’Ex-Gay’ Leader Makes It Official: He’s Still Gay
The man known as the poster child for controversial "ex-gay" reparative therapy Friday told Proud Queer Monthly that he no longer supports the "ex-gay" movement or therapy that purports to "cure" gay men of their homosexuality.
In 1998, John Paulk appeared on the cover of Newsweek with his wife under the headline "Gay for Life?"
The question mark turned out to be prescient. Since that time, Paulk, now 50, has become estranged from his wife and has a new, hipper look.
Gone are the geedy oval glasses and weirdly parted hair. Now Paulk sports long blond hair, a deep tan and pierced ears.
Paulk's outside isn't the only thing that's he's changed. "Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted," Paulk told PQ Monthly. "I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others.
"During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do."
He went on to say that he "no longer supports the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals -- especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated.
"I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued," he added. "I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland [Ore.] where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships."
Back in the late 1990s, Paulk became a poster boy for Exodus International, the leading "ex-gay" organization. Paulk wrote two books on the subject, "Not Afraid to Change: The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality" and "Love Won Out." He wrote the latter book with his wife, Annie, who also claimed to have turned straight. PQ Monthly points out that she is still a strong supporter of reparative therapy.
This is only the latest blow to reparative therapy, which the American Psychological Association and other peer groups disdain as junk science. In July 2012, Exodus International's leader Alan Chambers said that rather than turning gay men and women straight, reparative therapy is ineffective and can be harmful to patients.
Chambers, who is married to a woman and has two children, even admitted that he still has attraction to men. He said at the time that Exodus is going to stop supporting reparative therapy.
Paulk himself was a pioneer in the "ex-gay" movement until September 2000, when patrons of a gay bar in Washington, D.C., spotted him.
Paulk now runs a catering company in Portland, Ore., called Mezzaluna Catering. "I don't get any royalties from these publications," he said about his books. "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."