Participants of the Gay Spirit Retreats share some of their experiences,
and how their lives have been changed:

I’ve been to two Queer Spirit retreats, one in April 2007 and one in September 2007. Both retreats helped me to start to clarify the priorities I had in my life and start acting on them instead of just sitting around feeling sorry for myself that I was born gay into an LDS family. I’ve come out to my family (I’m 47, so not a moment too soon), lost about 20 pounds, started volunteering at the pride center, and began volunteering more frequently for political and environmental organizations. And I’ve starting going to a lot of organized “gay” activities which are actually quite numerous in Salt Lake such as the Lambda Hiking Club, Spicy Dinner Group, Cyber Slut Bingo, etc.

Can I attribute this all to Queer Spirit just because it has happened since I started attending the retreats? I would answer absolutely. Although I had been on a coming out journey for the past three years, I had been in a relationship which was not that great and ended badly and I was in a rut and needed a push to start growing again as a healthy gay man.

Activities at the retreat such as the fire circle, group discussions, dance activities, and ceremony, provided me with the inspiration to climb out of my rut and start really living again instead of just existing day to day.

Through the various discussion groups and activities at the retreats and in monthly Queer Spirit activities I’ve come in contact which many people I would never have met in my daily life, making me more comfortable with people from different walks of life. Hearing their stories helped me understand that my struggles are not unique or even that serious and that I can learn new things from all kinds of individuals that can make me a better person. Jerry and John don’t so much teach as provide an opportunity and environment where a group can come together and learn and grow from our collective strengths and experiences.

Although I’ve come a long way in the past six months and I think have started making a contribution to the community at large, I hope to continue participating in Queer Spirit and learning and growing for many years to come.


I was pretty nervous about going originally since everything was planned initially by M. for me to attend, but by the time I was there I felt much more excited about being there. I was still nervous about whether or not anything profound would happen for me.

The first afternoon/evening there I had doubled the list of things I wanted to offer to the bonfire after reflecting a lot about my life. When we gathered there and I made my offerings, it seemed very surreal to me… I had thought a lot about the things I had listed and the 2 other offerings I had. That’s another long story altogether, but when I had finished I felt very empty and yet NOT empty at the same time. It felt like a giant weight was lifted from carrying all the unneeded emotional baggage around that kept me from seeing things in life very clearly.

The next day, I thoroughly enjoyed the yoga. It took me back to when I used to do tai chi regularly and I relished being able to feel that again. I was already feeling much happier and very reflective over things. I didn’t do too much during the day in free time but found myself writing quite a lot in my journal, which is something I hadn’t done before, even when I wrote in it regularly.

I was very nervous when we got ready for the lodge. It was a very new experience for me. Surprisingly to myself, I made it through the first two rounds… I started to feel disappointed when I left before the 3rd, but then I started to think about it. When I paused to reflect on my feelings, I realized that my Shame for leaving was about the “show” that I could handle what was expected of me and not about what I needed myself. When I left and was sitting outside, I felt almost overwhelmingly exhausted. During the round of Healing, my hands were going nuts with the Healing Energy built up in them and it felt like I was just as much a part of the Healing energy as if I were still in the tent. Through experiences with a few others before we left the lodge, I was able to instinctively use that energy to assist them with some healing they needed when they left the tent and I was very happy that I was outside and waiting for them. It felt very right to me.

After we finished at the altar on Sunday, I realized how much better about myself I felt. I could think much more clearly, I had a better sense of awareness about my health (including my own HIV and not the fear about it), and I felt prepared to maintain independence when I got home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve felt a lot more independent. I’ve been able to think things through better than before, though sometimes I need to remind myself. I am no longer worried about my HIV and I’ve been able to help other people dealing with it by talking about my own experiences and helping them to cope. I had quit drinking alcohol before the retreat and by attending it, it immensely strengthened my desire to stop. Today is day 31 of being completely sober.

I thoroughly recommend anyone attending the retreat and seeing how much further on their path it takes them. It truly helped me in my life.

C. A.

Experiences at the Queer Spirit Retreat (both group and private) provided insights that allowed me to change ways I view life as well as how I live my life:

1. I was able to connect with fellow gay men in a trusting and safe environment, and gained self-confidence in expressing myself.

2. I was able to unload emotional and psychological baggage I have been carrying for years, particularly dealing with self-worth and self-pity.

3. I built friendships in a gay environment away from bars, alcohol, drugs, and sex clubs.

4. I freely connected with the spiritual source that gives me sustenance without relying on established religious doctrines.

5. I learned that I can find happiness being single, without needing to rely on a one-on-one relationship to feel good about myself; I feel I am in relationship with everything and everyone at all times. I came away feeling very connected to the world around me.

6. The most rewarding part of the weekend was being able to find out who I was as a gay man, without needing to fit into any mold that either society or any other gay men determine should be my path.

D. P.

The Queer Spirit Retreat was one of the most memorable and significant experiences with a group of gay men that I have experienced. As an out gay men who came out as a teen, now in my 30′s, I have found myself feeling very much on the outside of the gay community. I have been interested in a more conscious existence, and no longer fitting well into the clubs nor attempting to do so. I found this retreat to serve a role of spiritual community that I have not had with other gay men, offering both an outlet for creativity and expression, while also offering heart and soul.

Jerry’s commitment to developing new stories for gay men is wonderfully visionary and provocative. The background he has with Native American spirituality and leading lodges alongside his social work training provides a wonderful foundation for the work he does. It is presented in an accessible non-dogmatic way for those who are open.

John’s skill as a facilitator of movement and yoga is a welcome addition to Jerry’s work. His warmth and skill in helping people open up and explore creativity was a welcome part of the retreat experience. Having both facilitators present allowed for different viewpoints, leadership and activities which enriched the fullness of the time together.

The weekend created an opening for different dialogs among individuals and as a group. It deepened conversations with a close friend who I attended the weekend with and provided and opportunity for him to further open up and examine some of the reasons why he was withdrawing from people and look at them more consciously. We both had very different experiences and connections during the weekend which added to our lives and our friendship.

It seems to me that the retreat was not so much a weekend as an experience that will continue to unfold in the hearts and minds of those who were there. I notice I feel more connected, not only to those who attended, but to the gay community in Utah and as a whole, having spent the weekend with a variety of people from a variety of ages and backgrounds. The various activities provided avenues to interact with many who I would have had no other reason to interact with outside the weekend. It offered exposure to things that I find myself curious to explore further and have taken steps to do so. I felt like I had already cleared out a lot of shame in what it meant to be gay, but through the weekend I feel more like I have a new direction in embracing further what it means to be gay beyond merely the sexual component.

A beautiful retreat. Truly a gift for those interested in exploring alternative ways of living and thinking in the community. To me gay and community used to not go together well. Now it seems they just may.

D. S.

I have been traveling all over the country to Denver, Seattle, Oakland, Guerneville and Middleton, California, going to workshops to move through my gay/spirit issues. Finally, thanks to Jerry and John, we have a good workshop here in Utah.

The parts of it that were most moving for me was the bonfire. I’ve done this ritual before but never so powerfully as it was at Queer Spirit. The drumming in and of itself was very good for my self-esteem not to mention that it created a meditative atmosphere where I could really get into throwing my past issues in the fire. I even threw my gifted tee shirt in the fire because it was representing stuff that I needed to get rid of.

Secondly, the movement exercise in groups. The group interaction was very good for me because it is easy to fall in between the cracks in a workshop when small groups are absent. I bonded with those guys and was able to process other stuff as well as a result.

The encouragement to journal was also very good for me because even though I have one I rarely write in it. It is good for me to write during workshops so I don’t forget my experiences or discount them later when I recall them.

The lodge was also good in that it kept me in my body, and we accomplished this as a group. There is still a lot for me to process concerning the lodge. I was very intense in my preparation for it. The prayer ties brought me closer to my family, both living and present. The exposure to Native American culture, which is more affirming of same-sex-oriented folk like myself was incredible. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and gifts about the culture with us. I have lived many, many years in Utah and I learned more about Native Americans in that short weekend than I think I ever knew before.

The heart circle was great and the altar and that everyone could speak their truth, and did was healing for many of us in Utah. In our culture here speaking out in our truth is not a very common thing to do. It was encouraging to see my Utah brothers step up and step out of the conforming ways we are used to.

I hope to repeat the workshop next year. I hear that you are always improving on it and am excited to see the changes in the future. Until then, Thank you very much for a weekend well worth the time and money it took. I hope to see many more Utahans in our continuing circle in years to come. And may we all be more healthy emotionally and spiritually and a more cohesive community as a result.

D. D.

I’ve recently come out after 16 years of marriage to a woman. For all those years I attended a church and never really felt a spiritual connection with anything that really motivated or inspired me to live a good life. By “good life” I partly mean a healthy lifestyle. My sexual behavior and addictive behaviors have been well out-of-check for years and years.

A couple of years ago I found some spiritual direction through a men’s organization called The Mankind Project. While I found much acceptance there amongst straight men and a few gay, I’ve been very sad that I haven’t had a spiritual connection in common with gay men in a way that is an alternative to conventional religion. I was thrilled to discover the Queer Spirit Retreat. The spiritual focus of connection with a higher power amongst other gay men was unique and beautiful.

I came to the weekend with a near-out-of-control sex life and a bit of experimentation with drugs. I found some real solid spiritual reasons and power to be healthier and more selective about my sexual behavior and some new determination and strength to stay away from recreational drug use. The retreat was a positive growing experience for me and I forged some new friendships that I expect will support me in my decisions into the future.

C. K.

I want to talk about the impact the Queer Spirit gathering had on me. I was really hesitant to go: to the point of signing up for the last one, but then turning away at the last minute and not attending. So it took a LOT of encouragement to get me to go this time. I am really really glad I did.

I found it transforming, cathartic, intense, difficult at times, and really amazing.

I feel like I made major progress in my personal identity as a gay man determined to live a healthy, productive, and contributory life.

I feel like I was able to move beyond things which have been holding me back, and really test my endurance and determination in the lodge ceremony we attended.

I did not instantaneously solve all my personal challenges; but I feel like I have the tools to work on them more productively as a direct result of this workshop.

I have to say, the leadership and dedication of Jerry and John is inspiring; it makes me want to give back to my community as they have done. I cannot thank them enough for all the energy they have put into this. I think it should be a requirement for every gay man to attend this workshop.

To get to know other participants on a personal level, to hear their stories and develop genuine empathy for their journeys, was another amazing benefit of attending this retreat. Just to relate to the struggles of other gay guys, many of whom look like they don’t have a care in the world, was astounding to me.

And the lodge provided a profound experience for me, along with a huge feeling of success just for surviving it!: -)

I cannot say enough about what a great weekend it was for me. I was challenged, pushed beyond my comfort zone, and given an unprecedented opportunity for growth.

I am deeply grateful for it, and I hope that many many more gay men will be able to experience it in the future.

C. S.