Ex-‘Ex-Gay’ Comes Out Against Reversion Therapy

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?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Abby Normal

    Welcome home, prodigal son.

  • birgerjohansson

    Is it even possible to believe in one’s own “reversal” without being at least slightly bisexual? Or was JP completely delusional for several years? I admit I know nothing of these issues, I just want to understand how mythical “treatments” can go on.

  • tynk

    I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued.

    Yea, umm. on behalf of me and any other lgbt who feel the exact same way as I do about this… fuck off. “Misconstrued”? How exactly were your words, that the biggoted religious were right, “misconstrued”?

  • Ben P

    Is it even possible to believe in one’s own “reversal” without being at least slightly bisexual? Or was JP completely delusional for several years? I admit I know nothing of these issues, I just want to understand how mythical “treatments” can go on.

    I suspect there may be more than one school of thought on the matter so to speak.

    I recall that Ted Haggard, after he was caught using gay escorts, went to reversion therapy and couples therapy with his wife, and since has spoken about it in terms of merely suppressing his desires that he believes to be sinful. I think he even publically said at some point that if he’d been young today he probably would have identified as bisexual.

    Some others seem to come up with the BS line that they’ve prayed, and god has removed the sinful desires from their hearts and they’re now straight.

    I think most mainstream psychologists would probably accept that the former is possible, albeit very unhealthy. The latter they’d probably mock.

  • jeroenmetselaar

    People killed themselves because of what he did and said. Sometimes sorry is just a word.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of … what I do.”

    Toxic enablers: the parasite’s delight.

  • Synfandel

    Why is it called “reversion” therapy? It’s not like gays and lesbians were ever straight.

  • roggg

    Roy Zimmerman said it best: “How do you know when a rabid virulent anti-gay activist is in fact gay? And the answer there is well duh!.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlnQZVTAcRc

  • http://irrco.wordpress.com Ian

    I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued.

    No, I afraid, you don’t get to redeem yourself with a notpology and more victim blaming.

    Conversion to or from religious doesn’t stop someone being a dick.

  • Johnny Vector

    Thanks, roggg. Also, why isn’t Roy Zimmerman blogging here?

    (Any USAians who’ve never seen him live, he travels all over the US, and his shows are amazing.)

  • cptdoom

    Is it even possible to believe in one’s own “reversal” without being at least slightly bisexual? Or was JP completely delusional for several years? I admit I know nothing of these issues, I just want to understand how mythical “treatments” can go on.

    I think there is an argument for making a distinction between physical and emotional bisexuality. That is, I think there are very few people who would have absolutely no reaction to physical stimulation by someone of either gender, and most people have the ability to “successfully complete” a sexual act with either gender, that is where we get “situational homosexuality’ for instance by people in prison. However, I think emotional bisexuality – the ability to fall in love and have a physically and emotionally fulfilling relationship with either gender – is relatively rare.

    I can easily see someone like Paulk, who wanted so much to be “normal,” mistaking the ability to occasionally perform sex with his wife, combined with a sincere friendship with her, as a heterosexual relationship, so therefore he was fixed. However, given that Wayne Besen, who runs Truth Wins Out, photographed Paulk exiting a gay bar in Washington DC back in 2000, which seems to have begun his eventual estrangement with the larger anti-gay hate movement, it seems clear he was conflicted, likely thoughout his entire marriage.

    As for his apology, well, it’s a bit underwhelming. Paulk’s words were not “misconstrued.” He was actively working in, and cooperating with, a political movement that not only claimed his “cure” was real (as was that of his wife, although IIRC she only claimed to have lesbian urges, never an actual relationship or encounter), but then used that “cure” as the argument against recognizing the inherent rights of gays and lesbians. The anti-gay hate movement, even as people like Paulk and Chambers disavow their previous work, continues to harp on this idea even know, arguing that cases like Paulk’s “prove” our orientations are not immutable, and therefore we have no recognizable status as a minority (although the other side’s chosen religious lifestyles should still be protected, of course). Paulk knew exactly what he was doing, and needs to own up to that.

  • Rabidtreeweasel

    Religion really fucked up my sexuality. I started having dreams about other girls when I wad 11 but had no one to talk to about. Everything I knew came from my Teen Life Application Bible. To this day I struggle with identifying my sexuality because my periods of denial were so string I genuinely believes eves I had “cured” myself. I still wonder sometimes if I’m only sort of gay, or if I’m just bi and if so can I choose to be straight. I have had to physically write down times when I’ve bern attracted to another woman, or dreams or thoughts I’ve had, just to remind myself I had them. I am positive many of the ex hay advocates believe what they’re peddling and are probably as screwed up as I am. While I am disturbed that they go on to be part of the culture of screwing others up in the same way I can see my way to believing they think they are or were helping. After leaving that environment I haves needed a lot of psychiatric help. I imagine that will be true for him also.

  • Rabidtreeweasel

    Wow, my apologies for the typos. Shouldn’t comment from my phone I guess.

  • Johnny Vector

    Rabidtreeweasel: I don’t know, I like “ex-hay” enough that I may start using it. And thanks for reminding us what it’s like on the inside. Gah, I can’t even imagine. A health to ye.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wbesen Wayne Besen

    Should the LGBT community forgive former “ex-gay” superstar John Paulk who offered a seemingly insincere, non-apology last week? Or, should it demand penance for his perfidy? Before we address jpaulk1 Should the LGBT Community Forgive John Paulk For His Anti Gay Sins? this question, it is critical that we put his despicable deeds in historical context.

    http://www.truthwinsout.org/pressrelease/2013/04/34564/

  • birgerjohansson

    “People killed themselves because of what he did and said. Sometimes sorry is just a word.”

    Yes. Reminds me of Bush, et al.

    “ex-hay” it is. The far right is so full of people who spell poorly that this phrase deserves being used whenever reversion therapy and teh gey are discussed. And remember, we are libruls.

  • slc1
  • Rabidtreeweasel

    Ex-hay should be combined with a flick of the wrist and be pronounced hay-ay.

    Definition is one who once thought they had to pretend to be straight and has now gone back to being fabulous instead.

  • Uncle Glenny

    Why is it called “reversion” therapy? It’s not like gays and lesbians were ever straight.

    I think it’s to provide a frame in which the assumption is that they were, in fact, originally straight.

    Ob spurious comment: Whenever I see the name “John Paulk” I think of Johan Paulik, European model/gay porn star.

    hmmm, preview comes up screwy for no apparent reason, we’ll see…

  • martinc

    ‘Ex-hay’ is quite an apt term, really. Given that the whole concept is bullshit, and bullshit itself could be fairly described as ‘ex-hay’.

  • lofgren

    What would it mean for the “gay community” to “forgive” Paulk, really? What was done was done. Forgiveness would change nothing. It’s not as though there is some punishment that is about to be dished out. If Paulk was sitting on an electric chair, talking about forgiveness might mean something. As it is, the difference between forgiving or not forgiving is entirely moot. Americans have this obsession with forgiveness, and a lot of the time I can’t even tell what we’re talking about. It’s probably a waste of energy to walk around actively hating the guy with every fiber of your being or something like that, so if not hating him on a regular basis is forgiveness then I guess we should go ahead and do that for the sake of our own sanity. I feel like forgiveness is implied to mean something more than just not wasting energy hating somebody, though. I think any obligation to forgive him begins and ends with how useful that forgiveness would be to the individual forgiver. Paulk never did anything to me personally, so I’ll just never think about him again. If your boyfriend committed suicide after ex-gay brainwashing, and hating Paulk gets you out of bed in the morning, then hate on, my friend, until something better comes along.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    I’m an ex-ex-atheist, an ex-ex-gambler and ex-ex glutton. I can live with that knowing that there are thousands of people out there who are “Triple X’ers”, although I must admit that what they are carrying on about is surprisingly uninhibited.

  • slc1

    Re uncle Glenny @ #19

    It is my information that Paulik is actually straight and just appeared in gay porn movies because he was too good looking to get parts in straight porn movies.