You know, after fifteen years of blogging about gay things and masculine things and all the other intermingled, messy faith things, I often feel like I’ve run out of stories to tell here. Gay kisses, wet dreams, fetishes — what on earth is there left to say??
Ah, but then I wake up one day and suddenly remember that time another “Side B” guy from a Facebook group asked if he could do something to my genitals.
Ah, yes — a new story to tell. Glory be.
I had joined this private Facebook group many years ago, and it seemed promising. I had met a good number of those guys at a conference, so it felt “safe” in that I could put names and profile pictures to voices and laughter and mealtimes and stories.
My time in this Side B group started out strong: regular postings from Scripture and prayer requests from members. A place for masculine affirmation and support. It felt like a good thing had been born, something positive being spun in this messed up universe.
Well, only a few weeks after joining the group I checked Facebook Messenger and saw that I’d received a message from a fellow group member. I’d met him at that conference, even sat beside him at lunch one day. We hadn’t spoken since, so I was surprised to hear from him but eager to read whatever he had to say.
I opened his message, only one sentence long, and my mouth fell open.
He asked if he could suck me off. Followed by a wink emoji.
I had to re-read his impossibly short message three or four times to comprehend his string of words. Whether he was actually saying what I thought he was saying.
Surely he must mean something else? Suck me off? Is that slang for grab a coffee and trade some stories??
But no. He meant exactly what he said.
I couldn’t believe the audacity. Getting a message like that from another guy, another Christian, another Side B guy? Not from some creepy stranger on the Internet or an app, but someone I’d actually met?
It was the first time someone had ever sexted me. That it was from another believer left me feeling gross and dejected.
I didn’t find this guy attractive but don’t think I’d have been tempted to engage with such a brazen sexual request regardless (another blog for another occasion). I reported this person to a group administrator. Turns out he’d been messaging other group members similar sexual things, and he was promptly removed from the group.
It sucks. Pun intended, I suppose.
I just hate it. I hate how Side B guys like us will inevitably encounter something like this at some point the longer we remain in the virtual Side B world. We need this organized support from one another — arenas like that Facebook group, or conferences, or a place like YOB with a Discord server and regular retreats — and yet when you assemble a group of similarly wired people with similar proclivities and struggles and woundings and brokenness, you’re bound to encounter some issues.
It’s the sort of thing that can keep me up at night as our community’s head organizer: wondering whose brokenness is intersecting with another community member’s brokenness at any given moment.
But worse than two adults consenting to sexual sin with one another in our community is the thought of someone harassing or abusing another. Those are the truly dark nights of my soul in this bed where I lie awake.
How much falls on me and our YOB leadership? 100%? 1%? Something in between?
I can, and do, vet people entering our community. I send them our community guidelines. I encourage them to contact our leadership should something, anything unsafe happen to them. I urge all of our members to make sure YOB isn’t their frontline community but more of a supplementary one.
I don’t want anyone in our community to spend all day on Discord or Facebook or Zoom. The Internet isn’t a healthy place for sole connection. Face-to-screen only gets us so far. We need face-to-face soul connection with other people, other men, in our churches and cities.
The difficult (but also releasing) part of leadership is that I can’t control people. I can’t make anyone do anything. I can’t stop men from doing whatever they’re going to do online or in person, for that matter. As a leadership team we can only provide the framework for safety and potential reconciliation whenever sexual or otherwise inappropriate situations occur.
Sometimes people do reach out about safety or sin issues in our community; many times, I’m sure, they don’t.
I’ve felt despair for the stories we’ve heard. I can’t bear thinking of all the ones out there we haven’t.
I have to cling to the truth that our community is doing more good than harm to people. Creating spheres of support, even friendship, but also renewing hope for this often lonely Side B journey.
It comes with the territory, though, a place like this: a place for growth and healing, as well as brokenness, to coexist. Hopefully we’re seeing far more growth and healing than the brokenness after nearly eight years now. But occupying this side of Paradise, our fallen nature still walks among us.
People sin before God, and people will sin with one another. Some may try their darndest.
But our people will also minister to one another. They’ll mentor and disciple one another. They’ll pray with one another and worship alongside one another, and they’ll hug and hold one another in healthy ways that bring Jesus the biggest grin.
At the end of some crestfallen days in this community, I must remind myself that no group of people anywhere is perfect. Inside the Church and out. No job. No school. No ministry. No Side B community.
That’s not an excuse to “give up” or avoid establishing boundaries or safeguards. YOB has certainly created those through the years. We’ve learned as we’ve gone. And we’re still learning.
I always hope people feel safe in our community. It’s my utmost priority. Whether you’re a YOBBER (pledging monthly on Patreon) or not, you can email our leadership should you experience a safety concern in our community:
I do love our community. They’re a special bunch of guys. I want us to enjoy our virtual conversations and camp retreats and all the other relationship-building aspects of this sacred space for many years yet to come. Despite the challenges that will always exist among us.
I pray we never run away from conflict.
I pray we seek reconciliation when we fail our fellow man.
I pray we persist in making Jesus grin over us and with us.
Have you ever felt unsafe in any online “Side B” communities like YOB? Have you received inappropriate contact from another believer, and if so, how did you handle this situation?