“Ex-gay” or conversion “therapy” (overcoming unwanted same sex attraction) stories are all pretty much the same.

The common themes in conversion “therapy” stories include:

  • It’s my parents’ fault I’m gay – my father didn’t love me and/or my mother was overbearing.
  • I was sexually abused
  • I hated myself as a gay person
  • I had substance abuse issues and mental health problems
  • My life was completely messed up and was really disillusioned the  ‘gay lifestyle’
  • I had many meaningless sexual encounters and therefore lacked any sense of morality or self-respect
  • I couldn’t maintain a long-term relationship/relationships. I became hurt and disallusioned.
  • Testimonials are often sensationalised and over dramatised. In this story below two 11-12 year old boys playing/experimenting together is called sexual abuse. Sometimes people talk about having been drug addicts, but, in truth, they were drug users. This is obviously different but not as dramatic.
  • When the testimonial includes they are now married to the opposite sex, there is no mention of falling in love with their wife or husband. This is a marriage that God wanted, apparently.
  • The person often has a ministry that rescues or works with people struggling with “unwanted same sex attraction”. This creates added pressure to maintain the façade or live in denial or they will lose their identity, ministry and source of income.

It’s interesting to note that:

  • Many gay and lesbian people had and still have wonderful relationships with their parents but are still gay. Many straight people also had poor relationships with their parents, but are heterosexual.
  • Abuse is abuse, but it doesn’t make a person gay. Certainly not during experimental phases of puberty with people the same age.
  • Around 40% of people have had a same sex experience but obviously not 40% of the population is gay.
  • Heterosexuals also can lead self-destructive lifestyles and be promiscuous etc, but if they have a conversion experience, don’t feel the need to blame their tragic past on their sexual orientation. They’ve just made poor life choices and demonstrated a lack of self-control and self -respect.
  • When straight married people talk about their partners and how they met, they usually talk about how they fell in love. And even that they are still in love. This is not a part of “ex-gay” stories. They love their partners like a best friend.
  • Gay men and lesbians can exist in heterosexual marriages (it’s been happening for centuries), but this is not evidence of a change in orientation it is situational heterosexuality.
  • Amongst gay and lesbian people, there is a spectrum of morality, as there is amongst the straight community. Many gay and lesbian people live in long-term, committed, monogamous relationships. These “ex-gay” stories assume the opposite because of their own personal experience – often of many meaningless, unfulfilling sexual encounters.
  • Gays and lesbians have not cornered the market on sex by any means. An alarming number of married men and women have extra-marital affairs.

The cover of Newsweek (August 1988) features John and Anne Paulk. At the time, John  was speaking nationally at Love Won Out conferences and employed by Focus on the Family. He was also the chair of the board of Exodus. John and Anne were the quintessential couple of the “change is possible” movement and heavily promoted the message.

John Paulk’s story fits the blueprint above perfectly. As one 5 star reviewer of his book, Love Won Out, wrote “John and Anne share how early exposure to pornography, sexual encounters, poor relationships with parents and insensitive remarks from others caused gender confusion in their formative years. This made them vulnerable to same-sex attraction, which eventually led to them becoming immersed in the scintillating, but ultimately dissatisfying “gay” lifestyle.”

In 2000 Paulk was caught in a gay bar in Washington, DC. Things began to unravel from there and in 2003 he resigned from his positions and eventually renounced his previous involvement in “ex-gay” ministries.

“Today, I do not consider myself ‘ex-gay,'” said Paulk. “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.”