is there to assist you. They ask you what’s going on inside you, like why are you here, what is the piece of inner work that you need to do. Mine had to do with my relationship with my father, which had not been good. And I don’t remember specifically what it was, but what I do recall was the idea of him being dead, and he wasn’t dead at that point, but the idea of him being in the grave, and was I ready to say goodbye to him? Was I ready to make peace with him? And I wasn’t.
So, a man was playing my father. He’s under a blanket in the grave. They take me, and they stick me under the blanket too so I’m in the grave with my father, and I went completely passive. I’m like, “Okay. This feels okay. I’m kind of comfortable here.” They’re like, “You’re comfortable being dead with your father in your father’s grave? That’s comfortable?” “Yeah, I think I’m okay.” They knew that I had sons, so they chose two men to be my sons, and they stuck them in there with me. I mean, my father was already dead emotionally, now I’m dead emotionally, but the idea now of my sons following in that same path freaked me. We’ve got three fucking generations of men here, dead, and that’s when I exploded. Of course there were 10 men around, kneeling on the edges of a blanket so that I can’t get out. I found strength in me that I didn’t know was there, that adrenaline surge, and got out of there. Then it was like this rebirth experience after that.
That was the center point on that retreat, and that was the point at which I believe these changes that I talked about really happened. Did I get what I was looking for? I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I got life change. Yeah. So, then, let’s see.
Spencer Woolley Kimball: My beloved brothers and sisters. It is a joy to be with you again in another general conference. Regarding our home evenings, our home evening with the family or an evening out to some place of interest with your family, only partly solves the need-
David: Living in Utah, growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the LDS church was central to everything.
Spencer: We’ve recommended that so far is possible, all the children have their own scriptures and learn to use them.
David: We would have three different meetings on Sundays. You’d go to one meeting, go home, later go to another one, go home. In the evening, go to a third meeting, go home. Then there’s another meeting on Wednesday or Thursday morning or evening for the children or the young adults. So, it was the center of our lives.
Spencer: These are happy days, the days of the patriarchs.
David: Spencer Woolley Kimball was the president of the LDS church from the time I was a pretty young child.
Spencer: We extend to every listener a cordial invitation to come to the watered garden, to the shade of pleasant trees.
David: He was this sweet, small, Yoda-like man who had this raspy, hoarse voice from cancer.
Spencer: Come with us to the sureness, security-
David: He was so sweet and so loving and so gentle until he talked about homosexuality.
Spencer: Let us vigorously oppose the shocking developments which encourage the old sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.
David: Then he became fierce and…
Spencer: There’s said to be millions of perverts.
David: I mean, it just sounded like he was utterly-
Spencer: God will not be mocked.
David: …utterly disgusted by the whole concept.
Spencer: Homosexuality is an ugly sin.
David: I think my response to that was denial. This is so bad I can’t even admit to myself that the feelings that I have are that.
Spencer: It is the sin of the ages. It was present in Israel’s wandering as well as after and before. It was tolerated by the Greeks.
David: I didn’t really accept that I was gay until I was 23, but I was aware of my attractions from the time I was probably 13, 14, 15. That’s when it started to become pretty blatant to me that, when I was masturbating, I was thinking about other boys.
Who would you think about? Were there specific people or… I guess I ask, because I remember I must have been 15, 16, something like that. One of the guys on the rugby team I was just obsessed with. You’re playing a game with yourself in the changing room where you’re like, “I want to get as many glances as possible without ..” Do you know what I mean?
David: Yes. Yes. Yeah, stealing as many furtive glances as you possibly can to build an inner library of different angles of different boys that you can use later. There’s one incident. This is in high school. I remember for some reason I’m walking by myself across a field, and there’s this boy walking toward me, and he’s wearing only shoes and red gym shorts, no shirt. And I don’t know if he was wearing anything under the gym shorts, but as I remember I think one of his hands was in his shorts. But I remember his upper body was just so, so, so, so much, muchness. I mean, I walked past him, and then he was gone. But the brain can slow down three seconds and make it last nearly an eternity, and I think my brain did that. To this day, I have a mental picture of what he looked like, which is probably vastly different. He was probably some skinny kid, but to me at that time, he was like this muscular, beautiful, tan piece of exquisite meat.
In the LDS church, one of the things that happens is you have a yearly interview with your precinct leader, your bishop. He’s going to ask you the questions about chastity and morality, and he’s going to ask you “Do you masturbate or do you play with yourself?” or something like that. I told my bishop at that point that I had had masturbated. By that time, I had started experimenting with anal stimulation, because by that time I was aware that I could be gay if I wanted. I was curious, and I wondered what it would feel like. So, I stuck something in there. I remember trying to confess that to him, and I literally could not speak. I started, and I said, “There’s…” I told him about masturbation. I said, “And there’s something else.” Oh, and I told him also that I had attractions to men. Not only do I masturbate, but I’m attracted to men and I stimulate myself anally, but I couldn’t say it.
He finally ventured a guess. “Have you put something in your anus?” And I’m like, “Yes.” So, then he asked questions. “Did it feel good? Did it give you an orgasm? Because I don’t think it actually will.” And I’m like, “I don’t want to talk about this.” It seemed like he was trying to prove to me that being gay wasn’t a thing, because anal stimulation didn’t make you orgasm. That’s what I took from it. It was just kind of confusing, because I’m like, “Well, yeah.” I don’t know. He seemed to know more than I did about it.
My name is David Matheson, and-
Peggy Matheson: I’m Peggy Matheson.
David: And we’ve been married for [inaudible 00:09:25] We’ve been married for almost 28 years.
I know when we’ve talked about your meeting with your wife a couple of times, you’ve said it was just a regular courtship, every day. But I’d be curious to find out more. Where did you notice her? Where was that?
David: This was a summer term at Brigham Young University. It was a theater history class. It was a theater class, of course-
Peggy: We did our final project together.
David: We did this final project together.
Peggy: And he made me laugh and laugh and laugh.
David: I thought, okay, there’s something special about her. So, I asked her out to lunch probably. And I know by this time that I’m dating for marriage, not necessarily her, but it’s not like we’re just goofing off in high school, because I knew by that time… I knew I wanted to get married. I was really ready to not be alone.
Peggy: The next day after that, we first kissed, and I remember when he held me it was like I never wanted him to let go. It’s like, this is it. I can feel it. This is eternity to me. So, I think it was two weeks from there that-
David: We were engaged.
Peggy: We were engaged.
David: Yeah. About a year into our marriage, I realized that my attractions were not changing. I was attracted to her. We were sexual, and it worked. And my attractions to other guys were still there and getting stronger. So, I knew I had to talk to her. One morning, I remember it being morning, because I remember the sun coming through the windows. This was on the east side of the house, this little kitchen, that tiny little kitchen that we had. Just sitting down with her at this tiny table in this tiny room.
It was a beautiful circumstance, because the sun was flowing in, and she’s beautiful. And I’m telling her this, this hard truth that I’m attracted to men. Hard even though I wasn’t telling her “I’m not attracted to you. I’m gay. This is over.” That’s not at all what was going on. I had every intention of living out this marriage, but I just thought that she needed to know that I was also attracted to guys.
She was really calm. She didn’t freak out. She didn’t react. She was just really calm. I remember that there was a point at which she was teary, but I think the teariness was compassion and connection and love. Her message was “I’m still with you. Let’s go forward, and we’ll make it work.” We probably had really good sex that night. The next morning, things were normal and felt fine.
But even after you knew, even after I told you-
David: …about my same-sex attraction, we still didn’t know about therapy. So, we were just trying to make things work without any help from the outside, and that was tough.[Coming up, he claims he’s reversed homosexual tendencies in hundreds of his patients through therapy. Stay with us.]
Joseph Nicolosi: My name is Joseph Nicolosi. I’m a clinical psychologist.[He says it’s entirely possible for gays to change their ways.]
I believe that one’s core is defined by one’s value system. My men are deeply committed-
Joseph Nicolosi.[Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.]
David: Interesting figure in my past.
Joseph: Many of you are here, probably you’re here because you were personally touched by the question of or the issue of homosexuality. Most people would rather not think about homosexuality unless something happens to them…
David: His book had been really instrumental in my early attempts to overcome same-sex attraction.
Joseph: The individual who wants to change, and if the therapist and the client are working together in what we call the therapeutic alliance, he will begin to experience a diminishment in the same-sex attraction.
David: This actually opens up a larger question of what is conversion therapy, or actually we don’t use the term conversion therapy, that was made up by people who talk about us, but we never use that term. His term is reparative therapy. The concept behind reparative therapy is…
Joseph: Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder.
David: Everyone is born heterosexual-
Joseph: We are all heterosexual, but some of us heterosexuals-
David: …and that some people develop a homosexual problem.
Joseph: Homosexual behavior is always… My wife says, when you speak publicly, never speak in absolutes. I’m saying homosexuality is always prompted by an inner sense of loneliness and emptiness.
David: When I was going to finish my degree, I proposed to him that I come and work as a psychological assistant.
Joseph: This is our Thomas Aquinas Clinic in Encino, California.
David: I was there with him in his office as his psychological assistant, one of them, for about eight years.
Joseph: We have about 135 cases ongoing each week. I have a staff of seven therapists, and this is the work we do.
David: Everything resonated with me, like 100%, because the way he described the family relationship…
Joseph: We typically see what we call the classic triadic relationship.
David: Lo and behold, that fit me.
Joseph: A critical father, a hostile father.
David: My father was distant and terrifying to me.
Joseph: Emotionally over-involved, intrusive, domineering mother.
David: I was closer with my mother who was on the one hand kind of close and on the other hand kind of abandoning.
Joseph: This sense of masculinity is discouraged by the mother’s disconnecting.
David: I had a distant relationship with my brother.
Joseph: Never have I met a man with a homosexual issue who had a loving, trusting relationship with the older brother.
David: I didn’t get along with other boys. I wasn’t into sports.
Joseph: We see this pattern over and over again.
David: I mean, I was a poster child for his theory. But what makes that even more interesting is that, when I went through my own therapy before becoming his psychological assistant, the therapy shifted my sexuality to some degree. I could choose to privilege the heterosexual side of myself over my homosexual side, and I could choose to sublimate it, which means to experience closeness with men in nonsexual ways and also to repress the deep need for intimacy with men. And it worked.
I grew up with same-sex attraction, but I didn’t want it. It wanted something more than what I was. So, I began on a journey to find the truth. I mean, I was intensely and consciously motivated by the intention to help people, to relieve suffering, to relieve pain, to stand up for people who had been marginalized, not only marginalized by society in general but marginalized by gay society.
Eventually I became a counselor myself, sharing the things that… I realized that what I was trying to do as a therapist was to create wholeness in a person’s sense of their gender. Now I find myself here. I’m 50 years old. I’m happily married. I used the term gender wholeness for the work that I did. I called it gender wholeness therapy, and my clinic was called the Center for Gender Wholeness. Now I’m here to help you.[David Matheson has been a pioneer in the field of overcoming SSA for over 15 years.]
During that period of time, I also wrote a book. So, I was pretty busy in those days.[Come learn from David Matheson in person at this special event near you. Registration is limited, so register now by clicking on the link below this video or going to…] [It’s just amazing. Part summer camp bonding, part therapeutic peer counseling, this 48-hour retreat is called Journey Into Manhood.]
Take a deep breath and let it out. When a man arrives at Journey to Manhood, they’re usually held at some kind of a YMCA camp or Christian camp off in the woods somewhere. A lot of the locations are just so beautiful, out in the forest, in nature, my favorite place. The men arrive by car, they’ll usually pretty nervous. They’ll all standing around in a parking lot as they check in one at a time. Someone takes their bags and puts it in their room for them. It’s very friendly, very warm environment, warm greetings, a lot of talking and laughing and guys getting to know each other.
And then they’re sent one at a time down a pathway where they meet four men, one at a time.[What is your greatest fear this weekend?] [Letting people down, and myself.]
And these men, I was usually the first one that they met, would ask them a question like, “Why are you here?”[What is your greatest fear this weekend?] [My greatest fear, just not being present and not being here doing what God wants me to do.]
Another question might be, “Who are you as a man?” “What do you hope to get from this weekend?” Those kinds of questions to cause this introspection.[My greatest fear is that I will leave without having touched someone else’s life.]
And then they go in a room and they sit, and there’s a soft flute music playing and they just sit for quite a while until everyone’s there, and then the weekend starts.[I’d like all of you to put your hands in your lap.]
Journey to Manhood, a lot of it’s indoors, there’s a lot of visualization and journaling. There’s a process where they write down things that they want to surrender, to let go of, and they put them into a fire. There’s a process where they stand on this field at night and they all have candles, and we talk about how they’re the light of their community and go out into the world and be a light to the community around you. There’s a somewhat controversial process where the men hold each other. One of the men is taking on kind of a father energy and the man that he’s holding is going into his boy-self and letting a loving father hold him. This is all done in a group. It’s not like they’re slinking off into dark corners with their clothes off. This is done with a great deal of care being taken.
Am I right in thinking one of the therapies was for men to stand in a circle, naked?
Yes. The men are in a room, everyone is naked and the intention, and the dialog, the discourse that happens here is to overcome the shame of your own body.[Look at the outside of this man.]
Overcome the shame of seeing other men’s bodies.[Look at his physical appearance.]
And to experience in a-[Look into this man’s heart.]
…In a shame free and non-sexual way.[Look into his soul. Look more deeply.]
The process is probably the most potentially harmful. So, it’s in a small group and one man is in the center and it’s him doing his work. He recounts some kind of life experience that he has pain around. It could be anything from being shamed by a religious leader, to feeling his anger toward God, to being bullied, to being raped, all sorts of things, and you never know what the man is going to bring up.
What you do in this process is you set up an opportunity for that man to re-experience that and to win. Because in all those experiences they came away feeling like they lost. They lost to God, they lost to their mother, they lost to the rapist, they lost to the bully, they lost to their brother. And so you recreate that experience in some way and give them an opportunity to come away from it feeling empowered, feeling healed and feeling whole.
If I’ve understood the timeline right, you were in an intimate relationship with a man, or at least sharing a home with a man, at the same time you were running Journey into Manhood.
Yes. Yeah, you want me to talk about that don’t you? So… how do I introduce that?
He was dreamy… he really was. I mean, I love him to this day.
First of all, he was extremely attractive to me. Really nice body. Really nice looking guy. Broad shoulders, big chest, just handsome. Super handsome. If you could see my face you’d see the smile.
I didn’t really know him very well and then there was a leadership retreat where we were… I don’t know what we were doing, developing new processes or something, I don’t know what we were doing. And he was there, he was part of it. As part of a process, I asked him to do some holding with me. To hold me. He and I and another man spent some time and he just held me. The other man was there as our chaperone, right. In this holding, which was just lying together, just holding each other, with clothes on. We were like looking into each other’s eyes and this thing happened, this, oh my gosh I see you and I see that you see me, and I really feel this intense draw toward you. I mean, we, as I look back, we fell in love with each other.
And when did you decide, how did you decide to house-share together?
So I got this apartment close to my office because I lived too far away, and he moved in there and was working with me kind of as a para-professional, and we would sleep together. We would hold each other on and off all night, and then we would get up, we’d make breakfast together, we’d go to the gym together, come home, shower… not together. Go to work together, come home together, and do the same thing. I mean, it was so domestic.
And you stayed at your family home together as well?
Yeah. On the weekends because I mean he didn’t have any place else to go. He let go of his apartment, he lived in a different city miles away, hundreds of miles away. And so he was with us. He was with us on the weekend and my kids knew him and loved him, and my wife knew him and loved him. My wife knew, she obviously knew that we were living together. She knew we were close. She did not know we were sleeping in the same bed.
But he would sleep in a different room when he came to stay with you?
Yeah he did not sleep in the bed with my wife and I. We happened to have a guest bedroom downstairs.
Stupid question, Tom.
Yeah that’s a good question, let’s clarify that. It was not a threesome. Which does not mean that in the morning my wife had to drive the kids someplace and so as soon as she left I would run downstairs and just cuddle with him for 20 minutes, 30 minutes or so. It was just insatiable.
What was going through your mind when you were having these cuddling sessions? Did you feel like you were doing something wrong?
I really didn’t. I mean, he and I had set a boundary that this was not going to be sexual. That meant we were not going to touch each other’s genitalia and come to orgasm. That doesn’t mean we didn’t touch each other, we just didn’t bring it to orgasm. It wasn’t about sexual release. It was about physical closeness, intimacy, connection, and some people listening to this are going to say that’s so much bullshit, who are these people, are they fooling themselves? Okay, if you want to see it that way, I don’t care, see it however you want to. But I know that for us, for both of us, we were able to maintain a boundary that was important to us while also experiencing something that met a need that we both had.
There was a moment, I may have told you about this before. There was a moment with him in this apartment where I was making us breakfast while, I think he was in the shower and I was making us breakfast, and I had this realization that I thought of him and me as a… I don’t know how to describe this, but like as one unit. It’s not that our identities were fused or anything psychologically crazy like that, but it’s like we both have to eat, I’m going to make us breakfast. Like, I want to make his breakfast. And I realized that I never feel that with my wife.
This feeling of the desire to do for him, I don’t feel that with her. And I thought that’s something that has been missing from my side of the marriage. Not from her side. But from my side. I felt bad about it but also like, okay, I need to take this and I need to import it into my marriage because that will help my marriage. And I tried to import that but then realized that I can fake that here but it doesn’t come naturally. And that, I think, tells me something about who I should be in a relationship with.
Do you remember coming out to her?
Coming out meaning, “I’m going to divorce you and go into a gay relationship,” yeah I remember that really well. It was one of the more hellish conversations I’ve ever had.
So what I was explaining was, my attractions to women and you are gone, I’m only attracted to men, I’m intending to divorce you and I’m intending to have a relationship with a man. Took me about 10 seconds to say it to you. It took me a long time to say it to her.
Eventually I started realizing, wait a second, this is going to be upsetting to a lot of people. This is going to be upsetting to former clients; this is going to be upsetting to relatives of former clients; this is going to be upsetting to that whole movement; this is going to be confusing to people in my congregation; it’s going to be confusing to my family. But I had no idea that my story was going to have international interest.
Do you remember where you were when you got that phone call from Truth Wins Out?
Yeah I was standing right over there by the table here in my kitchen, eating breakfast, Sunday morning. I think I was in my suit already, getting ready to go to church. The phone rings, I pick it up and he says, “Hello, David. This is Wayne Besen,” and I knew who he was, I’d known who he was for years. He was kind of like the great Satan to me.[Joining us now with reaction, Wayne Besen. Gay-rights activist, founder of TruthWinsOut.org.]
Ex-gay watchdog, yellow journalism thing.[Wayne, thanks so much for joining us today.] [Wayne Besen: Thank you.] [Wayne, again, that comes down to the question-]
It was a pretty short conversation. He said we’re going to print this story, my editor, whatever, is ready to print this. Do you have a comment? I said I don’t have one off the top of my head. He said, “We’re going to print it in 10 minutes.” I was completely unprepared for that.[The big news now is that prominent gay conversion practitioner, I don’t even want to call him a therapist, David Matheson-] [Described by some as the intellectual Godfather of gay cure therapy.] [Making news by coming out as a gay man, seeking a male partner.]
It was all over the internet. It was on the Drudge Report. It was in print publications around the world. It was just ridiculous.[Some of his most influential work was as the architect of retreats offering conversion therapy.] [What is happening on these weekends and in these group settings is predatory, dangerous, and irresponsible.] [One man who attended the camp on a number of occasions told us he was subjected to traumatic psychodrama techniques.]
David: A lot of guys love it. Other guys, it creates a real problem for them.[The biggest tragedy at the bottom of this is that he still seems to think that this so-called ex-gay therapy is legitimate.] [He seems to be interested in understanding the harm that he’s done, but I don’t feel that he’s gone far enough.] [but the guy leading the business of trying to convert gay people has not admitted that you can’t be converted. That is the purest definition of a sham, surely?]
If you want to understand the real story, I’d be happy to describe it to you, but-[Explain to me why it’s not a sham that… Okay, here’s my question for you, explain to me why it’s not a sham-]
Speaking personally as an out gay man, I have this real conflict because I look at the journey that you’ve been on and I’m like this is a guy that’s been struggling under such enormous social and religious pressure, and he needs time to heal from that, you know? Internalized homophobia is a real thing. But I look at some of this other work and I’m like, yeah but not all of us create programs like this. I think, from some of the people who I’ve spoken to, who attended JM, some of them feel like the program hindered that self-acceptance for them, that they were using it to try and push away a part of themselves that was core to who they are.
You’re surrounded by men, you’re looking at these bodies and exhausting yourself constantly trying to say, “I’m not attracted to this man, I’m not attracted to this man, I’m not attracted to this man.” And you just leave that, feeling completely drained. Do you think that that kind of practice is harmful?
David: Well, let’s back up. Some men, the message that they got from wherever and the way they went about their own work was like you just said. They’re trying in their head to say, “I’m not attracted to this man.” In other’s they’re trying to persist in a lie.
That’s not the way I did it. And that’s not what I ever taught anybody. I knew I was attracted to men, I knew my clients were attracted to men. My efforts with my clients was let’s be truthful, let’s be honest about the fact that you’re attracted to men, but what are you going to do with it? But now we’re kind of splitting hairs because still, at what point of the process are you going to tell the lie? Are you going to tell the lie by saying, “No I’m not attracted to these men,” that’s nonsense and that’s a lie. Or, are you going to tell it further down the road when you say, “Okay, I am attracted to men, I’m gay, and I don’t have to do something with it.” Now, all you’ve done is move where you tell the lie.
I was just telling the lie later. I was admitting that I was attracted to this man, yeah I need to be close, yeah I need hugging, yeah I need cuddling, yeah I need to make out with this guy in bed. But then there’s still the lie. I don’t need to be married to this man. I don’t need to spend my life with a man. And that’s where the lie was. And honestly, Thomas, what I just told you about the choice is where do you put the lie, I never thought of that. I never realized that until I said it two minutes ago.
And that hurts my heart to think about that. Because ultimately, really, at the end of the day, as much good as it does for men… and I mean it serves men who are just not, kind of like me, for all those years, I was not going to make the choice to come out, that was just not even on the table. Because of the way I was raised, because of the whole culture in which I was ensconced because of my belief about my church. There was not a way that I was going to accept myself as a gay man.
So when I think about that, I can think to myself okay so we were doing something merciful. We were giving morphine to these amputees because otherwise they were just going to be sitting there in pain. But then the other side of that, the two-edged sword is, yeah we were helping them to continue to tell this lie to themselves. Gay is a choice, you don’t have to be gay. That hurts.
I think maybe the ones where there’s maybe the strongest sense of regret is the men who were single. They didn’t have a wife in the picture to kind of blunt the loneliness. These single men who were trying to find some kind of happiness in life and they’re trying so hard to please everyone but themselves. They’re trying to please a God who’s been defined by a heteronormative culture. They’re trying to please church leaders. They’re trying to please parents. They’re trying to please, I don’t know, some paradigm that they have in their head of who they’re supposed to be.
The thing that they just cannot do is accept the truth about themselves which is actually really beautiful. And they’ve been taught to see it as ugly. And then there I am in that picture focusing all the hard work because they worked hard. I mean, I’m not going to lie, they worked hard in therapy. But what if that hard work had been focused instead on coming to accept the real truth.
If I let myself go into that regret, that’s going to be a bottomless well and I know I need to go there. I feel like I need to go there with them. I wish I could. I wish I could sit down with them and grieve that together. Cry together with them about how I helped them continue to tell this lie to themselves. And I did that because I was telling the lie to myself. And we all meant well. But it didn’t have to be that way.
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