Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ex-Gay Spokesman John Paulk: Ex-Gay For Life?

PQ Monthly posted an article about John Paulk. Paulk and his wife, Anne Paulk, were big-name professional ex-gays back in the mid-90s. They founded and led a traveling ex-gay road show called "Love Won Out" along with Focus on the Family. He was also one of Exodus International's leaders for a while. He and his wife were trotted out quite often as examples of how gay men and women can (and should) turn away from homosexuality. Their stories were also used as reasons for why LGBT people should have our personal right curtailed.

Then in 2000, Paulk got caught (and photographed!!) hanging out in a Washington DC gay bar. First, he denied he was there. Then he said he was just looking for the bathroom. It became clear to everyone -- including his bosses within Focus on the Family -- that Paulk was struggling a bit with the whole ex-gay thing. After that, he was required to travel with a chaperone while on speaking gigs. He was taken off the Exodus International advisory board. Within a year, he stopped pretty much all public ex-gay speaking programs.

Eventually, he relocated to Portland, OR, and opened a fairly successful catering business that markets itself to the local LGBT communities. I'd already heard rumblings about this business and wrote about it and Paulk in this blog article.

Which brings us back to the PQ Monthly piece, which talks about his complicated relationships with the Portland LGBT communities and his pretty public ties to the international ex-gay community. John Paulk responded to the article with an email response, where he denounces ex-gay programs:
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.
John Paulk still hasn't come out as ex-ex-gay, but he has now denounced the program that he helped nurture for the first decade of my adult years.

My biggest beef with Paulk's statement is his use of the word "misconstrued." What has been misconstrued about the words that Paulk used when he co-wrote his Love Won Out book or when he spoke to audiences time after time or when he shared his false testimony on radio and television programs? There was nothing misconstrued about Paulk's words. As it is written, Paulk is just trying to avoid true accountability for his past words and actions.