John Paulk’s crushing blow to Ex-Gay movement calls for religious right to make amends

By Melanie Nathan, April 24, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 5.27.10 PMIt was indeed another crushing blow for the mythological story that the religious right has been touting, as poster child of ex-gay therapy John Paulk comes out as persona non-ex-gay, and apologizes for his years of misrepresentation. But not all may be quite so forgiving, as his apology and admissions serve only to exacerbate the notion that caused so much harm.

As  Wayne Bessen of Truth Wins Out (TWO) notes, “The Religious Right Must Stop Peddling The Lie Of The Paulks’ “Fairy-Tale ‘Ex-Gay’ Marriage,” and calls upon “Anne Paulk and the rest of the Religious Right to immediately cease using the Paulks’ story to sell harmful “ex-gay” therapy to vulnerable people.”

TWO tells us that John Paulk “was at one time the most well known and influential person in the “ex-gay” industry, appearing on the cover of Newsweek with his wife Anne in 1998 under the headline, “Gay For Life?” He was instrumental in forming the Love Won Out “ex-gay” roadshow, which subjected countless LGBT youth and their families to misinformation, indoctrination and lies, and which destroyed many families in the process. In 2000, Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, photographed John Paulk coming out of a Washington, DC, gay bar, and the lies began to unravel. Though John resigned from the board of Exodus International following this incident, the Religious Right continued to use the Paulks’ story as evidence that the “ex-gay” life was a fairy tale rather than a nightmare, and many LGBT people and their families have been damaged or destroyed over the years as a result.”

Here is “The Formal Public Apology by John Paulk ~ 

sent to OBLOGDEE by The Evangelical Network:-

“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

The Evangelical Network provided OBLOGDEE with the following statement:

Todd Ferrell

Todd Ferrell

“To admit that you have made a mistake is difficult for most people. Acknowledging that you have hurt people can be even harder. In such circumstances the repercussions often include a high price, but this can also be necessary in truly understanding God’s grace. John Paulk’s apology to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community for his involvement in Exodus and ex-gay or reparative therapy programs is a big step in that direction.

Todd Ferrell, President, The Evangelical Network explained,”In 2012 I engaged in an ongoing dialog with John Paulk. It was obvious that he had been on a journey toward self-acceptance as a Christian gay man. No doubt that has been a difficult journey. Many of us have struggled with self-acceptance. I am glad that he recognizes the hurt that he has caused people in the past and is willing to publicly apologize for his past stance opposing homosexuality, and diverse gender identities.”

Paulk’s apology will not erase the pain suffered by many Christian LGBT people who believed the false teachings which claimed through prayer, counseling, and group therapy that their sexual orientation or gender identity would change. This will take time. Ferrell concluded, “People who were impacted by Paulk should be able to voice their frustrations, and release those emotions. It is important to remember however that we are all human. We have all made mistakes. We should reflect that Jesus taught forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the core of how we as Christians are to interact with each other including those who have hurt us. John, the road ahead will no doubt be perhaps the roughest you have ever traveled. The Evangelical Network will always be there to listen and not judge you as you move forward.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 5.26.59 PMSince 1988 The Evangelical Network has been a support organization for LGBT Christians and especially those who come from an evangelical background. If someone is struggling with reconciling their Christian faith with their sexual orientation or gender identity please feel free to contact us. We believe there is no conflict with being Christian and LGBT.”  See

According to TWO – “Anne Paulk continues to propagate a false narrative of her own “ex-gay” life in order to stay in the spotlight and make money off of suffering LGBT people and their families.”

It is time for more apologizing and for the religious right to face the truth and make amends; ex-gay and reparative therapy is phoney and nothing but myth, created to perpetuate bigotry and raise money, through false hope for those who should be accepted by family, community and congregations in the first instance.

Melanie Nathan
[email protected]

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6 Comments on “John Paulk’s crushing blow to Ex-Gay movement calls for religious right to make amends”

  1. Anna Hayward April 25, 2013 at 7:44 AM #

    I can personally feel nothing but sympathy for John Paulk. It is not just a matter of telling lies, its a matter of telling lies to yourself as much as anyone. Many people simply could not overcome the cognitive dissonance of being ‘ex-gay’ who was actually just plain gay. They would go further into denial, they would blame others for their errors, they would claim they were brainwashed etc. Paulk does none of that.

    I myself lived a life as a closeted gay woman. I didn’t have ex-gay therapy – I didn’t need it. My ability at self-deception rendered it unnecessary, plus the fact that I didn’t really understand what a lesbian was and didn’t identify my feelings sexual attraction. Its hard to explain, but I really didn’t know I was gay until many years later. There are many of us like that, not liars, just deluded and confused. Realising you are gay and that is never going to change can be terrifying and distressing, and can drive some to suicide. But in the words of the pro-gay campaign, “It gets better”.

    I hope that Paulk may soon be able to be a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community, and a far stronger ally than he ever was an enemy. Maybe a book about how and why he changed would be helpful? That could then be promoted in contradiction of his earlier ‘ex-gay’ works. He needs to find positive things to do to help rather than wallowing in guilt. There’s been enough negativity in his life.

    • Melanie Nathan April 25, 2013 at 8:09 AM #

      The idea that he could profit from the harm he has caused makes me sick! Your journey, like many, sounds tough – the confusion and not understanding. But his was calculated and in essence being “ex-gay” is a form of OUT and then making it so public – he may as well have been out as a gay man, but he chose to be OUT in a lie! Thanks for the important and excellent comment.

      • Michael Levy April 29, 2013 at 7:05 AM #

        I don’t think it’s fair to judge him so harshly. Everyone comes to acceptance of their sexuality in their own time. I think that he truly wished and believed he could change, out of fear of the negative social stigma he felt. He bought into the self-loathing being forced on him. While that does not negate the harm done by his misleading actions, I am glad that he has finally embraced his true self and is openly apologizing for his wrongs.

        • Melanie Nathan April 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM #

          Appreciate your perspective Michael . SOme may be kind others may be harsh – and so the world turns…. my stance is harsh perhaps I may have delved more into than you – through this work. interviewing mothers of teen suicides – teen suicides who thought they could change because people like JP led them to a false hope – where mere acceptance would have altered their course . Paulk lived the lie many many years – in headlights – well after he knew he “could not change”- he admits the lie – he admits how he hurt people. I attribute lost lives to him and those who perpetuate the lie knowingly. he knew a long time ago that he could not change and yet he continued.

  2. Tracy April 26, 2013 at 4:22 AM #

    Another fail at judging, & assuming that a changing must occur in same-sex attracted people in order for them to “fit”– into whatever the opposing group felt comfortable with.

    The problem is that this opposing group has it’s own skeletons, “in the closet”, or otherwise- & is in no position to preach. The requirement to “fit” is only to address the issues with the ones demanding it. The person who is gay is fine, as-is.


  1. John Paulk …. Poster boy for “reparative therapy”! | It Is What It Is - May 5, 2013

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