Exodus Co-Founder: Gay Kids Ending Up On Our Doorstep

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 19th, 2010

As we learned earlier this month the thinly veiled  ex-gay front group “American College of Pediatricians” issued a letter to school officials across the country advocating ex-gay therapy for teens questioning their sexual orientation.

Prior to the 2005 controversy where 16 year old Zach Stark was sent to the Love In Action residential ex-gay program against his will few people were aware that children are forced and coerced into exgay programs against their will.

However as this video interview with Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee shows, children have been victims of the ex-gay movement since it first began.  The details are in many ways even more upsetting than Zach’s experience:

(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.

[music begins]

[title: “Gay Kids Ending Up On Our Doorstep”]

[voice of interviewer] I’m guessing it’s somewhat of a new development that parents are now sending their children to exgay programs? Was that something that was happening back when you were leading?

Yeah it happened real early, real early. We started our ministry [named] EXIT in 1974 and I don’t know how parents found out about it, but within I would say 6 months to a year of starting EXIT, this was before Exodus was even formed, we had kids arrive. By kids I mean just barely over 18, kids arrive at the doorstep of our ministry having been given a one way ticket by their parents. I remember one kid that was sent away by his parents on his 18th birthday with a note that said “don’t come back till you’re cured.” And he ended up on our doorstep from back east, he’d flown all the way out to California and we had no idea he was even coming.

So yeah, early on parents were sending kids away saying “don’t come back until you’re fixed.” It was tragic then, I remember feeling so angry that parents would do that, just abandon their children.

Yeah I believed [at the time] that homosexuality was sin and that God could change you… but to abandon your own child like that I couldn’t fathom that, because by that time I was a father and the idea of sending a child away for any reason just tore my heart out. So it’s not a new development.

[voice of interviewer] Did you accept these children into the program?

We accepted them into the program if their parents wouldn’t take them back. My first approach with this kid was to try and contact his parents and plead with them to take him back home. We weren’t really set up… we didn’t have housing, we didn’t have a live-in program, we didn’t have the resources to really care for kids.

But a couple of them we did… when the parents would not take them back, we did find housing for them through church members and they were involved with the program.

[indistinguishable]

It’s really sad, very tragic. Tragic to hear that it’s still happening

[voice of interviewer] What do you think would have happened to these children if the exgay program didn’t exist? If the parents had never heard of the exgay program what do you think would have happened to the children?

I’m trying to imagine what would happen to them. I think that with the young man that was sent to us, he probably would have just been sent out into the streets. His parents were that appalled and disgusted that they had a gay child that they would have just kicked him out of the house onto the streets. So in some respects I was glad that he had kind of a safe place to land even though we weren’t set up for that, we tried our best.

Exodus started at Melodyland Christian Center and it was… Melodyland Christian Center at the time was a huge mega church so we often had runaways and street kids, not necessarily gay, kids that had gotten involved in drugs or gotten involved in the counter culture who sort of ended up on the doorstep of Melodyland. Melodyland did it’s best to try and help those kids, it’s part of the reason we had the 24 hour hotline center. But at that time it was mainly drug related kids and hippie kids that were getting tossed out.

Swampfox

April 19th, 2010

I can still vividly remember when I told my parents that I was gay back in 1969. I was visibly upset and seeking there help. It was a Saturday and they got me into see one of the two psychiatrists in our small town. I promised my parents and the psychiatrist that I would not take my own life. My life was never really the same. But my parents never considered throwing me out.

Joe In California

April 19th, 2010

I came out to my parents in the early 70’s when I was 20. My parents didn’t blink an eye and told me that no matter what, that I was still their son and that they would always be there as parents.
I do feel for those that weren’t as lucky as I was. I had a friend that wasn’t. No matter how bad it gets, there’s always someone somewhere that can help! Just ask!

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