Exodus International, the most well-known of the “ex-gay” advocacy organizations, announced yesterday that it’s “shutting down” and the president of the organization issued a public apology to “the people that have been hurt by Exodus International.” I’ve written about my experience in the ex-gay movement before but I’ve had a hard time formulating a response to this latest news.
The immediate and most obvious reaction is one of relief. The ex-gay message has been thoroughly discredited and has harmed thousands of LGBT and questioning men and women, many of them teenagers. So it’s good to see Exodus and its president publicly disavow it and apologize for the harm they have done by selling it.
But my next reaction was of concern. I was lucky in that it didn’t take me long to realize that reparative therapy was a sham. But what about the thousands of LGBT men and women who have invested years of their lives and hundreds or thousands of dollars on Exodus’ conferences and literature? What about the young people undergoing reparative therapy right now? My heart aches for those people, knowing the sense of betrayal they must feel today.
And my final reaction was one of suspicion. While I appreciate Alan Chambers’ apology, it doesn’t make me trust him. I think the appropriate course of action would be to apologize, shut down the organization, and then perhaps spend some time humbly reflecting on the damage to the world that I have caused and the responsibility I have to try to correct it. I don’t think I’d wait to make my announcement until my annual conference, for which I charge attendees hundreds of dollars to attend. I almost certainly would not forge ahead with the conference, continuing to assert myself as a trusted authority on the subject of what’s best for LGBT people. I definitely would not start up my new organization on the same day I shut down the old one. I think I’d probably take down the pages on my site that solicit donations.
I accept Alan Chambers’ apology as someone who was hurt by Exodus’ actions in the past. I’m glad that they’re no longer trying to sell Christianity to gay people by claiming to be able to fix them. But I’m not much more optimistic about them trying to sell Christianity to gay people by claiming to love them just the way they are.