Paulk on the Sham of ‘Ex-Gay Therapy’

John Paulk, one of the leading spokesmen for the “ex-gay” movement for two decades, has an article in Politico Magazine explaining why he left the movement and went back to being what he was all along, which is a gay man. His (presumably soon-to-be ex) wife continues to pretend God magically turned her straight.

There was a time in my life when I used to sound a lot like Rick Perry. In fact, for more than ten years I was one of the nation’s leading spokesmen for the “ex-gay” movement. I traveled the country telling audiences that being gay was a preventable condition, and it could be treated if only you followed a simple plan, obeyed God and sought repentance for your sins. “Ladies and gentlemen, homosexuality is not a genetic, inborn condition,” I would say. “It is the result of traceable causes that, once unraveled, can bring about understanding and transformation in the life of one who is motivated and submitted to God.”

Oh, I was a believer: Homosexuality was just WRONG. And I was Exhibit A, a self-declared convert who had managed to overcome my own shameful gay past. I even appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1998, posing alongside my wife as a poster boy for “going straight.” And I was happy to do it: Those stories gave me a national platform to advocate for what is called “gay reparative therapy”—basically, convincing gay people that they were sexually “broken” and could be provided with a way to change. My wife Anne—herself an ex-lesbian—and our three sons were often put forward as evidence of how to accomplish this. Anne and I even wrote a book together preaching the gay-to-straight gospel, Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped 2 People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other.

But I was in denial. It wasn’t in fact true, any of it. Worse than being wrong, it was harmful to many people—and caused me years of pain in my own life. Which is why I have this to say to the Rick Perrys of the world: You don’t understand this issue. At all…

Luckily, it’s true that across our nation, life is dramatically and rapidly improving for gay people, and it’s encouraging that same-sex marriage has found favor in courts across the land, and is coming to be viewed as legitimate by a majority of Americans, according to polls. But we are not through yet. As long as this widespread misunderstanding in the straight world about homosexuality persists, that it is a choice or a “lifestyle,” as Perry put it, not only will we never be fully accepted by society, some of us will remain unable to accept ourselves. It’s internalized homophobia: you hate what you are. It is a form of self-inflicted torture that has haunted me my entire life, and I do not want young gay women and men today to go through what I went through. I want to tell them—and Rick Perry: We are not broken, damaged, inferior or throwaways. We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else.

That last line is nonsense, of course, but I’m really glad he’s speaking out loudly and strongly against “ex-gay” therapy, which does enormous damage to young people who need acceptance, not judgment and psychological torment.

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  • “We are created in the image of God”

    Which of course we first created ourselves… or something like that

  • Loqi

    …young people who need acceptance, not judgment and psychological torment.

    Well, when all they’ve got is a hammer…

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Well, that’s sounds like a good step forward and some kind of positive epiphany from someone who has caused enormous damage and suffering previously.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    IOW a good thing shame it took him so long to realise it.

    But at least he has realised it now.

    Can’t undo the damage but he can stop causing it and start making things better in the future.

    Reckon a lot of folks can relate to that – me included.

  • bmiller

    You know, I have to admit that I find his admissions admirable. At the same time, I would generalize his comments. The “science” of therapy is pretty feeble in general, so reparation therapy is just a more egregious example of pseudoscience and poorly understood technique.

  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @4. Of course, that’s just my view here and I’m feeling in a charitable, mellow mood tonight.

    Others, no doubt, will feel and think differently and that’s okay and entirely understandable.

  • There was a time in my life when I used to sound a lot like Rick Perry.

    I’ve sounded like Rick Perry three times. One when I fell on my head and got a concussion, two back when I was really little (and got a concussion), and three, um…uh…

  • anubisprime

    Kudos for finally growing up…but a strenuous boo hiss that he actively hurt and destroyed the lives of so many folks on his crusade and for what exactly?…fuckin’ brownie points from the righteously deluded…cos they like confirmation bias in their bigotry.

    He perpetuated the myth and harmed the cause of equality as much as any Rick Perry or Rikky Santorum could ever hope to achieve in their twisted versions of reality, and he did it for years at a time, not a one off badly thought out stunt but a concerted orchestrated effort to impose a screwed up version of morality which has been debunked and disregarded by the medical profession since “gay reparative therapy” actually became the latest scam in the dumb theist quiver!

    Very nice he finally grew up for sure… pity and deep shame on to him for the undoubted irreparable damage he caused to so many folks he never even met on his way to enlightenment.

  • bmiller (@5)

    The “science” of therapy is pretty feeble in general,

    Massive [Citation Needed], there.