Last Sunday gay blogger Greg Kimball pretended to be a questioning 16 year old teen and called the syndicated radio talk show “Dawson McAllister Live” and was directed to Exodus International for “help.” This is little surprise as McAllister’s “partners” page includes a link to Exous’ website. A support operator at McAllister’s program told Kimball’s fictitious 16 year old “They [Exodus] will talk to you, they will counsel you, they will not condemn you, they will not make you feel little or anything.”
Convincing supporters of exgay programs that said programs can cause harm is one of the greatest hurdles ex-gay survivor activists like myself face. Like McAllister’s operator, supporters believe they are truly doing their God’s work and the idea that exgay programs are inherently harmful is often too much to comprehend.
When survivors of exgay programs like myself and Michael Bussee tell our stories of harm we’re often met with the response that no, exgay programs aren’t harmful, our individual program was just in need of a minor correction.
In the first of my video series, Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee addresses that common misconception:
(Video transcript after the jump)
I’m Michael Bussee, I’m one of the original co-founders of Exodus International. I left the program in 1979 and have since reconciled my spirituality and my sexuality and now I’m a vocal critic of reparative therapy programs and of Exodus International.
[title: “The Inherent Harm In Ex-Gay Programs”]
[voice of interviewer] Me as a survivor, often times when I tell my story and the harm I experienced, people from the exgay side say, “oh it’s not the nature of the exgay movement that causes harm, it was just the specific program you went to, there’s something small wrong with that that we need to fix.” How do you respond to that?
I get that all the time, when I say that I was harmed by the program they’ll say “oh that was just your particular experience.”
And then when I point out that many many people have been harmed by these programs.
And they respond “well that was just their experience, that was the particular program that they went to and it’s sad, and it’s unfortunate that they had that experience, but that it certainly isn’t characteristic of Exodus as a whole.”
I think it’s hogwash. I think it is characteristic of Exodus as a whole because they’re based on that idea that if you’re gay you’re broken, you’re sick, you’re damaged, you’re in need of repair, you’re engaged in something that will eternally separate you from God.
It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.
As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.
There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.
John Smid of Love In Action recently issued an apology where he says that he realizes that his basic feelings haven’t changed, he’s still basically gay in his orientation and he realizes he harmed a lot of people.
So for some people it takes a while for them to realize that it’s not just this specific experience of the individual survivor… it’s the message that there’s something wrong with you, that there’s something intrinsically damaged about you and your sexuality and you need to renounce it. That’s the harmful part.