For over a decade, John Paulk was the poster boy of the ex-gay motion. As a self-proclaimed transformed homosexual guy fortunately married to his spouse, an ex-lesbian named Anne, he manufactured numerous media appearances, spoke at Exodus conferences, and publicly advocated for “gay reparative therapy” for “broken” homosexuals. But in 2013, he reached a position where by he could no longer proceed dwelling a lie. He tells the story of his journey in a new Netflix documentary, Pray Away.
Paulk arrived out when he was a senior in substantial school, and his family members accepted him, he writes in a 2014 Politico piece. But around the age of 24, he became depressed, which he attributed to his sexuality. “In truth, I was enormously insecure, lonely and hunting for an identity,” he clarifies. At the time, he was attending Ohio Point out, and turned to the campus pastor for assistance. The pastor released him to Exodus, a ministry in California primarily for gay men and women who wished to be transformed and come to be straight for spiritual good reasons. Paulk right away signed up for a year-extensive residential plan called “Steps Out of Homosexuality,” in which he lived with 12 other people today, studied the Bible, and went to church. It was at Exodus that Paulk fulfilled Anne, an ex-lesbian on a similar journey to him.
The two married in 1992 and started owning youngsters. John turned chairman of the North American division of Exodus and a long term figurehead of the group on the planet phase, as Netflix’s documentary reveals. The pair was on the deal with of Newsweek in 1998, and designed appearances on Television exhibits including Oprah and 60 Minutes. “Even as I pursued this career as a skilled ex-homosexual guy, and elevated a family members and liked my spouse, I was in utter torment,” Paulk wrote in 2014. “I struggled off and on with habit and wanting to get my daily life…I wanted my homosexuality to alter, but the truth of the matter is: For all my public rhetoric, I was hardly ever 1 bit fewer homosexual.”
In 2000, the facade commenced to crumble. Paulk acquired drunk and wound up at a homosexual bar in D.C., as he recounts in Pray Absent. “I was not searching for sex. I just desired to be among my possess form, to feel at home, for a transient interval,” he wrote of the night time, which turned a scandal in his conservative circle. He was photographed and pressured to resign from Exodus following the news broke.
In 2003, he moved his loved ones to Oregon to dwell a lifetime absent from the public eye. Paulk went to culinary faculty and became a chef, opening up a catering business enterprise in Portland. He was however residing his everyday living as a heterosexual man, and his spouse Anne nevertheless considered in the ex-homosexual movement, but he only got more lonely as the decades went by.
In 2013, the founders of Exodus ended up forced to confront and acknowledge the significant injury their “conversion therapy” had prompted over the yrs, and the ministry closed down for very good. That exact calendar year, Paulk divorced his wife, and came out yet again as a gay person. He issued a assertion apologizing to those his preaching experienced harmed around the a long time, way too. “I know that many people today ended up harmed by matters I mentioned and did in the past, ” Paulk wrote. “I am really, truly sorry for the soreness I have prompted. For 25 many years I felt responsible and filled with self-loathing, seeking to reject this element about myself. I’m culpable—I distribute the concept that my sexuality had modified, and I utilized my relationship as evidence of that.” Paulk’s ex-spouse Anne continues to be component of the ex-gay movement today via the Restored Hope Network, an firm that cropped up in the wake of Exodus’ dissolution to “serve these who want to overcome sinful relational and sexual concerns in their lives and those impacted by homosexuality,” their web-site states.
Like John Paulk, a lot of ex-leaders of Exodus which includes the founders of the ministry recount their trauma, the hurt their programming caused, and their honest regret for that period of their life in Pray Absent. “It’s internalized homophobia: you despise what you are. It is a sort of self-inflicted torture that has haunted me my total life, and I do not want younger homosexual women and adult males today to go by means of what I went through,” Paulk wrote in 2014.
Nowadays, Chef John Paulk owns Mezzaluna, a catering small business, in Portland, Oregon, in which he life proudly and overtly as a homosexual person.
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