HALF TRUTH

Has Ex-Gay Poster Boy John Paulk Finally Admitted He’s Gay? And Do We Have To Take Him?

As the public face of the ex-gay movement, John Paulk has a lot to answer for. He and his wife Anne were ubiquitous in the 1990s, arguing that they overcame homosexuality, so everyone else can too.

The only problem is that John kept backsliding — a lot — most notably when he was photographed in a gay bar in D.C. in 2000. That damaged his reputation enough that his star among Christian right fell, and he and Ann repaired to Portland, OR, to start a restaurant business. There, stories about John’s proclivities continued to circulate, thanks to in-depth reporting by Truth Wins Out.

Now Paulk has supplied email responses to an article in PQ Monthly that sound kinda-sorta like a coming out.

“Until recently, I have struggled all my life in feeling unloved and unaccepted,” Paulk said. “I have been on a journey during the last few years in trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others. During this journey I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people including people who are close to me. I have also found a large number of people who accept me for who I am regardless of my past, any labels, or what I do.”

Paulk continued, “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued. I have worked at giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live. I am working hard to be authentic and genuine in all of my relationships.”

Besides the standard “mistakes were made” nature of Paulk’s apology — misconstrued? How about correctly interpreted as meant to inflict harm? — this is further than he’s gone in the past. Of course, having a high-profile business in a very gay-friendly city does add a layer of pressure that pure moral force apparently can’t.

“It is not enough to simply send an email that says, ‘I’m sorry.’ John Paulk must work to atone for the damage he has done to LGBT families by taking a public role in renouncing and working against the harmful ‘ex-gay’ industry by embarking on a speaking tour to show that he truly has changed,” Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out argues. (Besen was the one who took Paulk’s photo in the D.C. bar a decade ago.)

Meanwhile, life with Mr. and Mrs. Paulk has all the makings of a sitcom. While he’s on the hunt for pretty boys to work at his catering business, she’s still a star on the religious right speaking circuit. Ah, those zany ex-gays!