Exodus Co-Founder: When People Left Our Program They Just Disappeared
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 13th, 2010
As notable ex-gay survivor Peterson Toscano wrote in 2007, ex-gay programs and Exodus have absolutely no sort of after-care or follow-up when a participant leaves a program:
Never once has an ex-gay program I attended ever done any sort of follow-up. I mean I can’t buy a soy latte these days without having to fill out a survey about my coffee experience. Yet folks can spend tens of thousands of dollars on reparative therapy and nothing–no aftercare, no reflections on what worked and what didn’t work.
I’m admittedly curious about what goes through the mind of an ex-gay leader when a participant stops coming. Do they assume the person is cured? Have they gone back in the closet? Are they living the dreaded homosexual lifestyle?
It’s not an easy thing to confront as you can tell by Michael’s body language in this segment and that I had to ask the question three times before we got into the meat of the issue.
(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: “When People Left Our Program They Just Disappeared”]
[voice of interviewer:] When you left Exodus did you make contact with other people you knew who had previously left the program who were now living as gay?
When I left Exodus I didn’t know any gay people or any gay Christians. I only knew the people I had been involved with at Exodus. I knew our group members, I knew group leaders and I knew members of other ministries but I had absolutely no support group when Gary and I decided to leave
[voice of interviewer:] Sorry, so when you were a leader and people would leave the program did you just assume they would go out in to the world and just be straight? Were there ever any failures that you knew about?
Were there any failures that I knew about?
[interviewer laughing:] yes
Constantly, every Tuesday. Every Tuesday there were failures.
If it weren’t so sad it would be funny, every Tuesday we would open with prayer and we’d read a Bible verse and discuss that and then talk about the struggle the previous week and there’d be confessions of having fallen… having gone to a bookstore… having cruised a guy at a restaurant… having given in to masturbatory fantasies. And we’d all listen very attentively to these lurid stories of falls and sexual encounters, and then we’d lay hands on the person who had fallen and we’d pray that they would find strength. We might pray for deliverance if we believed there was oppression happening with them.
There was constant falling.
[voice of interviewer:] But people who left the program for good, and had failed, as a leader what did you think had happened to them? Where do you think they had gone?
I had no idea, when people left our program they just disappeared. We lost all contact with them. We had no system for follow-up. We had no way of knowing what happened to them. They just disappeared, they just stopped coming and nobody heard about them.
We pretty much assumed they had gone back into [air quotes] the gay lifestyle.
I never assumed that they had become straight, that they had finally succeeded and didn’t need the program any longer. It was pretty much know that if somebody stopped coming to the Bible study or stopped coming to the group that they had fallen and had gone back to the gay lifestyle.
Many years later I met people who had gone through the program who had dropped out or I’d wondered for years what had happened to them. I’m happy to report that most of them had actually gotten much better. They had left too and gone through a period of struggle and then finally accepted themselves as gay or lesbian and were doing fine.
Some even said that they thought the experience of going through the exgay program was positive for them that it was a step toward realizing who they were and it was ok to be gay. And some of them thanked me for the experience which was a relief because I worry alot about what had happened to these people, where they went, what happened to them.