I recently read an eye-opening article by an ex-ex-gay entitled, To Straight and Back. The author, John Paulk, now a food caterer in Portland, Oregon, related his journey from being gay to being straight to being gay again. The article was framed around a recent statement by a possible Republican presidential candidate:
“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” (Texas Gov. Rick Perry, June 12, 2014)
John Paulk told how he became despondent and almost suicidal when he was in his mid-20s. He went to a campus pastor at Ohio State University and said, “God can’t love me because I’m gay.”
The pastor stated that God could love Paulk, but that God would not be pleased with him if he continued in his gay lifestyle. Young Paulk wanted to please God.
So, Paulk joined Exodus, a ministry that believed gays could be changed through strong determination and a relationship with Jesus Christ. He went through a year-long residential program called “Steps Out of Homosexuality.” The twelve-man group lived together, ate together, attended church together, and studied the Bible together.
At Exodus, Paulk met Anne, a former lesbian. They fell in love, were married, and had three sons.
The couple wrote a book: Love Won Out: How God’s Love Helped 2 People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other. Paulk became a manager and speaker for Focus on the Family’s Homosexuality and Gender Division and also Chairman of the board for Exodus International.
In 2000, all of this came crashing down, when John Paulk was photographed leaving a gay bar in Washington, D. C. He then dropped out of sight, hoping to protect his family and start a new business in Portland.
But Paulk couldn’t shake his loneliness. He went to a Christian therapist who told Paulk that he was “on a journey of self-discovery” and that he didn’t have to change fundamentally who he was to be acceptable to God. Paulk embraced the therapist’s words and became a gay again.
As long as this widespread misunderstanding in the straight world about homosexuality persists, that it is a choice or a “lifestyle,” as Perry put it, not only will we never be fully accepted by society, some of us will remain unable to accept ourselves. It’s internalized homophobia: you hate what you are. It is a form of self-inflicted torture that has haunted me my entire life, and I do not want young gay women and men today to go through what I went through. I want to tell them—and Rick Perry: We are not broken, damaged, inferior or throwaways. We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else. (To Straight and Back, Politico Magazine, June 19, 2014.
My series is not written to criticize John Paulk − in fact, may the Lord bless him and his family − but it is written for us Christians to understand where gays are coming from and what we need to do.
(Continued in Part 2)