John Paulk was once one of the most visible spokespeople for the ex-gay movement, appearing on the cover of Newsweek in 1998 under the headline “Gay For Life?” and championing Love Won Out ex-gay conferences across the country. For years, the group Truth Wins Out has been tracking Paulk’s continued presence at gay bars, and even despite news in 2012 that he was now living in Portland as an openly gay man, he refused to come out as gay. Now, though, he has at least admonished the ex-gay movement for the “pain that has been caused,” per an email to PQ Monthly:
Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted. 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.
I no longer support 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. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.
Paulk’s disassociation from the shame-based therapy that he once profited from — and which his wife still tries to benefit from — is commendable, but as Truth Wins Out points out, a simple apology does not undo the damage he has done. Groups like Focus on the Family and NARTH have highlighted his story as evidence of support for ex-gay therapy, despite evidence to the contrary. TWO calls on Paulk to take a more public role “renouncing and working against the harmful ‘ex-gay’ industry” and advocate for state bills, including in Oregon, that would ban ex-gay therapy for minors.