Nearly two decades after it published its cover story about the Ex-Gay Movement, replete with ex-gay poster husband and wife John and Anne Paulk, Newsweek Magazine revisited the story in the piece, What the article reveals is what many of us already know–the Ex-Gay Movement is basically no more. All of the major players who promoted and provided gay conversion therapy and ex-gay ministry have since recanted including John Paulk, who now is living openly gay.
John Smid, the long-time director of the notorious Love in Action program had offered an apology for his role in the ex-gay world and has since come out gay. Alan Chambers, the long-time head of Exodus International apologized too specifically mentioning the harm caused by the treatments he promoted, then he shut down his organization.
Beyond Ex-Gay, the website and organization that Christine Bakke and I co-founded in 2007 to give support to fellow Ex-Gay Survivors (aka ex-ex-gays) gets a mention too as does Darlene Bogle, who along with Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, and Jeremy Marks, once leader of Exodus Europe, issued a public apology as part of the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference.
While there is a new smaller anti-gay group that claims that “change is still possible in spite of everything everyone has told you,” and some old timers at NARTH and JONAH still have a web presence and promote their work, for the most part the Ex-Gay Movement in the USA is dead in the water.
So are we done with it? Not quite. For one, like the failed and discredited tobacco industry, once the handwriting was on the wall that the American public no longer wanted the toxic product on offer, ex-gays began to export their wares abroad in Eastern Europe, Uganda, South Africa, Singapore, Mexico, and beyond.
And while it is harder and harder to find an ex-gay program in the US, people today still suffer from the misinformed, dangerous teachings people like Alan Chambers, John Smid, and John Paulk aggressively shared with Christians in the USA. A whole generation of Christian counselors, ministers, youth pastors, and parents still promote these teachings as Gospel Truth.
I love the work that Jeremy Marks, Darlene Bogle, and Michael Bussee have done for decades to help LGBTQ people with the trauma they faced from anti-gay church teachings. Today we already have lots of people who can connect with ex-gay survivors. What really needs to be done is for people like John Smid, John Paulk, and Alan Chambers to re-educate themselves (and talking to ex-gay survivors who are willing to mentor them would help them mightily.) Then with the same drive and passion they once pushed an ex-gay agenda, they can reach back into their databases and find creative and effective ways to reconnect with all those people they once misled. Instead of reaching forward to new audiences–like gay Christian–they have a moral obligation to reach back to their former audiences and help straighten them out.