“Michael Bussee, You Have Blood On Your Hands”
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 21st, 2010
I expected my interview series with Michael to generate a lot of emotion, but in recent days the reader comments have taken a dramatic shift to questioning why Michael did not come out publicly against or make amends for his involvement in Exodus sooner. One expression that’s particularly common in YouTube comments is that Michael somehow has “blood on his hands,” hence the title for this post.
In today’s video Michael explains his delay in speaking out against Exodus. Of all the things Michael wanted to address on the day I interviewed him, this was foremost on his mind.
But before we get to the video let me personally address all the work I believe Michael has done for the ex-gay survivor community:
- Whenever the activist community has called upon Michael, he has been happy to volunteer himself. This includes a Love Won Out counter protest in Palm Springs (near his home) and the public apology of former Exodus leaders organized by Beyond Ex-Gay in 2007.
- As one of the most visible ex-gay survivors myself, I am constantly contacted by media and documentary filmmakers. When appropriate, I refer these people to Michael who is happy to speak with them. One Nation Under God, filmed prior to Gary’s death (Michael’s partner), only marked the beginning of his speaking out. Since the film’s release in 1993 Michael has continued to fight the ex-gay myth for 17 years now.
- How many other former leaders from the early days of Exodus have since dropped out and said nothing? Remember, Michael was just a co-founder, there are plenty of other lapsed Exodus leaders out there.
- If you believe Michael needs to do more to speak out or atone for his past transgressions then why don’t you contact him about a project he can take part in. That’s exactly what I did. I was home in LA for a week and picked up the phone to see if Michael wanted to spend a day in front of the camera. Michael answered every single question I put to him, even when things got painful, as you’ve seen in previous videos in this series.
But enough of my opinion. Here’s Michael on the delay in speaking out against Exodus:
(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: "A Delay On Speaking Out Against Exodus"]
Recently some people have asked me why it took so long for Gary and for me to speak out against Exodus. We left in 79, actually left the ministry, we stayed married until 1981 when our divorces became final.
We didn’t come out very publicly against Exodus until One Nation Under God came out which was in 1991 [sic]. So it was an almost 9 to 10 silence there and I’ve had people ask me “well why didn’t you come out immediately? why didn’t you immediately denounce the ex-gay programs?”
And I regret that I didn’t. I wish that I had, I sincerely wish that I had. There was alot going on that we were dealing with. We were dealing with our own sense of personal failure and trying to reclaim our faith, but more importantly we were raising our kids. Both of our wives were threatening to take custody of our kids and we didn’t want to risk losing them.
This was also before the internet so I really didn’t know what was happening with Exodus, I kind of assumed that I guess naively that it had just disappeared. I didn’t find out until a few years later after Gary and I had left that it was still going on, I was disappointed and shocked.
Then Gary became sick and we were busy with medical care and helping him deal with end-of-life issues and just the sadness of watching the person that you love more than anything else just slowly decline and get sicker and sicker.
Gary was the one who finally decided we had to break our silence because he knew he was dying. And he said “Mike, I think it’s time we need to tell our stories and the film One Nation Under God was the result of that.
If I had it to do over again maybe I would have come out sooner but there were those years of just trying to get well, get whole, and find our strength again, find our voice again, but by that time Gary was very sick. And I’m grateful that the film was made and that he got to tell his stor. He never got to see the film but it was dedicated to his memory and I’m glad it’s been helpful to people to hear our stories. Wish we had done it sooner.