Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why did you make I Do Exist?
Initially, I was asked to make a video version of the Truth Comes Out audio CD by Julie Solberg Christensen who wanted something in video form to share with young adults and teens. Mrs. Christensen and a group of people put together funding and within a few weeks of the request, we were filming in January, 2004.
Had you ever made a video before?
Other than home movies, no. I had excellent guidance from Jim Kragel and Jim Leightenheimer, at Cedarville University. I also just learned by doing. I also found other documentaries that I liked and modeled after them. A notable model was Divided Memories, a PBS documentary. I really liked the idea of doing a documentary format.
How did you find the people on the video? Were they clients of yours?
I had met Greg and Cheryl Quinlan and Noe Gutierrez through the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX). Noe introduced me to Sarah Lipp and I do not recall how I became aware of Joanne Highley. I do recall that we did not know for sure that we were filming Joanne until the day of the shoot. And no, none of the people involved were my clients.
I should mention that I am no longer affiliated with PFOX and feel strongly that their methods and much of their materials are inaccurate and misleading. I have no affiliation and do not support Joann Highley’s LIFE ministry.
Is the video a documentary or a ministry tool?
I see it as a documentary but I know many have used it as a ministry tool. It was released the same weekend in 2004 as National Coming Out Day which critics have pointed to as evidence that I intended the film to be an anti-gay statement. Actually, I meant the film to give voice to those who at the time were not being heard. Some took that as anti-gay; I took it as documenting a set of stories that were important.
Are all of the people on the video still ex-gay?
I don’t know in each case. Even if I knew, I would not comment out of respect for the privacy of the individuals. The video is a snapshot in time and may not currently reflect the participants current or future views. On this point, in June, 2006, I included the following Producer’s Note on the I Do Exist website:
I Do Exist was released in July, 2004. Nearly two years later, it is fitting to reflect a bit about the video and how it has been perceived.
The response to the documentary has been gratifying. The film has been well-received by critics and viewers of all ideologies and opened many minds. It has been shown on television around the world. As writer and producer, I wanted to tell stories and provide academic context for those stories. In large measure, I believe I was able to do that. However, all documentaries become dated the day after they are released. People pass through seasons of change and perspectives shift. I think all who purchase the video should recognize that a documentary is a snapshot in time. I cannot say what each person profiled would say about their situation now. Nor should I.
As with any project of this nature, I Do Exist has its critics. As I view I Do Exist today, the story I see and hear is how some people determine to live in accord with their total worldview. However, others come away thinking the video suggests that complete change of sexual desires is necessary to be successful in that determination. If there has been a consistent criticism of the film, it has been that perception. Stating the issue as a question, if a person has persistent homosexual feelings, does that mean there is something wrong with their relationship with God? My belief is now and was then that a committed Christian may indeed experience these feelings, without violating their faith. Inasmuch as I Do Exist gives the impression that perfection is possible, I want to state clearly that this perspective was not the intent, nor should the video ever be used or shown with that aim. If you want to understand how some people regard their journey at a specific point in time, then you will be fascinated to listen to these stories. However, do not purchase the documentary if you are looking for a way to express to gay people that they should change their sexual feelings to be acceptable to God. In traditional Christianity, people come to God as they are. The relationship that is then established is personal and unique. And those stories continue.
Noe Gutierrez recently made some comments about his participation in I Do Exist on his website. I believe the link is live sometimes and not others so I am not sure if it will live when you click it. I can tell you that Noe Gutierrez has since I Do Exist identified as a gay Christian and does not believe his change was lasting. He has expressed regret about his involvement.
Should religious groups show this film as a means of saying complete change of attractions is possible for all?
No. The most consistent feedback is that those who watch I Do Exist gain much greater understanding of homosexuality and empathy for those who are in conflict over the issue. As noted in the producer’s note, the video does not convey that change of attractions is essential or equally possible for all who attempt it. I do think that people have choices about how they steward their lives and this is a finding documented in the video. I would not think it wise to show this as a proof that the sexual attractions of any individual can be altered. But I think it can be shown in educational and religious settings (including churches) where providing information is the aim. I do think it would be good to say to viewers that the video may not reflect the current situation or views of the video participants.
Furthermore, I do not think religious groups need proof of sexual orientation change in order to advance a Christian sexual ethic. The teachings of Christ stand or fall on their own merits, regardless how possible or permanent sexual attraction change might be.
Did Dr. Spitzer regret his participation in the video?
Yes and no. He did tell a questioner by email that he regretted his participation in anything that would deny equal rights to homosexuals. However, he also continues to believe that change may be possible for a small subset of individuals and that the professions should incorporate his findings into their position statements on the subject. Thus, he is fine with what he said on the video but he regrets any use of the film in an activist manner. I reproduced a transcript of my interview with Dr. Spitzer on my blog.
Do you regret making I Do Exist?
Yes, and no. I do regret that the video was used as a part in the culture war surrounding homosexuality. I regret any perception that change is certain or easy. In fact, I now believe durable change in basic attractions is very infrequent. I also believe that some people, women most often, experience change in their attractions quite spontaneously without therapy. I believe therapy to change sexual orientation is not likely to be successful if the objective is complete change of attractions. Clients who desire assistance and support to live in accord with their religious views may find help with a willing therapist but change of orientation seems unlikely.
As a creative effort, the project was very satisfying. I supplied some of the soundtrack and enjoyed the editing process. However, I do wish now I would have taken a more balanced perspective.
Any plans for a follow-up project?
I would like to do another video project in the future but my most immediate effort is to complete a book about same-sex attracted people who are succeeding in making their heterosexual marriages work well. These are stories that are incredibly interesting. However, let me be clear that I am not talking about people who have changed and then enter marriage. Rather, these are people who remain same-sex attracted but are bisexual or have developed real sexual and affectional bonds with one member of the opposite sex – their mate.
Is the video online anywhere?
You can see a clip of Dr. Spitzer’s interview at YouTube. From this longer clip, material was used in I Do Exist. I am providing the longer clip for context.
If you have a question about I Do Exist, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not address it here, but I am interested in viewer response and may add additional questions as they come in.