“Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one” so the saying goes. Never was a truer word spoken about what people think of Alan and Leslie Chambers.
This memoir, mostly written by Alan but with helpful and relevant inserts by Leslie, will either reinforce or shift that opinion. Vilified and praised in different circles now it’s time for them to tell their side of the story.
Alan Chambers was the president of Exodus International for nearly twenty years. He was THE spokesman for the “freedom from homosexuality”, “change is possible” message.
Chambers takes us on his journey from early days thinking his was Cindy Brady, his late teens, discovering he was attracted to the same sex, his half-hearted effort to change while leading a double life for eighteen months, meeting Leslie, the development of their relationship and subsequent marriage. In 1993 he joins other young adults at his first Exodus conference seeking answers to overcome his homosexuality. Twenty years later, at a the annual conference he closed it down.
We are taken into the church basement in LA where Alan and Leslie are confronted by thirteen people who have suffered personally because of Exodus. They are angry. Very angry. The arranged encounter is being filmed by Lisa Ling for the Oprah network. Lisa is in tears listening to the ex-gay survivor stories. So different from her previous show where she had access to the 2011 Exodus conference filming others who said Exodus had saved their lives.
People have lots of questions. Is Alan heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual? What made the man, who led the world’s largest ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy organisation, apologize to the gay community and close the door? Was it a financial decision? What about his marriage to Leslie? If he is gay shouldn’t he be true to himself? These questions and more are answered as the Chambers share personal moments with the reader.
There are things missing that I, and I’m sure other readers, would like to have known more about. For example. How did Alan manage the internal conflict when his reality (his same-sex-orientation) was not matching the message he was preaching? But as an author myself, I am also aware of the limits of word counts and the advice given from editors re content and flow.
Apart from missing further development in some areas, the memoir is well-written and an easy read. It’s not a “tell all” book by any means but honest and revealing none the less.
After reading the book your opinion may remain the same but at least you have a better understanding of the forces that made the man and shaped the message he eventually renounced.