Exodus Co-Founder: We Were Abandoned When We Left Exodus
A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.
May 25th, 2010
Leading up to now we’ve had videos discussing Michael’s fear of the gay community and fears about what would happen if he left Exodus.
Today Michael talks about what actually happened when he finally did renounce Exodus and came out as a gay man. What did Michael’s church do? What did his relatives do? What did his wife do? What did his fellow leaders at Exodus do?
One person in Michael’s life even graphically warned him of the flames of hell that await him.
Lastly Michael closes with a warning that even today people still fear the consequences and rejection when they try to leave 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: “We Were Abandoned When We Left Exodus”]
[voice of interviewer:] Can you talk about the reactions of other people in your life when you announced you were leaving Exodus and giving up attempts to change?
Well I had real strong reactions when I told people I was still gay and wasn’t going to be presenting myself as ex-gay anymore.
I had gotten reactions from the church of course, I was immediately sort of dis-fellowshipped from the church and had to leave that in shame.
When I told my mom, she said it was worse than my dad dying of cancer and that she wanted to drive her car off a cliff. She was physically sick for a couple weeks, kept throwing up, mainly because she believed that she had caused me to be gay. She had really been indoctrinated that it was her fault, that she must have been an overbearing controlling mom and my dad must have been weak or absent even though that wasn’t true of either of them. She really really blamed herself.
And my sister called and told me that she was going to pray that God would make me miserable the rest of my life.
My brother initially reacted well. He said, “well you’re still my brother and I still love you and don’t let this drive us apart” and then just a few weeks later backed out of coming to family Thanksgiving because he didn’t trust me around his kids. He had two young daughters, I told him I’m not interested in young boys, let alone young girls. But just the idea of me being gay and around his kids bothered him and his wife so much so that… [trails off]
The Thanksgiving before I came out we had the usual family gathering of say 25-30 people all the nieces and nephews and cousins and uncles, and the Thanksgiving after I came out it was just me and my mom sitting across the table looking at each-other because everybody else refused to come since I was going to be there.
I’m smiling at it now, I don’t know why, but it was very painful then.
In terms of Exodus’ response, I got this very loving letter from Frank Worthen of Love In Action telling me that I was cursed, I was an anathema, that I had forfeited my salvation and he ended the letter with very graphic descriptions of the flames of hell that awaited me and he said that his heart was going to be grieved to see me pushed into the fiery pit by the angels on the final day. He’s never apologized for that.
A small group of fellow Exodus ministry leaders came to my house and sort of begged me to turn back. And I told them that there was no turning back, that I had never changed, that I was never really ex-gay and I was just accepting the truth about myself. But they made that one attempt, I think they felt biblically obligated to plead with me one last time but then after that nothing.
So when Gary and I left we were pretty much abandoned.
My wife hired a Christian attorney to try and get full custody of my daughter because her church was urging her to to do that. They felt it would be terribly detrimental for my daughter to be around a gay father. Luckily the judge did not order that, he ordered regular shared custody.
I didn’t get a warm welcome from the gay community because I didn’t know there was a gay community to become a part of so it was a very isolating kind of experience. I’ve talked to people who are considering, even now after 30 years of marriage, after presenting themselves as ex-gay that are considering coming out and leaving Exodus, but they’re terrified of that abandonment they know they’re going to experience. And they’re terrified of the rejection by family and friends and it’s a real fear.
[special note appears “To connect with an online community of people who have left Exodus visit BeyondExGay.com”]