Exodus Co-Founder: The Inherent Harm In Ex-Gay Programs

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 15th, 2010

Dawson McAllister

Last Sunday gay blogger Greg Kimball pretended to be a questioning 16 year old teen and called the syndicated radio talk show  “Dawson McAllister Live” and was directed to Exodus International for “help.”  This is little surprise as McAllister’s “partners” page includes a link to Exous’ website.  A support operator at McAllister’s program told Kimball’s fictitious 16 year old “They [Exodus] will talk to you, they will counsel you, they will not condemn you, they will not make you feel little or anything.”

Convincing supporters of exgay programs that said programs can cause harm is one of the greatest hurdles ex-gay survivor activists like myself face.  Like McAllister’s operator, supporters believe they are truly doing their God’s work and the idea that exgay programs are inherently harmful is often too much to comprehend.

When survivors of exgay programs like myself and Michael Bussee tell our stories of harm we’re often met with the response that no, exgay programs aren’t harmful, our individual program was just in need of a minor correction.

In the first of my video series, Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee addresses that common misconception:

(Video 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.

[music begins]

[title: “The Inherent Harm In Ex-Gay Programs”]

[voice of interviewer] Me as a survivor, often times when I tell my story and the harm I experienced, people from the exgay side say, “oh it’s not the nature of the exgay movement that causes harm, it was just the specific program you went to, there’s something small wrong with that that we need to fix.” How do you respond to that?

I get that all the time, when I say that I was harmed by the program they’ll say “oh that was just your particular experience.”

And then when I point out that many many people have been harmed by these programs.

And they respond “well that was just their experience, that was the particular program that they went to and it’s sad, and it’s unfortunate that they had that experience, but that it certainly isn’t characteristic of Exodus as a whole.”

I think it’s hogwash. I think it is characteristic of Exodus as a whole because they’re based on that idea that if you’re gay you’re broken, you’re sick, you’re damaged, you’re in need of repair, you’re engaged in something that will eternally separate you from God.

It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.

As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.

There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.

John Smid of Love In Action recently issued an apology where he says that he realizes that his basic feelings haven’t changed, he’s still basically gay in his orientation and he realizes he harmed a lot of people.

So for some people it takes a while for them to realize that it’s not just this specific experience of the individual survivor… it’s the message that there’s something wrong with you, that there’s something intrinsically damaged about you and your sexuality and you need to renounce it.  That’s the harmful part.

[end credits]

Sal Ignab

April 15th, 2010

Michael hit it right on the head – the message that gay = broken/disfunctional/bad is horrible, and it’s not just limited to Exodus. It prevades society from marriage, to blood donation, to taxes and even the forms you fill out at the doctors office. It really wears people down. Makes them suicidal. It’s evil. And it’s institutionalized.

Joe Allen Doty

April 15th, 2010

Several years ago, I got a personal phone chat with Michael Bussee.

I started reading about Exodus when articles appeared in the General Council of the Assemblies of God denomination’s “The Pentecostal Evangel, a weekly magazine you could pick up at church.

I had originally thought that church were he started it was an AG but, it was an independent Charismatic.

I feel special because Michael is a hero type to us who tried to deny our sexuality. I didn’t go do the ex-gay route but I experienced it. The Lord found a way to get me out of Tulsa for a while to get me out of the closet. that was a miracle in itself and how he did it.


April 16th, 2010

Yes, exactly, that IS the damage. Personally, though, I would take it one step further and assert that any form of Christianity that promotes the doctrines of salvation, heaven and hell do similar damage. Is it any wonder that so many of us LGBT find that to preserve our own sanity that we have to walk away from the anti-gay message that we are sick, broken, damaged AND the anti-human message that we are sick, broken, damaged. Salvation, in my humble opinion, is one of the most evil teachings out there.


April 17th, 2010

Those sceptical of the idea that ex-gay groups like Exodus cause harm won’t be convinced by this, as they might believe that convincing gay people that there is something wrong with them and that they are damaged is good, since that message is true.

Timothy Kincaid

April 19th, 2010


Rather than generalize, why don’t you just say that there is something wrong with you and that you are damaged. Perhaps we can find agreement on that.


April 23rd, 2010


Yeah, there are all kinds of things wrong with me. That’s pretty obvious, and I’m not interested in denying it. It doesn’t affect my point, though.


April 23rd, 2010

Quo has become increasingly aggressive, lashing out now in multiple posts, since his beat down in the Ted Cox’s Journey into Manhood post comments section. I wonder if he is bucking to be banned in order to explain away how his posts in that thread were so completely ripped apart.


April 23rd, 2010


I’m as calm as I’ve ever been, thank you. It’s not really a good idea to try to divert this thread into a discussion of something else that happened on a different thread.

Since you mention it, though, I’ll say that Grantdale’s and Tommy’s criticisms of what I argued there were actually helpful, despite being very unclear, and despite being mixed up with a lot of insults and personal abuse. I tried hard to avoid responding to the abuse, and I think I succeeded, so I’m not worried about being banned.

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