Michelle Goldberg has a piece online at the Daily Beast which asks the question: End of the Ex-gay Movement?
In the piece she features John Smid’s recent column where he asserted:
I also want to reiterate here that the transformation for the vast majority of homosexuals will not include a change of sexual orientation. Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.
A 21 year veteran of Exodus International, with 11 years on the board of directors, Smid has credibility to make that statement seem shocking.
Smid’s turnaround was triggered by an event that gave the program notoriety – the protests surrounding teenager Zach Stark’s placement in LIA’s youth program. Morgan Fox and others organized protests around LIA, but there was more. Eventually Fox made a documentary about the ordeal and Smid agreed to be interviewed for it. Smid told Goldberg:
“When Morgan and I met for the very first time right after the protest, what I saw in Morgan was a man of such character,” Smid told me. “I saw someone who was humble, who was open to being honest, someone that I really felt drawn to. It just opened me up to realize I had not been willing to admit that there were gay people like Morgan.”
The rest of the article interviews people who knew Smid while he was Director of Love in Action. Peterson Toscano went through the program calling it a “very destructive process.” For his part, Smid regrets the program saying,
Smid regrets the way Love In Action hammered away at “demonic homosexuality,” he says. “I think that was really, for kids that are 15, 16, 17 years old, oh my goodness. With all the things they’re already struggling with, I can’t imagine what that might have been like for them.”
Brandon Tidwell, another LIA participant is cautious about Smid’s disclosures, believing that Smid has not yet addressed the specifics of the LIA program.
Andrew Marin’s I’m Sorry campaign is also mentioned. Smid is going to attend the Memphis Pride parade and join that effort.
I was also interviewed for the piece and describe the congruence paradigm near the beginning:
Evangelicals used to insist that “change is possible,” says Warren Throckmorton, a Grove City College psychology professor once associated with the ex-gay movement. “The new paradigm, I believe, is no, it doesn’t look like that works, and so you go with it, you accept it, and you try to make the best life you can in congruence with the rest of your beliefs,” he says.
What I mean there is that the effort to seek categorical change does not seem to work and so evangelicals are seeking to make it all work without losing their religion.
Smid’s disclosures may not bring the end of the ex-gay movement, but it is one of many indicators of decline. Unquestionably one of the biggest hits was the revelation that former NARTH board member George Rekers had taken a European vacation with a young “rent boy” hired from a gay escort service. Then the case of Kyle Murphy revealed that Rekers scientific work on preventing homosexuality was built on significantly distorted research. More recently, Edification, a Christian journal affiliated with the American Association of Christian Counselors published research from Mark Yarhouse’s lab showing that gay and bisexual people in mixed orientation marriages change behavior but not orientation, despite being heterosexually married.
Even the study touted as hopeful by change paradigm proponents — the Jones and Yarhouse longitudical study — found a small percentage of people who claimed change. When inspected closer, the change reported could also be considered shifts within an essentially bisexual orientation since most of the participants still report same-sex attraction.
Recently, Exodus has moved away from the language of orientation change and even removed reparative therapy books authored by Joseph Nicolosi from their online bookstore.
The groups most associated with the change paradigm are those which are also heavily involved in political activities opposing gay rights (e.g, NARTH, PFOX, FRC, AFA, AFTAH). Probably, the congruence perspective doesn’t help them as much, if at all.
As one who was once associated with the ex-gay movement, I look at the trends and wonder if we are nearing the end of the ex-gay movement as we know (knew) it. If it is, I feel fine.