Another one I'm dropping into at a late stage...oh well.
As some of you already know, when I was 13 the abuser managed to trick my best friend Stevie and I into meeting him and going to his house - I was already doing whatever he wanted whenever he said, and Stevie was threatened. Neither of us knew what would follow. That lasted for a year, until the abuse finally ended for both of us, when I was 14 and Stevie was 13. But by then we were devastated boys with no boundaries any longer; our friendship soon took a sexual turn of its own and that continued for two more years.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the effects of this on me were colossal. I figured that I should have been able to stop things or "save" Stevie when we were being abused together, and during our later relationship I dreaded the possibility that I was betraying him. I was a year older, and when he and I got up to no good in the usual boyhood mischief the adventure was usually his idea and then I had to figure out how we would get away with it. But this time I was powerless and I just could not forgive myself. I drifted away from friends, stayed by myself in school, and withdrew from most school activities, all because i feared becoming closely attached to yet another friend whom I would betray or be unable to protect. That continued on into college and adulthood, and I bet I can count on one hand, with a few fingers left over, the number of close friends I ever allowed myself to have.
Since I started to deal with my issues I think one of the most amazing experiences I have had (and there are many) has been regaining - or should I say discovering - the ability to relate fully with another man without fearing betrayal and sexual catastrophe, one way or another. I found out that I can feel intensely about another man as my friend and become very involved with him emotionally, and still maintain good boundaries.
I was finally able to understand that all my fears and dread went straight back to a boy's inability to understand what had really happened those many years ago. We were just two abused, frightened and very confused boys. We had no one to talk to or relate to except each other, we trusted each other, and we had gotten each other through a year of horrific abuse. We needed each other, and yes, we were in love - so we expressed that by doing what we knew.
It was never true that I had betrayed Stevie, and it had never been within my power to protect him. Once I understood that and trusted it to be true, I could reclaim my wholeness as a man - meaning I could begin to relate to other guys as a whole person, without Little Larry putting us on Red Alert every time I had feelings for someone as a friend.
Dale, my guess is that this is what happened to you at the retreat. That is, it wasn't a matter of whether these other men were straight or gay. Rather, in the context of the retreat you could have faith in the fact that they were safe. You could have the feeling that Darrel describes:
All I really wanted was someone to love me and hold me close and value me, wanting nothing in return.
and actually run with it! You could relate to them as all of Dale, not as just part of him, with the rest of you at battle stations.
Does that sound like something to work with? In any case, it's wonderful you had this experience. I hope you can develop it further, in whatever direction is right for you.