The influence of the internet to gain information and connect people cannot be overestimated re the downfall of Exodus.
When I resigned from the ministry and came out in 1992 internet usage was in its infancy and not the commonplace entity it is today. I am a little embarrassed to say that for years, I really believed that I was probably the only Pentecostal minister in the entire world who had resigned because he couldn’t “overcome” his homosexuality. It wasn’t until after 1996 when www.PlanetOut.com was launched and I joined the internet that I actually found someone just like me. Searching various criteria on PlanetOut I found an African American Pentecostal preacher who was gay ….and out. I was over the moon. Then I found Jallen Rix, the first former ex-gay person I’d ever met. Talking with others who had similar experiences was reassuring. No longer did I feel so alone or like I was a freak. Probably a similar feeling that young people got when they finally connected with an ex-gay group (point 1 in this article).
During the 70’s 80’s and 90;s, before the internet, where did the 1,000’s of gay men and women who’d “failed” and left ex-gay programs and anti-gay churches go? They went into another closet.
A few found love like Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper (Exodus originals) Love changes everything. Those who found love realised that their homosexuality was not a sin but an orientation which created the most beautiful human experiences of love, intimacy, affection and finding a partner for life. Others left the ex-gay programs with an even greater sense of failure and shame. Years of conditioned internalised homophobia continued to play out in self destructive behaviours. They had been told for years about the “homosexual lifestyle” and assumed this was how they should live once they accepted being gay so went straight to the tip of the iceberg. Many had been traumatised and developed mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To go back to these experiences reminded them of the pain of some of the darkest days of their lives so they just kept quiet. Some just wanted to move on and forget about it.. For others it all became too much. They’d failed to become straight, rejected by family and friends, disillusioned by their experiences in the tip of the iceberg; they choose suicide. The horrendous toll that ex-gay thinking and organisations have had on individuals lives can never be fully documented.
The ex-gay survivor movement grew in the underground cyberworld of online forums in the late 90’s. I commenced Australia’s only ex-gay survivor group in 2000 which quickly grew to 400 people. It was here, listening to tragic story after tragic story that my passion to see change ignited.
As the features of the internet developed, ex-gay survivor stories moved from the secrecy of online forums to other platforms like blogs, websites and YouTube. They were now sharing their stories in public spaces, speaking of the harm and the ongoing impacts their years in ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy and programs had on them. For the 1,000’s Exodus and others were claiming had been ‘cured’ we were now hearing from 1,000’s saying it’s a lie.
Then the apologies began. Apologies from three former Exodus leaders Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee (one of the founders of Exodus), and Jeremy Marks (from the UK who’d been in the International board of Exodus). I released five Australian ones in 2007. One of those was from the leader of Exodus in Australia. I’ve added more since. It was out there for anyone searching for information.. When I first searched “unwanted same sex attraction”, I couldn’t find one positive link on the first eight pages on Google. All said I was broken, sick, and dysfunctional and that God could “heal” me. I determined to change that. Now on the first page several of my articles appear. So when a young troubled Christian person is secretly searching for answers in the privacy of their bedrooms at least the get an alternative perspective. Thank God for the internet I say. It’s saved people unnecessary torment and wasted years. And saved lives.
Copyright © Anthony Venn-Brown