In a poignant blog post, Exodus International president Alan Chambers announced yesterday that the ex-gay ministry was shutting its doors, conceding that “reparative” therapy for gay people is ineffective and unhealthy. Chambers’ note took the form of an apology for the “shame,” “false hope,” and “trauma” he caused would-be converts, pleading for forgiveness from “ex-gay survivors”:
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents... I am sorry that I...failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry...that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.
Chambers’ post was accompanied by an extensive monologue of self-reproach on Our America with Lisa Ling.
Exodus was founded in 1976 on the premise that homosexuality could and should be changed. The ministry did not conduct conversion “therapy” itself, though it did provide resources to those seeking “ex-gay” counseling. Last year, however, Chambers hedged on the group’s pro-conversion position, instead suggesting that same-sex desires should simply be stifled, and that all gay people should be either closeted or celibate. (Chambers, who is “ex-gay” himself and is married to a woman, admits that he still feels same-sex attractions.)
Organizations like Exodus have come under fire in recent years, as both scientists and sociologists have demonstrated beyond doubt that ex-gay conversion is impossible, and that any attempts are extremely detrimental to gay people’s health. Robert Spitzer, the psychiatrist who first popularized the idea, has since repudiated his own work and apologized. The practice has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association, which has found that that such “therapy” seriously increases patients’ risk of suicide, depression, anxiety, and PTSD. And as scientists collect heaps of evidence that homosexuality is an inborn biological trait, the mere notion of changing one’s sexual orientation seems like an increasingly lost cause.
With Exodus shut down, the ex-gay movement has lost arguably its most public proponent, one of the last dams against the tide of public opinion currently swelling in support of gay people’s right to live openly. Exodus’ affiliate churches, however, will live on (minus the Exodus brand), and conversion “therapy” will persist across the country—at least, where it’s still legal.
For an inside look at conversion “therapy,” read Gabriel Arana’s personal account of his “ex-gay” experiences.