Responding to an Apology


John Paulk is a sweet man whom I’ve recently connected with and have grown to care about deeply. Today, he released the following statement related to his past involvement in the "ex-gay movement," and I am thrilled at his honesty about the ineffectiveness of so-called reparative/conversion therapy, his transparency regarding his “new journey,” and the sincerity of his apology for his role in hurting those who were damaged by trying to change their sexual orientation.

As background:
In the world of ex-gays, John was considered THE badge of honor. He and his wife, both “ex-gays,” were featured on the cover of “Newsweek” magazine as proof of reparative therapy’s success. He was founder of a national ex-gay ministry, authored two books about his journey to become ex-gay, served as chairman of Exodus (the largest ex-gay organization in the world), worked with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and traveled around the country as a spokesperson for the ex-gay movement. Some called him the Poster Boy for the movement. That is, until he was caught in a gay bar in Washington, DC. He left the ministry, they moved to the West Coast and he began a successful catering business. Eventually, he and his wife separated. To this day, their marriage still often shows up as “proof” of ex-gay success and his story continues to be  used in ex-gay circles as a living testimony to the power of God to change lives.

Many in the GLBT community are angry at John for the pain and hurt he caused, and I understand. I believe John does too. Some are calling for extreme measures for him to “prove” his apology. Christians are condemning him for “abandoning” his faith. (He hasn’t!) I’ve seen those who state clearly that they refuse to forgive John. Period. (I offered my own apology, and I know the flack I’ve received because of my past involvement and my current position.)

For me, I welcome John into the company of those of us who were once in ex-gay leadership, but have turned our back on those lies and are now seeking to walk an authentic, honest life. I won’t dictate to him how this part of his journey must progress. I won't make demands on how he has to live now; that's as destructive as those who seek to us tell how we must live.

So, as I told John personally, and now state publicly: apology accepted. I love you, brother.

I hope you will read it and share it. The world needs to be told OVER AND OVER again that reparative treatment is a scam; it does not work, and it causes harm to those who seek such a cure for that which is not a sickness and fixes for that which is not broken.

The full text of John's apology:

A Formal Public Apology
by John Paulk

For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the "ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are--beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.

This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.

Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.

John Paulk