John Paulk, once the poster-boy for Focus on the Family’s “ex-gay” organization, “Love Won Out” has written a formal apology and renounced his formal ex-gay past. In it, he writes that during his tenure at the top of the country’s most famous conversion therapy organization, his “life did change as a Christian,” but his sexual orientation did not.
Paulk has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, and was one of the faces that I had in my mind when I was wrestling with whether to accept myself as a gay man. I eventually came to terms with my sexual orientation. Now, we learn that John Paulk has come to terms with his own.
He has been criticized heavily by Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out over the years, most recently because he apparently had been living life quietly as a gay man without recanting or acknowledging his ex-gay past. Today, John makes a critical step — not only acknowledging his past at the top of the ex-gay predator chain, but declaring that it is harmful.
“I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused,” he says. John is truly a sensitive soul, and the little that I have talked with him reveals this. He’s been out of the ex-gay world for a decade now. His apology is one that will be a point of healing for the countless thousands of people whose lives were negatively impacted by the lies of the ex-gay culture of fabrication.
There will undoubtedly be those who demand more from him. There will also be those who feel he has completely rejected his faith and Christianity as a whole. For now, though, I see a man who is beginning a path to freedom — and on his way to healing. And wholeness.
For those who will still demand to have his head on a pike, I understand. The lies of the ex-gay movement have done and continue to do great harm to LGBT people all over the world. And John’s going to get hit from all sides, especially from those who see him as THE reason they began their ex-gay life, only to end up with frustration and bitterness.
My prayer is that the healing will begin — not only for John, but for everyone. For now, it’s a true encouragement to see a him take this important step. There is freedom in truth. John knows it. We all know it. Jesus said it. And now we can all begin to walk in it a little more.
Thank you, John.
The full apology is below.
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.