A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
April 26th, 2010
Some people in the ex-gay movement become so deeply involved they make the drastic step of getting married. Michael Bussee took that step and talks today about his inner conflict in doing so. Michael recognized he wasn’t a heterosexual when he got married but chose to anyway because he believed God would reward him with heterosexuality if he truly committed himself to God and took his vows as a leap of faith.
Once married Michael found himself in an uncomfortable position as a role model at Exodus and privately tried to discourage his own clients from marrying.
Lastly Michael talks about the damage caused by using marriage as proof of change and the collateral damage that occurs when mixed orientation (ex-gay) marriages come to an end.
(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: “Getting Married As A Leap Of Faith”]
As I said I’d read early on when I was first looking into this whole issue way before Exodus that if you were truly gay you couldn’t fall in love with a woman, you couldn’t have a satisfactory relationship with a woman.
And I met my fiancee in, actually met her for the first time in junior high, and then got to know her better through high school and she was actually dating my best friend at the time and I was kind of jealous, I didn’t know if I wanted to date her or him.
But they eventually broke up and I got to know her better and I found myself really drawn toward her and surprised that I could have romantic feelings toward her.
But I didn’t want to enter into a marriage until I was sure that I could be a heterosexual husband to her, so I kept postponing it, I kept postponing the wedding hoping that I would feel some sort of strong sexual attraction, and I would tell her “I’m not ready, I’m not ready.”
Well we were encouraged by people at the church that perhaps getting married was that final step that maybe I was “holding back the change” by not giving myself whole heartedly to her, that if I made the vows and truly gave our lives together to God that that might be the breakthrough and I might finally receive the heterosexual gift.
So we were actually given that advice that we should marry. I realize now that it was irresponsible advice and some people are still given that advice that they really need to settle down and that eventually God will reward their vows by creating heterosexuality within them.
That does so much collateral damage, I’ve talked to so many spouses who felt like failures themselves because their husband or wife didn’t change, there was something wrong with their faith too.
[voice of interviewer:] When you were still a leader did you pass that advice along to your clients?
No, I never encouraged clients to get married. In private I would always discourage it. And they’d say, “but you’re married, you’ve got a child, you’re doing well” and I couldn’t tell them the full extent of the struggle that was still going on inside. And I said “well yes, that’s my situation, I wouldn’t advise it for you, unless you’re absolutely sure don’t do it, unless you’re absolutely sure that you can be everything that your spouse needs you to be, don’t do it.”
So, no I’m glad to say I didn’t do that, I didn’t encourage people to get married. I think that my example of being married may have communicated that message that that’s what hey should do, but I never preached that’s what they should do.
[Michael softly] Does that make sense?
[voice of interviewer:] yes
[voice of interviewer:] You guys never ran your wedding photo in Exodus advertisements saying you “can be married too one day”?
[Michael interrupting] Never!… never… never.
[image of former Exodus board chair John Paulk and his wife on the cover of Newsweek in 1998]
[image of current Exodus president Alan Chambers with his wife in a 2004 newspaper ad]
Would always tell that story… When Jim an happily ever after. And I couldn’t really tell them how difficult it was to be married and to know that you weren’t everything that she needed you to be.
No, never ran pictures, I think that’s kinda cheap. Even now when I see it, when I see it in Exodus advertisements it kind of turns my stomach, it seems exploitive to me. If people knew what those marriages were really like inside… no… no…
I don’t know what to say about that… just it bothers me, for me to see John Paulk on the cover of Newsweek with his wife and then a few years later seeing him running from the gay bar in shame.
[image of John Paulk fleeing a gay bar in Washington DC, photo by Wayne Besen]
To hear Alan Chambers talk about his marriage yet admitting it took 9 months or so to even consummate the marriage that he has “to daily deny what comes naturally for him.”
You really need to talk to the spouses of gay men… ex-gay men to realize the harm, the collateral damage. It devastated my life, it devastated Gary’s wife when we came out and admitted that we weren’t really ex-gay. It devastated my family, it devastated my daughter.
My daughter was actually told by members of her church, this was when she was really little, 4 or 5 years old, she was told that “if your daddy loved Jesus enough and loved you enough, he wouldn’t be gay.”
That collateral damage is minimized, they like to paint this happily ever after picture but they don’t say what happens when those marriages fall apart, when the masquerade is over.
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