John Paulk was one of the most prominent faces of the “ex-gay” movement. He and his wife, now estranged, were featured in a Newsweek cover article in 1998 talking about how he had successfully left homosexuality behind and was perfectly straight now. He was the chairman of the board of Exodus International. And now he is renouncing the whole thing:
“Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted,” Paulk said. “I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.”
Paulk continued, “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.”
Truth Wins Out says that much more is needed:
While John Paulk is to be commended, after so many years, for finally being honest, Truth Wins Out believes much more needs to be done. According to Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, “It is not enough to simply send an e-mail that says, ‘I’m sorry.’ John Paulk must work to atone for the damage he has done to LGBT families by taking a public role in renouncing and working against the harmful ‘ex-gay’ industry by embarking on a speaking tour to show that he truly has changed. Further, he should advocate for a bill in Oregon that would ban so-called ‘reparative therapy’ for minors. Only then can he start to repair the damage he has done to countless LGBT people and their families.”…During this same time period, Truth Wins Out had been receiving reports that John and Anne Paulk had split up, and that John was living as an out gay man in Portland, frequenting gay bars and propositioning men for sex. In 2012, Truth Wins Out attempted to give Paulk an opportunity to set the record straight and come out with dignity, instead of continuing the lie that his family was an “ex-gay” success story, a narrative that the Religious Right uses to this day. When that offer was ultimately refused, Truth Wins Out released the results of an investigation that showed that ongoing narrative of “ex-gay” healing in the Paulk family was fraudulent, as John had been pursuing relationships with men who worked for him, buying them things and asking them for sexual favors.
Focus On The Family and others on the Religious Right have had ample opportunity to remove the Paulks from their literature and to stop using them as poster children for the lie that “ex-gay” programs work. While John expressed in the recent investigation that he no longer wanted to be associated with his “ex-gay” past, he was unwilling to publicly correct the record, and his estranged wife has continued to peddle their false story to any “ex-gay” charlatans who will listen.
In light of John Paulk’s announcement, Truth Wins Out also calls upon Anne Paulk and the rest of the Religious Right to immediately cease using the Paulks’ story to sell harmful “ex-gay” therapy to vulnerable people. “Anne Paulk and her Religious Right cohort must immediately cease lying to people about the false ‘ex-gay Paulk fairy-tale,’” said Truth Wins Out Associate Director Evan Hurst. “Indeed, both Paulks should become poster children for the very real nightmare that has been the ‘ex-gay’ experience for so many LGBT people.”
This is as big a development as Alan Chambers doing much the same thing last year. How many prominent “ex-gays” have to fail at their attempts to magically become straight through prayer before everyone realizes that this whole thing is a dangerous lie?