Meet the men of the community – Mark J

I went through the Adventure at Sopley in 2001. In 1993 I had been ordained an Anglican priest.  But believe me - Sopley was a more powerful experience. The weekend was like standing under an ice-cold shower then being wrapped in a warm blanket. I was truly exposed for the first time. I was a gay man amongst many straight men and this scared me. I had never been shy about my sexuality; after all I had always known I was gay, but before this time I had been comfortably contained within a gay social network. I was actually estranged from other men. It was as if straight men were a different species, and a slightly menacing one at that.

Sopley also freed me from a religious world view. It was the antithesis of theDamascusroad experience and from the Saturday night I no longer believed in a traditional god. Coming from a very religious, anti-gay heritage, and believing in a god who would ultimately punish me for being me, this was a life changing moment, a rebirth.

I realised I was just a man among other men and we all had our stories. I had been just as blind to other men as I thought they had been to me. Now, from a place of pain and exposure, we could grow new skins with new sensitivities.

Within one year I had left the Church, which I had both loved and loathed, and was working with refugees. I then took a Masters degree and a PGCE, and became a teacher. I am now head of the psychology department in a lovely school where I teach full time.

The last ten years have been a journey. I have not been active in MKP. I believe that you can only be initiated once and then the hero’s journey continues elsewhere. But I have worked and meditated and laughed and built fires with many initiated men in various men’s groups since then.

Last year at 50 I took the final step and wore to school a small badge on my lapel which said GAY ICON. This was a scary moment. But I decided that if I didn’t say who I was, how could I ever expect anyone else to do so? 

All went well. The students thought it was mildly interesting for about ten minutes, which was the ideal response, the head-teacher shook my hand and said “Well done”, and so we all moved on.

Sopley came at the right time for me. It kicked me out of my comfort zone and gave me a starter kit to help re-engage with the world I had left. That’s what initiations should be about; they are liminal events, and once I had crossed that threshold I could never go back. The future lay ahead with all its uncertainties, but I realised after the dance that I was no longer alone.

Mark J