Exodus Co-Founder: We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change

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

Daniel Gonzales

April 21st, 2010

In today’s video Michael talks about an evening in New York City with another ex-gay leader that caused him to begin to question if anyone in the ex-gay movement was really changing. After talking to other Exodus leaders Michael finally came to the conclusion:

“[T]here were very few of us, if any, who were completely celibate, and we were all still silently struggling with out own sexuality, at the very same time we were promising change.  And that lack of integrity, that psychological and spiritual split just got wider and wider and wider until I couldn’t take it any more.”

(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: “We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change”]

There are a number of things that lead me to lose faith in Exodus and the ex-gay path that… a big part of it was seeing that not only were our clients not changing but the leaders weren’t changing, my fellow leaders in the program… weren’t all that they said they were.

I remember there was one particular trip, another leader of Exodus and I were asked to give our testimonies in Philadelphia and I’d never been back east or had an opportunity to see Philadelphia or the east coast.

We gave our usual speech about how God had changed us and how God was transforming us and that night after the workshop the man that I was traveling with, the exgay man I was traveling with, suggested we go to New York City. I’d never been to New York before and I thought that’d be great and said maybe we’d take in a Broadway show, that’s something that ex-gays do I guess.

We took a train and got all the way into New York and came up in the middle of Times Square, and this was Times Square before they cleaned it up. Very seedy, lots of x-rated little theaters and bookstores. I think “Oh! Calcutta!” was playing, it was the only show that we could get tickets to but we decided that was maybe a little too racy so the man I was traveling with decided we should just go look at some of the bookstores.

I was shocked that he walked right in to triple-x rated bookstore and seemed to know exactly where he was going, walked right back into the section where they had pornography of very young men, I would swear some of them must have been under age. And this was a guy that I looked up to, this was my mentor, this was somebody that I thought had really changed and had really experienced a transformation in his orientation, and he went right back to the stack of pornography and started looking through.

And we didn’t say a word to each-other, it was very strange, we just, in absolute silence, he looked at the books, looked at the magazines and I kind of nervously thumbed at some other books and magazines and couldn’t believe where we were.

He chose 6 or 7 magazines and took them up to the front desk. I was looking at, I think I was looking at a copy of “The Joy Of Gay Sex,” it had just come out and I had never really experienced the joy of gay sex so it was fascinating to look at and he said “you want me to buy that for you?” and I thought what’s happening here?

I thought we were ex-gay? I thought you were ex-gay? But he bought the book, took it up very confidently to the lady at the checkout counter, bought the book, bought his magazines and they gave him a brown paper bag. We drove back in silence to the train station and back home to our place in Philadelphia and he took the magazines and excused himself to the bathroom and I just remember laying there in the bed knowing what was happening and thinking “this isn’t real, we’re not changing” this was his way of telling me that he wasn’t what he said he was.

And it was the beginning, along with some of the other things, of the erosion of my faith in the whole ex-gay experience.

I know for a fact by going to other Exodus conferences and talking with other Exodus leaders that there were very few of us, if any, who were completely celibate, and we were all still silently struggling with out own sexuality, at the very same time we were promising change.

And that lack of integrity, that psychological and spiritual split just got wider and wider and wider until I couldn’t take it any more.

I remember that night that I was being, the night that my eyes were kind of opened to the fact that I wasn’t the only one struggling and that change wasn’t really happening to any of us.


April 21st, 2010

Thanks for the transcript.

I didn’t go through an ex-gay program but I constructed one for myself that was just as demoralizing as Bussee’s experience. I can’t read this without thinking how difficult it is revisit the story about how one deludes ones self, persist with a idea until it’s failure can no longer be hidden. It’s a dreadful feeling to reach that point when you finally understand that all the promise of change simply isn’t going to come and that you could have spent your time loving yourself for what you are.


April 22nd, 2010

Thank you very much for drawing attention to this youtube vid, as an ex-ex-gay it’s these kind of revelations that allow me to look back on my decision to leave those deceived people with confidence.

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