A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#32 - On Support Systems: "Brothers Road" and the Journeys

October 26, 2020 Richard Wyler and Waheed Jensen Season 3 Episode 6
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#32 - On Support Systems: "Brothers Road" and the Journeys
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
1:40
A Little Bit About Richard
11:44
Mission and Vision of Brothers Road
15:10
How Brothers Road Evolved Throughout the Years
22:24
On "Journey Into Manhood"
28:10
On "Journey Continues" and "Journey Beyond"
34:48
On Confidentiality and Self-protection
39:27
On the "High" and the "Dip"
43:04
Services for Women
46:59
Demographics of "Journeyers"
50:31
On Negative Experiences
55:47
Contact Information
57:18
Final Messages from Richard
1:00:02
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#32 - On Support Systems: "Brothers Road" and the Journeys
Oct 26, 2020 Season 3 Episode 6
Richard Wyler and Waheed Jensen

In this episode, Mr. Richard Wyler from the US joins me as a guest speaker and talks to us about Brothers Road and the services offered by his organization.

How has "Brothers Road" evolved throughout the years from "People Can Change"? What are "Journey into Manhood" (JIM) weekends, and what do they involve in terms of bonding and healing work? What are other journeys offered beyond JIM? These and other questions are explored in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Brothers Road webpage
- Journey Into Manhood
- Journey Continues
- Journey Beyond
- A Woman Who Loves

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Mr. Richard Wyler from the US joins me as a guest speaker and talks to us about Brothers Road and the services offered by his organization.

How has "Brothers Road" evolved throughout the years from "People Can Change"? What are "Journey into Manhood" (JIM) weekends, and what do they involve in terms of bonding and healing work? What are other journeys offered beyond JIM? These and other questions are explored in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Brothers Road webpage
- Journey Into Manhood
- Journey Continues
- Journey Beyond
- A Woman Who Loves

Waheed 00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand new episode of “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who wants to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen. Thank you for joining me in our sixth episode on support systems. And today, as promised, joining me is my guest speaker, Mr. Richard Wyler all the way from the US, and he's going to be talking to us about Brothers Road, Journey into Manhood and other services provided by his organization. So, let's get started, inshaAllah. 

Waheed 01:21
Mr. Wyler, it's such an honor and a privilege to have you here. Thank you for being onboard.

Richard 01:26
Thanks, Waheed, it's good to be here.

Waheed 01:28
Thank you so much. How are you doing? 

Richard 01:30
I’m having a good day, thanks. 

Waheed 01:31
Great. So, we have a lot of things to talk about today, and I'm pretty sure some of the listeners already are familiar with you and your work. But let's just start in general and talk a little bit about yourself. Can you tell us a bit about you and how you have come to where you are right now?

Richard 01:48
Yeah, big question, will try to do it nicely and succinctly. I grew up in a religious Christian home, and my faith is important to me, always has been. And, I guess, you'd say I had sort of a common history with many other men who experience same-sex attraction in that I didn't bond with my father - he was a very kind man, but seemed detached and not really interested in parenting, not really available, to me at least, and a dominant mom, very controlling, kind of almost fanatically religious woman, so, there was a sense of judgment there. And I sort of had a more sensitive personality, which is pretty typical of men with same-sex attraction, where I felt things pretty deeply, I suppose. But even with that, my first sexual attractions that I noticed as a 12 or 13-year-old boy were for girls. So, I started off with my interest there, which is different from most men [with same-sex attractions], but I've learned that there are quite a few others along the way that had that experience. 

But what really happened to me was a couple of things. I started middle school, which is hell for an awful lot of kids, and had just a really hard time, I've experienced what I felt was a lot of bullying around not being athletic and not being as assertive or aggressive as other boys, or maybe as I was expected to be, I thought. And, also, around that time, maybe a little later, I encountered pornography for the first time and got hooked almost immediately. Initially, what was available in those days before the internet, was softcore, what we call today softcore pornography, with women, but I then I looked for hardcore stuff. And I noticed that my attention turning more and more to the men in the pictures, and that was what I was identifying with and fascinated with. And that along with the bullying and some other things. Then when I was 16, a stranger approached me and tried to get me to go with him for a sexual encounter. I remember that time, I just felt both thrilled and horrified, excited and terrified, because it's like, “Okay, does this mean I'm gay? How in the world do I live with that?” Because this was the late 1970s, it was a different world then, and it was just terrifying. So, from there, I just struggled privately and quietly. I still had attractions to women, I was more romantically drawn to women, but more erotically and sexually drawn to men. It was kind of a weird balance that way. Fast forward, I eventually married a woman I fell in love with. Her name's Marie. We had a good marriage in many ways, but I was still struggling. And it wasn't until I found some 12-step programs, Sexaholics Anonymous and such, but it was really when I found reparative therapy at Joseph Nicolosi’s clinic in Los Angeles that I found some answers, and it’s like the light turned on, and I felt there were reasons. I started to understand there were underlying reasons that I had these feelings, I wasn't born this way, I developed this way out of a hunger for male connection, a need to belong among men, a need to be wanted and included by men. 

And so, I was able to finally break some years long habits of unwanted sexual behaviors and struggles with sexual behaviors and really turned my life around, became 100% faithful to my wife, finally, after nine years into the marriage. And not too long after that, I found some other resources, men's group that was very helpful and supportive in a way I'd never experienced through my faith. It was much more raw and authentic and dealing with emotions, in some ways in your face, but it was real, and unlike the sort of polite, church, religious men's groups I had encountered. So, around that time, I moved from California to Virginia for professional reasons. I wanted to share what I had experienced, so, actually, 20 years ago this month, I uploaded the original version of our website, it was the year 2000. So, it was really ugly by today's standards, but all the websites in those days were ugly, right? I sort of figured out how to do it on my own. What I did was collect about a dozen stories, just by thinking of other men who had experienced a significant turnaround, and a reframing or re-understanding of their same-sex attractions and had moved away from a gay identity and gay behavior. And I shared those stories, I uploaded those stories and shared them online. And I kind of thought, “Okay, I've done my part, I paid it forward, we're good.” But it seemed like there was more to do. Some men reached out to me and said, “That's great. Now we need to be able to network though and talk to each other and encourage each other.” And this was before, really before social media, or at the infancy of social media. So, I created some Yahoo groups, which I didn't know how to do, I'm not really a technical person, but I learned, you know, how to do that. So, it was Yahoo groups before there was Facebook or anything else, and started creating this network community of men who wanted to - it turns out I wasn't the only one, by far. There are lots of men in the world who experience unwanted same-sex attractions that don't fit with their identity, their faith or their life goals. So that’s more than I can fill you in on the next 20 years what went from there, but we're just hitting a significant anniversary right now of really having just planted the first seeds by going public with these testimonials.

Waheed 08:48
Happy anniversary, 20-year anniversary! That's excellent.  

Richard 08:51
Yeah, it's a big milestone.  

Waheed 08:54
Absolutely. Yeah. And it was called at the time “People Can Change”?

Richard 09:00
Yeah, I called it, it was just peoplecanchange.com, I thought it was just going to be a website, not a nonprofit organization and a whole entity, but I called it that, because, at the time, I thought, “Well, that's a phrase people throw around in English, and that it refers to a self-evident truth that, over time, people change, who we were last year or 10 years ago, we may not be the same people we are today.” And that was fine for quite a while, and on the outside, of course, in the meantime, the culture was shifting and getting a lot more hostile to the idea of sexual orientation change of any kind, and I found they were reading more into the name “People Can Change” than I ever intended. And saying, “How dare you say you can change from gay to straight?” and that it was hateful and whatever. So, I was like, “Okay, the name worked for a while, but times have changed, and we need to change it.” So, in 2016, four years ago, we changed our name to “Brothers on a Road Less Traveled”, or “Brothers Road” for short. This brings together a couple of ideas, one of community and brotherhood, which is a huge part of what men are looking for when they find out they're not the only ones dealing with this, who don't necessarily want to throw themselves into a gay life or take a gay pride solution. So, there's this brotherhood, and it's also a journey. It's not something that you go to a weekend or you say a prayer, and you're done, it's changed. And it is less travelled in today's culture, when there's so much pressure from mainstream media, activists and everything to come out of the closet and live this way, and if you're not living a sexually active gay life, then you're not being true to yourself. It's a whole lot more complicated than that, as you know, there are a whole lot more issues, and not everybody wants to define themselves primarily by their sexuality. So, we felt like that name brought together some important truths about what we were really trying to say and who we really are. And so, the website is now brothersroad.org. And I think it works really well for us. We've had less hostility directed at us since we changed the name. And that's been helpful too.

Waheed 11:43
Now before we talk about the journeys and the details of what are the services offered in Brothers Road, can you tell us a little bit about the mission and the vision in general? 

Richard 11:52
Yeah, really, we're about creating a community of men who need support, who want to better align their sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviors, with their values and their beliefs. They have same-sex attractions or unwanted sexual thoughts or behaviors, but they don't want to put that first in their life. They want, we want to defer primarily to our beliefs, values and faith, in my case, marriage and family, that was very important to me as well. And so, it requires a community, I think this isn't something that is easy to do on your own, by any means. But another thing that's different about us is that we are multi-faith. We welcome Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths and of no faith. Agnostics have felt comfortable among us, I think, because we're very welcoming. We meet people where they are. I knew from the beginning that we didn't want to create something based on a particular denomination, because then people are going to end up arguing about scripture and interpretations. That's not what I was looking for. I figure, you've got your faith, I've got my faith, that's working for us, I don't really have anything to offer you there. But what I do have to offer is the experience of men like me and many others who have walked this journey, and here's what we found has worked, in therapy, in their community, in their spiritual lives, whatever. And so that's been important. 

Another distinguishing factor is that we really are about digging under the surface and understanding where some of these feelings are coming from, and understanding ourselves better. It's not just, “I can be a gay Christian and be happy,” or “I can be a gay Muslim and be happy and abstain from unwanted or forbidden behaviors or whatever.” We really want to understand better, we want to go deeper than self-acceptance, as critical as that is, that's actually huge to love and accept ourselves as we are. But that's a starting point, that's not an endpoint. That's a starting point for, “Okay, now that I know that I'm good and valuable just as I am, I still want to be better. I want to be a better man; I want to live closer to God.” I believe that it's instilled within us by God to seek to grow and be better people, and to have that lifelong desire, not just “Yeah I accept myself, and now I'm done and I'm never going to change from here.” So, those are probably two of the big differences between us and some other organizations, the multi-faith aspect and understanding the underlying issues, and working together, supporting each other and personal growth, and just living better lives.

Waheed 15:07
Perfectly said, that's amazing. So, can you tell us a little bit about how Brothers Road has evolved during the years, from the Yahoo groups, until now, to be able to offer the current services like the different journeys and so on?

Richard 15:24
Yes, sure. Thanks for asking. So, we started the organization - or the website, really - thinking it's just a website of testimonials, here's what's out there. And I thought, “Okay, I've done my part, we're done.” And then next, we created some online support groups, discussion groups through Yahoo. And then, I had such a breakthrough experience at a experiential men's weekend, it wasn't a religious retreat, but it was sort of a self-discovery men's retreat, and I've been encouraging other men to attend that. But it was a little scary, a little kind of getting thrown in the deep end to go off with a bunch of heterosexual men and open up about your lives. And so, I decided to create our own, something specifically for SSA men that would bring together some of what I learned in therapy with some spiritual principles and the principle of surrender from the 12-step programs, and bring these things together and do a weekend of what we call “experiential”, because it's not a lot of lecture or anything like that. You're experiencing different processes. And, you know, really dig into what's going on, “Why do I have these unwanted thoughts and feelings, and how can I bring them in line with my values more?” 

So, I wrote an outline for that kind of an event. I didn't have a lot of experience at the time, but I had enough and enough self-confidence for some reason to do this, and put it outward through our Yahoo groups, and we had 23 men attend the first one, come in from numerous different states, even one man came from Australia. And it was so powerful, the work that we did, that sense of community, “Wow, there really are men like me who have same-sex attraction but don't want to live a gay life!” That our faith is more important, or our marriage is more important if they're married, or whatever. And it was so powerful. And there was such a beautiful Spirit of God there that we all knew we had to keep this going and do it again. And so, in January of 2002, it was the first, we called it “Journey into Manhood”. We developed it further, I worked with a counselor, a therapist as a partner and some other co-creators to tweak it and develop it further. And so, we started doing it three, four, or five times a year, which we've been doing over the past 18 and a half, almost 19 years, offering this program. And it's mostly word of mouth, some counsellor referrals, some people find us online. One of the things I've heard is, a lot from feedback, one of the most powerful things is just walking into a room and immediately knowing, “Here are 30 or 40 other men who get me before I've even said a word. They're more or less on the same journey. After all those years of isolation and hiding, here's a group of men who are in similar situations and want to take a similar approach.” So, that's really powerful right there even before much else happens. And then, we jump into what I refer to as “experiential work”. Meaning, there's not a lot of lecture kind of discussion, so much as it's like, “Okay, so now we're gonna stand eye-to-eye, and I want you to share your judgments. What do you see in this other man? What stories are you telling yourself about him compared to you?” And it's like, “Oh my gosh, you want me to actually tell you what I'm thinking?” Exactly! And so, that's a very simple example, but the power of those kinds of experiences I've seen change lives, just really transformative and very healing.

Waheed 20:05
Absolutely. And from what I understand, this is done in a group setting where you encourage transparency and vulnerability, to just open up and talk about what you feel and how you're experiencing things, which is something that a lot of people haven't been able to do, or were never able to do, until that point, correct?

Richard 20:23
Yes, exactly. I mean, it's changed over the past almost 20 years, because it's much more public now, and so people are more open. It used to be, you know, sometimes people would come, and they'd never told another soul. That's not as common anymore. My guess is, it's probably more common in the Muslim communities. But at least in the United States, it's not as common anymore, they've shared with others, but still don't really have tools or ideas of, “Okay, so what does that mean? What does my life look like if I experience same-sex attraction, but I don't want to act on it or identify as gay or being in a gay relationship?” So, here's a place to be fully transparent. And there's a lot of misinformation and assumptions out there. Almost everybody who says anything, you can Google that about us that are critical, rarely have the people actually been to Journey into Manhood. A few have, but most are just making these huge leaps of assumptions about, “We must be gay bashing, or we must be doing conversion therapy, or we must be…” You know. It's like, “Well, why don't you actually talk to us and have a little bit of an open mind?”

Waheed 21:34
Exactly. Yeah, it's always the case, people just make assumptions, and they bash you right and left without even talking to you. 

Richard 21:40
Exactly. And, you could say that we're a minority within a minority, if the gay world is a broad minority, then we're a minority within that, as people who experience same-sex attraction, but we want to choose to live it out differently, or at least make our own choices about it. So that's significantly different from what most people will tell you. 

Waheed 22:14
Absolutely. Okay, so can you tell us more about the journeys that are offered? You know, starting with Journey into Manhood, and from what I know, there's others? So, can you just give us an overview of these journeys? For example, if someone wants to join these journeys, what can this person expect? What are the different kinds of activities that are involved? How long does it take, and just kind of an overview of that?

Richard 22:45
Sure, glad to. So, the first one is called Journey into Manhood, and, here, we're referring really to every boy's journey into manhood, every man's journey, that manhood is a journey and not just a given. Especially today where there's a lot of confusion, we talk about “toxic masculinity”, what is that? And so, it’s typically the first experiential weekend for men, but it's also a deep one. So, not everyone's ready for it, you got to be committed, “Okay, I really want to explore what's going on inside.” We use a simple myth of “Jack and the Beanstalk” as a story to kind of pull things together about how Jack leaves his mother to explore the masculine world and climbs his beanstalk and finds a giant or shadow. In literature, it's called the hero's journey, where the hero leaves home. Many films, a lot of Disney stories are built around the hero's journey, where the hero leaves home, faces this giant, shadow we call it in Union terms, and then fights his battle and comes back a hero. And that's probably, that's a good example of it. So, we start on Friday, early afternoon, we stay on site and work until nine or ten o'clock that first night, depending on the accommodations and kind of retreat rooms or cabins or bunk bed kind of facilities. And start the next morning around eight, go all day, stay another night, and leave on Sunday at around four or five pm. So, it's really what we call an immersion into healing work. We ask you to leave your cell phone in your car, so you can focus and not be distracted and just really be focused on yourself, you’re doing this healing work. And so, we go through a series of processes, one I described a bit ago, very simple one, just facing another man and noticing, “What are your judgments about men? What does that say about you?” They use a sentence stem, “I see men as…” and then answer the question again and again. And, sometimes, men are surprised at what comes out of their mouths “It's like, really? I have those kinds of biases against or for men?” And one of the bigger pieces we do could be called psychodrama, at least that's what universities and others tend to call it in the longer form. We do a shorter, simplified form of it, where you might set up a significant event in your life that probably was painful or you felt stuck at, and you've got different people to help recreate it, act it out, and you're the director and you step back and watch, and you say, “Okay, what was really happening here? What does that younger version of myself really need? He needs to be rescued, he needs to be affirmed, he needs to be loved,” and whatever. And so, we come to this rescue, where we basically rewrite or re-envision or reframe the past experience that hurt. 

It's a very powerful way to do inner work, to be able to step back and literally look at people acting out, whether it was an experience of being bullied or rejected in some way, or hurt in some way, whatever it is that they bring forward. One of the key things we teach is that you're in charge of the work that goes on here, you can pass, you can say, “No, I'm going to sit this one out, I'm not ready for this,” and we really affirm that, and try to remind participants of that throughout, but then, we will often say, “But that's not why you came, you came here to challenge yourself and do that deep work.” So, there is a lot of respect for individual choice, and the work is going look different for different people. There's not an expectation of, “It has to come out this way!” When doing that kind of psychodrama work, we are always looking for a victory that the man comes away having experienced empowerment or joy or peace or some kind of resolution to a place where he'd been stuck. 

So that's Journey into Manhood. And once you've done that weekend, we stay in touch through Facebook communities, reunion events, I do coaching groups online, some men create their own mini-reunions and events. So, you're kind of stepping into a whole community of men on a similar journey. So that's one of the really rewarding things. This can be an event you go to, and then go on with your life and never revisit. But for a lot of men, it's the beginning of a new community and a new way of understanding the issue. So, the first follow-up weekend we offer is called “Journey Continues”, and it's for men who've been through the Journey into Manhood and want to go further with it, want to go deeper with it. There, we look at the masculine archetypes of king, warrior, magician and lover. It's a way of just understanding different aspects of our personalities, what brings them out, how to live in them more powerfully, look at what might still be keeping us stuck, and just sort of what the next steps are. And that one we offer only about once a year, every other year. Journey into Manhood we offer four times a year, at least in the US and when we don't have COVID, we offer it in Poland, and in Israel, and we have started it in Colombia and Mexico. My plan is to keep going to Mexico once you're able to do events there again. And we are working, I've got a team working on offering Journey into Manhood in Turkey. We want to offer it to make it easier for Muslim or Arab people to come to, they can't always get to Poland and almost never to Israel, and so we want to put it into a more Muslim-friendly country to make it more accessible. So, our hope is, and if Coronavirus lets us, our plan is to offer that in Turkey in 2021.

Waheed 29:49
That would be great, actually. I know a lot of people would be looking forward to that. So that would be excellent, hopefully. 

Richard 29:55
It seems like it's really coming together as far as resources and people who can help make this happen. It's a big deal, because the senior leaders, we have almost one-to-one staff-to-participant ratio, including senior leaders and also first timers and stuff. And so, we had to bring people over from the United States, and we have a few in Europe. So, we can bring a few, but it's kind of a big deal to be able to open up a new country. This has been on my heart for a long time, we've had beautiful experiences offering this in Latin America, and in Israel and to the Jewish community there. We have had Muslim friends and “fellow journeyers”, we call ourselves, for a number of years. So it's been on my heart to bring this to a more Muslim-friendly part of the world. And one of the beautiful things, because it is multi-faith, we've seen Jews and Germans bond in ways they never would have thought they could, and Muslims and Jews - I can't remember whether it was the Jewish man or the Muslim man who said, “Oh, my gosh, I have never hugged a Muslim before. I've never hugged a Jew before. I can't believe I'm doing this.” But it was so much…

Waheed 31:23
Very heartwarming.  

Richard 31:25
Very, exactly, because we're not talking about our differences, we're talking about our similarities. We're talking about what's really going on in the heart. We're not talking about the geopolitical world, that's not relevant to what we're doing. And as we've done this in different countries, at first, I thought, “Wow, how are we going to adapt this to Europe or to Poland or wherever,” and then was like, “You know what? Everybody has the same emotions. Wherever we go, we talk about the core emotions of joy, fear, anger, sadness, everybody experiences that. Everybody experiences shame.” So, we might make little tweaks to allow for more prayer time, or cultural things, and offer kosher food, or whatever, tweaks like that, but the core message is the same, because it's just humanity. 

Anyway, so Journey Continues is a follow-up. We offered it two years ago, in Austria, first time outside the US. And I'm hoping to do that again. Journey Beyond we offer every other year at this point, and it is the deepest, most intense program. So, you really have to have at least been to Journey into Manhood and done other deep work also. Although we have started inviting heterosexual men who haven't been to Journey into Manhood, because manhood is manhood, so, emphasize the similarities. As long as you've done deep emotional work, you were ready to do this. And that is a longer program, it’s four days and four nights. And we revisit the whole life, starting with what early messages you got from birth, a lot of SSA men didn't have fulfilling childhoods, what was the childhood experience like? What was the mother bond like? The father bond? It's a way to re-experience life. We deal with some body shame issues, we deal more than the other events with the feminine and feelings about women, and where we might have gotten stuck there. Whereas Journey into Manhood starts with more focus on men, although we talk some about women, but more on what's the brokenness in your relationships with other males. In Journey Beyond, it's that but also more on relationships with women. Everything is staffed, it's all volunteers. And so, the volunteers are men who have been through this program and have staffed in the past in the journey in a junior position and have had some facilitation training and stuff. So, nobody's getting paid to go staff a weekend, and that's meaningful, too, to a lot of people. 

Waheed 34:35
That's brilliant, honestly, this is really, like it's very inviting, I'm really excited that these things actually happen and that you guys are helping a lot of people around the world. This is so heartwarming, to say the least. But one question that comes to mind right now is, if people are excited to join but they are kind of worried about confidentiality. How do you deal with that?

Richard 34:58
Well, it's commitment among each other. We make a written commitment and a verbal commitment on site, that we will respect the confidentiality of who is there, and anything that anyone says or experiences there. It is possible, if necessary, for someone to use a fake name as long as the leadership knows their true identity, because we do background checks on everybody who applies, to try to minimize the possibility of someone showing up for the wrong reasons. We have caught that a couple of times, where someone was actually intending to do an undercover story as a journalist or something like that. “Nope, that's not happening!” But you can use a fake name, if necessary. But most of the time, there's such a bond created within the event that it doesn't take long before like, “You know what? I want to use my real name; I want you to know who I really am.”

Waheed 36:10
It's actually very great, because I know that a lot of people might be in very sensitive positions in their own communities or in their professions, and, you know, they might be worried about this confidentiality aspect. So, it's good to know that it's cleared up. One question that some people have asked me before is, knowing that, as you described, sometimes it's cabins and bunk beds, is there a fear of, particularly for vulnerable individuals who are at the beginning of their own healing journeys, who might be kind of susceptible to intimidation or temptation, or whatever - a common question that might arise is, how do you make sure that nothing's going to happen behind closed doors, so to speak?

Richard 36:55
Well, there's not a lot of downtime to begin with. We really do full days, and then we make sure that the rooms have three or more people in them. Some of the staff sleep in the rooms with the “Journeyers”, as we call them, the participants. So, to my knowledge, in 18 and a half years, there's never been anything inappropriate that happened between participants at the event. Sometimes, after the event, we can't control what happens there, there are people who have messed up with each other when they got into a bad place with each other. I ask for that to be brought forward, so that they can get clear about it and try to keep the community safe, especially to make sure the staff volunteers are not engaged in any of that. And some people from that would say, you know, especially a wife or a parent might say, “Well, that's crazy, you can't bring men together who are same-sex attracted without creating temptation.” And I'm thinking, “Well, you do in your synagogues, you do in your mosques!” We have youth groups, and we try to supervise, but that's where people meet. So, it's not impossible. It's just, it's not a lustful environment. It's so real. And, we tell them, “If you're being triggered by someone that you're either intimidated by or attracted to, or whatever, we will actually go ahead and help you process that. We're not going to run from it and try to suppress, we don't do suppress in our community.” So, we'll help you process what's really going on, how is this really about you and you being jealous or judging yourself as less than or something else going on? And, so, I think it's an extremely safe place. But, after the fact, even with all the commitments that they make, it's up to every individual, just like before, to keep their safety and create their own boundaries, to help make sure we stay a safe community. 

Waheed 39:24
Absolutely. Yup, makes perfect sense. I have a friend who joined Journey into Manhood a couple of years ago, and he described this “high” that he experienced after the weekend, that he was just at a very high place of assertion, confidence and independence. And then, he went back to his regular life, and he was hit with reality once more. And I remember that you said, while you were describing the services, in terms of after the weekends, there are Facebook groups and online meetings, just to make sure that the community is following up on one another. So, I'm assuming that this is a regular thing that happens to every member to make sure that that “high”, you know, once people get back to their regular lives, that they don't go into a “dip”, or they relapse or go back to their old habits, that the strength, confidence and whatever they have developed continues to grow, correct?

Richard 40:19
Yes, we offer three immediate follow-up online sessions, one week right afterwards. So, if you go through on a Sunday, that Wednesday we're already regrouping online and saying, “Okay, what's it been like being home? What's going on? How do you incorporate this into your daily life? What are your plans?” Because one weekend is maybe a turning point, but one weekend is not the whole journey, right? So, we have that as part of the package, and there's no additional charge. So, for three sessions afterwards, you'll meet and you're encouraged to create your own support group. We create a Facebook community for that group, but also you can join a Facebook community of everyone who's ever been through Journey into Manhood who still wants to stay in touch and work with each other. And we're doing a series of webinars now. As I said, I do coaching groups, which are ongoing weekly groups that there's a small payment for. We encourage men to find a way to get the support you need, create your own healing network, because we can't be all things to all people, and there's not necessarily a whole lot out there. Find a therapist you can work with who supports your goals, and just do the work. I've heard a lot of men say that they left on a “high” and then there was sort of a crash afterwards. The real world isn't like that, the real world isn't as authentic and affirming. I can think of a man who was a sex addict, an alcoholic, and a drug addict who came to Journey into Manhood and gave up all three addictions and never went back. That's an extreme success story, but it does happen, it can be a huge turning point. But it's like therapy in some ways, in that you stir up stuff that you've been holding down for a long time, there are going to be some new challenges, and we're doing something similar here. We're digging past the surface into what's really going on underneath, and it might stir up some pain that you're going to need a therapist to help you through, or support groups of some kind, or a 12-step group or something.

Waheed 42:55
That's beautifully said. As you were talking about all the services that are offered, they're all tailored towards men, is there anything that can help women who experience SSA?

Richard 43:13
We don't offer programs for women who experience same-sex attraction, just because that's not our expertise, and we haven't had women come forward and say, “We want to offer a complementary program for women with same-sex attraction.” The commonality isn't same-sex attraction, the commonality tends to be more gender affirmation, bonding with others of the same sex in a non-sexual way. So, mixing men and women is not something that we've ever wanted to do or felt like we could do, because the point is to emphasize the masculine aspects and male bonding. But what we do offer is a program for wives or other women affected by men who have same-sex attraction. And we've been offering that since 2009. It's also a weekend experience very similar in some ways to Journey into Manhood. It's led primarily by women, but also by married couples who can then share their experiences as a couple as to how they were affected and came through this challenge of same-sex attraction or sexual affairs or sexual betrayal of some kind. And so, that's a program we offer twice a year for women. We offered it in the United States. And then, we also have a coaching group for women that is led by a woman facilitator and me so that you get both perspectives of the husband who has struggled with this and the woman who's been through this herself. And we offer that as a weekly facilitated coaching group. And then the Facebook groups which are free, so women can kind of share, talk and open up their hearts about what they are going through.

Waheed 45:26
That is very interesting, honestly. I didn't actually know that, kudos to you! This is very like, wow, top notch, honestly, like, this is something that's necessary, because I know that a lot of men who are already married, but they themselves struggle with SSA, their wives have a lot of issues that they go through with them. And so, having this particular program is very unique, I would say. 

Richard 45:49
Yeah, I think it's somewhere around a quarter to a third of the men who come to our program are already married to women, and they want to stay married. And that means that there's a wife at home, probably whose heart is breaking or has broken, and she has something to go through too. She has her own pain and her own processing, and so, we offer similar kinds of support. It's not around sexual identity, it's around pain and forgiveness and self-acceptance and self-care and say, “This is really, as a wife or other woman, this is your journey. This is about, what are you going to do, given the fact that he's where he is? This isn't about you trying to fix him. It's about, how do you live the healthiest life you can, given the fact that you're partnered with this man who is struggling or maybe struggling?”

Waheed 46:59
Can you tell us a little bit about the demographics, in general, obviously, not accurate numbers or anything, but in terms of the age groups of the men who have joined throughout the years, for example, different countries? You said that the percentage of married men was around 25%, so a quarter of those, and you said that they come from all religious backgrounds or non-religious affiliations even. So, can you just give us a quick overview of that?

Richard 47:27
Yeah, I guess when people hear the name, they just assume what they're going to assume, they think this is for teenagers or young adults, but our minimum age is actually 21, because we believe - this is tough work, and there needs to be a certain level of maturity to do it. But there also needs to be a certain level of maturity to know that this is really what you want to do. You're not following an alternative path, just because of your parents or whatever. It has to be intrinsic. So, we try to screen out anybody who might be attending out of pressure from parents or religion or something. And so, the numbers last time I averaged them, the average age is 36, which kind of makes sense, because it's kind of enough time to have dealt with this on your own for a while, and maybe even lived a gay life. Although not that many have lived an openly gay life, most have either just kind of dabbled in it but decided it doesn't work for them or whatever. So, the average age 36 is kind of like, “Okay this isn't going to work, being gay isn't going to work, but what I'm doing isn't working.” The oldest man, I can think of was in his 70s.

Waheed 48:50
Oh, interesting. 

Richard 48:52
Yes. And we've had fathers and sons come through together and brothers come through, usually where one is not same-sex attracted, he is heterosexual, but he's coming as a support to his brother or father or son. And so, we've had whole almost family groups come through at one time or another. We're encouraging more of that sort of peer support. Bring a straight friend, bring a straight brother, so that you have more understanding when you return home and also more support. But if he's coming, he's got to do his own work, too. It's not like because he heterosexual he doesn't have his own crap. So we tell them, “If you’re coming, it's not to watch. It's to participate and deal with your own stuff.”

Waheed 49:43
Exactly. And in terms of countries, you've seen members from all over the world, I would assume? 

Richard 49:49
Yeah, I counted, just the other day, we've had men from 60 countries, especially being in Colombia, Mexico, Poland and Israel, we've had people come from multiple countries, but also coming here to the United States from multiple countries. We've had people from, I think, 47 US states, even though we've been in 11, typically now, we're about four or five. So, there's a broad appeal for what we're offering.

Waheed 50:31
Now, if I were to ask you in terms of any negative experiences you've had with the media in particular, as you said, when the website was put up, and when you said, “People Can Change”, you kind of described how that was negatively perceived by the media, and then you had to change the name. But in terms of people, like you had an undercover journalist, as you mentioned, at some point, and I remember, like, last year, there was backlash in the media also. So, what are the kinds of negative experiences that you've faced, either in the community in the US, or elsewhere, with regards to the work that Brothers Road is doing? What are the different kinds of challenges that you're facing, and how do you deal with those?

Richard 51:10
Yeah, it's mostly bias, judgment, prejudice. We don't live in a “Live and let live” world anymore, at least not in the West. It's much more of a “Think the way we think, or else!” And there's a lot of hostility to anyone who thinks differently. There's more hostility now to people of faith than I've ever seen. I used to think, “Well, you know, when gays get more equal rights and the right to marry and everything, then they'll declare victory and just go on about their lives.” But that doesn't seem to be what's happening. And it's not just them, it's all of society that seems to be more demanding. You can't think differently than the accepted way of thinking now. It's very Orwellian. But since we've changed our name, we've had less hostility directed at us. 

I don't really do media interviews anymore, because I don't trust them anymore. I used to. It's been a long time since I’ve seen a reporter who actually was genuinely interested and wanted to understand our perspective. For the most part, they've already got their script written, that we're evil, we're forcing people, we're shaming people, etc., things which are absolutely not true. I figured they're going to say bad things about us anyway, so I'm not going to talk to reporters anymore. And maybe just because of everything else that's going on in the world tight now, we've had a little bit of a lull. We've had Southern Poverty Law Center attempting to sue us and was, for a time, a big enemy of ours. And someone tried to file a complaint with the government against us. I think, in the coming years, there will be more legislation against - well, we have it already in the United States that quite a few states have legislation against any type of therapy for someone who doesn't want to be “gay”. And then they kind of lump us in with that, “that must be what you're doing”. It's a little harder to help them understand, “No, that's not what we're doing! We're supporting people in meeting their own goals. And if they experience same-sex attraction, but they don't want to live it out, let’s honor that.” It’s the only thing I can think of where someone's individual life choice is deemed harmful and unacceptable. And so, “You can't have that life goal. That's bad.” But, right now, it's kind of a lull. I think it may get hostile again in the future, and I’m sort of expecting that, but if anyone's remotely open-minded and makes any effort at all to understand who we are, they'll see that we're not forcing anyone, we're not shaming anyone. We're very, very affirming. We create a healthy bonding community. I know men who’ve come to Journey into Manhood and been in our community for a while and ultimately chose to go into a gay life and find a partner, and they'll tell me that they're still grateful for Journey into Manhood that it helped them accept themselves and love themselves, and come to peace with their sexuality. That's not our goal, necessarily, but I think that's very affirming that they can find that with us. Because, I always say, the goal here is not to be heterosexual. The goal is really to be at peace. Because heterosexuality alone is not going to make anybody at peace. There's a whole lot more that needs to happen, and the real goal is to be at peace. And I hope you find peace in a way that is in line with your values and beliefs, instead of there being a constant tension and conflict between those things. And if you have that, then it doesn't really matter who or what you're sexually attracted to, in my mind.

Waheed 55:42
Beautifully said, honestly. So, if anyone wants to find out more about these services, if anyone wants to join any of the weekends or sign up to the support groups that you've been talking about, everything can be found on the website, brothersroad.org, correct?

Richard 55:59
That's right, brothersroad.org. The free access, if you will, is through our Facebook support groups. And then there are webinars, which cost a small amount that you may want to join. There's a coaching group, which is $75 for four sessions, a group of about typically 5 to 10 men, and same price for the women's group. And then Journey into Manhood is usually, depending on the country, it's usually priced with an early bird price at $490 US dollars, $650 is the regular price. Which, if you've done any kind of self-discovery work, intensives like this, this is really a pretty amazing price. And we offer sponsorships, as well, for people who can't afford that or need to also buy a plane ticket and can't afford it, or whatever. Because we're not about making money, we're about being there for men in our shoes, who are seeking the kind of support that we were seeking when we were there.

Waheed 57:18
If I were to ask you a personal question, what has Brothers Road given you as Richard Wyler so far? How has it benefited you as a person?

Richard 57:28
Wow, a question that I don’t get much, that's great! So, I'm a man on a journey, as well. And so the brotherhood, for me, is huge. I've never had the kind of authentic connections and community that I've had through Brothers Road. It gives me a sense of purpose and life mission and something that I'm really contributing to the world. Many men and some women have told me that I've helped them to change their lives, save their lives even when they were suicidal before, save their marriages. There's just nothing as rewarding as hearing that, that I had a role in that kind of a turnaround. I have a clear sense that I'm doing God's will. Sometimes, I prayed so many times, “Like, really God? Isn't there something else that I could be doing, where I'm not going to take the hits, or whatever?” But this seems to be what I'm called to do. So that's been a real gift.

Waheed 58:35
That's a beautiful answer. Thank you for sharing that. My last question to you would be, what last words would you like to offer the listeners who are listening to you today?

Richard 58:46
It really is your own choice. You do have choices. You can find a peaceful solution that meets your needs. We put a lot of emphasis on the platonic brotherhood - platonic brotherly love, in my experience, is far more rewarding than a sexual or romantic relationship between men. And that's something that we help create in a community that we create. So, this isn't about suppressing, it's about actually getting authentic needs met. And I believe we can help you do that.

Waheed 59:22
Thank you very much for sharing that. If anyone wants to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Richard 59:27
My email is [email protected] And it's also on the website, brothersroad.org, as well as my contact information.

Waheed 59:37
Perfect. Mr. Wyler, thank you very much for your time. This interview has been phenomenal. I really can't wait for everyone to listen to it. God bless you for all of your efforts. I will be keeping you in my prayers, and thank you so much for everything.

Richard 59:50
Thank you, Waheed, it's been great to be with you. I appreciate it.

Waheed 1:00:02
And with this we have come to the end of today's episode, I hope that you guys have enjoyed it and learn from it, inshaAllah. In the next episode, joining me all the way from the US is Jeremy Schwab and all the way from Brazil is Alan Alencar, and they are going to talk to us about Joel 2:25 and the international initiatives that are associated with that. Until then, stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to talking to you in a couple of days’ time. This has been Waheed Jensen in “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh.

Episode Introduction
A Little Bit About Richard
Mission and Vision of Brothers Road
How Brothers Road Evolved Throughout the Years
On "Journey Into Manhood"
On "Journey Continues" and "Journey Beyond"
On Confidentiality and Self-protection
On the "High" and the "Dip"
Services for Women
Demographics of "Journeyers"
On Negative Experiences
Contact Information
Final Messages from Richard
Ending Remarks