A former, leading figure of a prominent ‘ex-gay’ organization has announced he is marrying his male partner next year. He’s also apologized for the work he did in trying to persuade others they could change their sexuality.
Randy Thomas was formerly the Vice President and spokesperson for the now-defunct Exodus International. The organization, which ran from 1976 until 2013, advocated for conversion therapy, encouraged gay people to deny their true selves and lobbied politicians to vote against LGBTQ rights.
As a lobbyist for the group, Thomas worked with major right-wing figures and conservative organizations, including the Arlington Group and DC Group. He advocated against same-sex marriage and hate-crime legislation. He says his work brought him into contact with the likes of Mike Pence, Karl Rove and Kellyanne Conway.
After Exodus International closed down – primarily because it failed to turn any gay people straight – Thomas revealed in 2015 his attraction to men had never really gone away, despite years of celibacy, praying and 23 years of involvement with Exodus.
Thomas has given a video interview to Truth Wins Out, in which he looks back upon his life, his reasons for working with Exodus International, and his regret about some of his past actions.
Joining him in the video is his partner, Dan Scobey. The two men live in Florida, where they founded a non-profit organization, Thrive LGBTQ+, to foster acceptance and counter the “ex-gay” industry.
In the video, Thomas talks about why he “betrayed” the gay community through his former work.
“It’s a hard thing to think about, but I’m glad that the blinders have now been ripped off, and I now of course support full marriage equality, and I’m going to marry a dude next year!”
Thomas grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. His family threw him out of his home for being gay. Being thrown out was an experience he describes as, “one of the most traumatic experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”
Thomas’ mom told him would burn in hell and had to leave home immediately. He ended up living in his car and contemplating suicide, but was later taken in by a local drag queen (“God used a drag queen to save my life”) and threw himself on to the gay party scene and drug-taking.
Thomas then suffered a hate crime attack, when he was beaten by two men at a party.
The incident impacted his mental health. He moved in with an aunt in Texas and, in an effort to address his drug use, became involved with an evangelical church. This is when he became interested in the “ex-gay” movement. This led to him joining Exodus International meetings, which at first appeared to offer him emotional support. It was support Thomas needed and craved. However, it came with a catch. He was expected to work to change his sexuality.
“The false sense of community and acceptance that I experienced there was the first time I’d ever really felt accepted. It did not take long after I joined … to kind of put on the identity of being a former homosexual. And I found my voice, and I shared my story, and people were crying and sharing how impactful it was.”
He went on to rise within the organization’s ranks.
“Being a national spokesperson, looking back on it was traumatic. At first, I thought it was fun. I thought it was exciting… [but] I knew in my heart of hearts that what I was saying wasn’t true.”
Thomas talks about his work with politicians.
“It was just a rush to have these high profile people wanting us to join them in their public policy pushes. I went and met with Rick Santorum in his office and I gave this big emotional testimony, and thanked him for his righteous stand… and for a senator to walk over, put his hand on my shoulder, and say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here’, was powerful.”
Now, reflecting on the things he was campaigning for, Thomas says, “I don’t know how I was ever that person. It was horrible.”
He now says the things he campaigned for, and the situations he got himself into via Exodus, were “dysfunctional” and “awful”. He gets tearful at how he “betrayed” his community.
Thomas also talks about how proponents of religious-fueled conversion therapy get their hooks into people who are seeking to change themselves.
“In the ex-gay world, cognitive dissonance is an everyday way of life, and you’re taught how to respond to the dissonance with words of faith, like ‘I struggle but this is my cross to bear, this is the thorn in my side, this is what all honest Christians have to put up with’. So even though you know in your heart that it’s not working, you’re not changing, there’s an excuse for it.”
He goes on to apologize to those harmed by the “toxic theology” of groups such as Exodus, theology he once promoted.
“I’m very sorry. And if you’re angry and can’t forgive me, I get it. I’m angry and can’t forgive myself for some things. I’m not trying to convince you to like me, but I hope you accept my sincere apology. And now that I know better, I’m going to do better.”
To those who may think they can change their sexuality, Thomas now says: “It is a lie to say you cannot be a happy, healthy, whole and faithful LGBTQ person … In your heart of hearts, embrace who you are, and that’s where your freedom is.”