Former Ex-Gay Spokesman Schools Perry On Ex-Gay Therapy
June 20th, 2014
John Paulk used to be the head of Focus On the Family’s Gender and Homosexuality Division, and chairman of the Board of Exodus International. In 1998, co-found Love Won Out, a traveling ex-gay roadshow and infomercial conducted jointly by Focus and Exodus, which, at its height, staged a half a dozen conferences per year in cities across North American drawing audiences of two thousand or more. But after having renounced and apologized for his prior work, he is now living as an out and proud gay man. Today, Paulk addresses the controversy over the Texas GOP’s adoption of a pro-conversion therapy plank in its platform and Gov. Rick Perry’s comparing homosexuality to alcoholism in an essay in Politico:
Oh, I was a believer: Homosexuality was just WRONG. And I was Exhibit A, a self-declared convert who had managed to overcome my own shameful gay past. I even appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1998, posing alongside my wife as a poster boy for “going straight.” And I was happy to do it: Those stories gave me a national platform to advocate for what is called “gay reparative therapy”—basically, convincing gay people that they were sexually “broken” and could be provided with a way to change. …
But I was in denial. It wasn’t in fact true, any of it. Worse than being wrong, it was harmful to many people—and caused me years of pain in my own life. Which is why I have this to say to the Rick Perrys of the world: You don’t understand this issue. At all.
Sure, I was gratified to hear that at an event this week, Perry appeared to regret his remarks comparing homosexuality to alcoholism. “I stepped right in it,” he admitted. But this wasn’t just some political mistake. What worries me more is the ignorance betrayed by Perry’s comments—an ignorance that I believe is still widespread among conservatives in the straight world—about what being gay means. The kind of ignorance revealed by those in Perry’s Texas Republican Party who recently inserted a plank in their party platform declaring homosexuality to be a “chosen behavior” and recognizing the “legitimacy and efficacy” of gay reparative therapy. … It is a form of self-inflicted torture that has haunted me my entire life, and I do not want young gay women and men today to go through what I went through. I want to tell them—and Rick Perry: We are not broken, damaged, inferior or throwaways. We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else.
The whole essay, of course, is not addressed just to Rick Perry. It just starts out that way. It’s mainly a very close-up and personal account of what it was like to be in the ex-gay movement’s leadership from the inside:
For all my public rhetoric, I was never one bit less gay. Behind closed doors, many of us in the “ex-gay” leadership at Focus on the Family would even admit this to each other — and we had this conversation many times: “We know our orientation hasn’t really changed. What has changed is our behavior. Our way of life. How we see ourselves. Our sexuality has not changed.”
You really should read the whole thing.