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I am imagining how creepy it would be to have a random, drunk, late-night booty call end that way when the second-in-command turns to me and asks, "Monty, do you want to share?"
Since everyone here has had a drug or alcohol problem and has slept with thousands of partners, for reaction's sake I change my game plan. How would they counsel someone who's quite normal but happens to be gay? I tell the group that I've never touched drugs and alcohol in all my life, and I've been in one long, monogamous relationship.
"CANNIBALISM!" the group shouts in cultish near-unison. Somehow, I've triggered a classic sinner scenario.
The leader explains cannibalism, again slowly stressing one word at a time: "You ... take ... on ... the ... attributes ... of ... the ... other ... person!"
"I know," the second-in-command turns to me, nodding. "I was in a relationship for 17 years."
"Men want lust, not intimacy," the leader says to sum up this and all other gay scenarios.
A guy across the circle leans toward me. With strong, crazed eye contact, he says it straight: "An erection put into a woman's vagina is like going into the paradise of heaven. An erection put in anything else is unnatural, and it's a sin!"
"OK," I reply.
Keeping the strong eye contact, he makes hand gestures and uses the word "erection" at least six more times. I'm grateful when he stops directing the word "erection" at me.
"Can I still hang around my old friends?" I ask. "We've all got the same taste in music."
"I'll answer that," pipes in the creepy teenage kid, suddenly sitting up. "An alcoholic shouldn't go into a bar!"
"It will be worth the sacrifice," stresses the leader. "You'll find the best relationship you'll ever have will be with God!"
I am feeling bad for these guys. Clearly, they are misapprehending drug and alcohol problems, coupled with sex addiction and extreme guilt, as sins against God and the world. Their heartfelt comments are nothing if not depressing.
"To become a heterosexual is not my goal; my goal is holiness, spirituality."
"Images still plague my mind, but I dismiss them at the door."
"I used to take the approach that Jesus loves drag queens; now I know it's wrong."
It sounds really lonely. The options provided by their religion are heterosexuality or complete celibacy, yet, obviously, these men aren't into women, and never will be.
"I work around a lot of homosexuals, so what should I do?" I ask the leader.
"You might consider changing jobs," he advises.
"But I work as a costume designer for musical theater," I retort, throwing a curveball. "That's what I do. I can't really change jobs. That's how I make a living."
"Then I would suggest putting up a barrier," the leader counsels. "Because they will try to tempt you."
"I'm confused. First you're saying to develop nonsexual relationships with men; then you're saying to put up a wall?" I ask.
The leader has an easy solution: "Just say, 'Hey, I'm a Christian now!'" He puts his hand up in a "stop" motion to illustrate his point.
"I used to be a DJ at a top gay nightclub in New York," the former coke enthusiast in the baseball cap says. "It's worth the sacrifice. Give yourself to God."
"What about gay marriage?" I ask; after all, this was the major moral issue of the presidential election just past. "It's legal in Massachusetts, you know? If it's legal, it's not a crime."
"It's a sin in God's eyes," the leader says, ending the argument. "Sure the ancient Greeks said homosexuality was OK, but they also said human sacrifice was OK."
The part of the meeting during which I sit in the "hot seat" unfolds. As the ex-gays put their hands on and pray over me, I swear one is massaging my shoulder. When that's over, a guy with glasses pulls me aside. I think he's going to call my bluff. Instead he says, "The Lord showed me a sadness in you."
The statement is so true, I almost begin to cry.