When It's Time To Change

Ex-Ex-Gays: Meet The People Who Tried To “Cure” You


This is a strange, exciting, harrowing time to be a gay American. There is change coming at an almost frightening pace. The Supreme Court will potentially codify gay marriage in the next few days. Our president is enthusiastically supportive of the gay community. Gay Americans are serving openly in our armed forces. Even that last redoubt of testosterone-fueled intolerance, organized sports, is coming around. What’s up with this sea change of acceptance? The Internet? Our time and place on the arc of history? Smash?

It’s hard to say, but one more indicator may be the most remarkable of all: the Ex-ex-Gays. We told you about the notorious ex-gay ministry Exodus International shutting down this week. President Alan Chambers’ (pictured) posted apology was notable not just for its sincerity, but for the Christian values he cites to justify their decision. This guy’s been to the mountaintop and says God does not, in fact, hate fags. Now that’s a sea change, like a parting of the Red Sea kind, that big.

Who’s next? We’ll see. In meantime, on the following pages find a list of other ex-gays, some who’ve who seen the light, and saw a rainbow, and some who haven’t — yet.


John Paulk

Ex-ex gay.

This guy was literally the face of gay conversion therapy when he appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 1998. A former male escort and drag queen, Paulk “converted,” got a job with Focus on the Family, headed up Exodus, cashed in with a book co-written with his ex-lesbian wife, got caught in a DC gay bar, was drummed out of both organizations and dropped out of sight, until April when he publicly disavowed gay reparative therapy, announced his divorce and came out again as gay. Credit Portland for his conversion, where’s a caterer now and can be as weird as he wants.


Ted Haggard

Half ex-ex-gay.

Not to be un-Christian about a “pastor,” but this guy’s either a confused douchebag or a lying one. His sexual soap opera has been the subject of an HBO doc, countless TV interviews from Oprah to Dateline (not the Predator edition, though there was the case of young Grant Haas, “masturbation witness”), even an appearance on Divorce Court. Haggard was a hugely popular evangelical pastor in Colorado until 2006, when a male escort alleged “Pastor Ted” had been paying him for sex and crystal meth for the previous three years. A few days later Haggard was out, of his job, that is. His wife stuck with him, he’s got a new ministry, and he told GQ a couple years ago: “”I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.” Yeah, we’ve all been bisexual, Ted.


Marcus Bachmann

Pre gay.

He’s the husband of former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michelle, a self-described Doctor of Psychology, and half owner of the couple’s “family” business Bachmann & Associates, a chain of counseling centers revealed to practice pray-away-the-gay therapy. And he’s the kind of guy you overhear at a dinner party or in the grocery store or on line for a movie and you go, “Oh, gay. Like, definitely.” He and his wife will tell you your gaydar is defective, but since there’s nothing wrong with being gay, thinking he is and saying so isn’t defamatory, and this isn’t England. Also, he’s said publicly he thinks gays are “barbarians” in need of deliverance. Closet case closed.


Michael Bussee (pictured) and Gary Cooper


Three years after Exodus was founded in 1976, two of the organization’s leaders, Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, left the group to be with each other! Married at the time, they left their wives and had a commitment ceremony in 1982. Featured in the 1993 doc One Nation Under God, the couple lived together until Cooper’s death from AIDS in 1991.


John Smid


Smid ran another ex-gay ministry, this one based in Memphis, called Love in Action. He’d left his wife in 1980 to be with guys, but had misgivings and tried to go straight again, balls out, by becoming a leading spokesman for conversion therapy. Methinks the lady doth protest too much. In 2011 he went ex-ex-gay, and admitted he “never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.” There you have it.


Peterson Toscano


The residential program at Love in Action was just one of the places Peterson Toscano looked to for help in his 17-year odyssey to escape the homosexual lifestyle. Since he came out as ex-ex-gay in 1998, the playwright-actor-activist has shared his experiences on stage and screen around the world in works like Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House, Queer 101—Now I Know My gAy,B,Cs, and Transfigurations—Transgressing Gender in the Bible. And he got married to a South African writer named Glen. Yay!


Christine Bakke


Along with Peterson Toscano, artist Bakke founded Beyond Ex-Gay in 2007, an online community for ex-gay survivors. Bakke spent four years trying to go straight through conversion therapy, pastoral counseling, discipleship counseling, the Living Waters program and something called Where Grace Abounds in Denver (which would make a great name for a dyke bar). In 2007 she got a splash in Glamour magazine where she recounted the horror of trying to get fixed: “This is where it happened. And after it was over, this is where I was on the floor crying.”

robert-spitzerRobert Spitzer

Ex-gay cure beard

This guy is/was one of the most influential psychiatrists around for a long time for lots of reasons, chief among them he was instrumental in getting the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 (good), and then for publishing a paper in 2001 that gave cover to gay reparative therapy advocates (bad). Last year Spitzer disavowed the paper, citing fatal flaws in his research techniques (how can you prove who someone is attracted to?). The now-retired shrink apologized “to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some ‘highly motivated’ individuals.” Class act.