John Paulk Formally Renounces, Apologizes for Harmful 'Ex-Gay' Movement

The former ex-gay leader said Christianity changed many things for him, but his sexual orientation wasn't among them.



John Paulk, one of the most recognized former leaders from the now-crumbling "ex-gay" movement, renounced his past and formally apologized for the harm he and the movement have caused in a public statement Wednesday. 

"For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement,'" said Paulk, "where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not."

Last week, Paulk renounced his ex-gay past in an interview with a gay newspaper in Oregon, but today's statement marks Paulk's formal, public apology for his ardent involvement in the movement that claims "reparative therapy" can "cure" people of homosexual attraction.

"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."

Paulk's newfound belief that reparative therapy is harmful brings his opinion in line with that of every major medical and psychiatric association in the country.

"I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, " Paulk continued. "I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. ... From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God."

Paulk's statement also confirms that his much-touted, 20-year-long marriage to an "ex-gay" woman, Anne, is now ending. Paulk said he plans to retreat from the public eye in the coming months to ensure his "next actions come from a place of thrush and authenticity." Paulk said he "eagerly anticipate[s] giving back to the community," which he's been doing through donations to AIDS advocacy groups through his Portland-based catering company called Mezzaluna.

Paulk was arguably the most recognizable figurehead for ex-gay organization Love Won Out, a project of the antigay Focus on the Family. In 1999, John and Anne Paulk wrote a book called Love Won Out: How God's Love Helped Two People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other. Paulk left Focus on the Family in 2003, when he moved from Colorado to Oregon, founded Mezzaluna, and was reportedly spotted at gay bars. 

Read Paulk's formal, public apology in full on the next page.