John Paulk, known for being the face of “gay conversion therapy,” has announced that he is still gay despite claiming that he turned straight in the ’90s.
The former poster child spoke with the LGBT magazine PQ Monthly about what he has been up to recently, saying that his wife has left him and he is living life on his terms. Here’s what you should know about the former ex-gay leader.
1. Paulk Has Renouned the Ex-Gay Movement
John Paulk says he has given up the cause to changing people’s sexual orientation with the ex-gay movement. He said, “Today, I do not consider myself ‘ex-gay’ and I no longer support or promote the movement.” He renounced his beliefs in the therapy he helped create, saying that he is still a Christian who identifies himself as a gay man. He also said that he no longer receives money for his work at the ministry after leaving the practice 10 years ago. He added, “I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my ‘ex-gay’ story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.”
2. He Issued an Apology to the LGBT Community
Along with renouncing his involvement with the movement Love Won Out, he also gave an apology to the LGBT community for not accepting them for who they are and trying to change their sexual orientation. In a statement, he wrote,
Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.
3. His Estranged Wife is Praying for Him
John’s wife Ann responded to her husband’s interviews with the press that she and her husband were in the process of divorce. In a statement with the Restored Hope Network, she said:
Many of you already know, and some have yet to know, that John and I are in the process of divorce. I do pray the very best for John and I have a greater love and affection than can be expressed in words. He is the father of my children, the man with whom I spent the past 21 years building a life together. His conclusions and mine are very different in key ways. I would ask that you join me in praying for his decisions regarding his future, hope, God’s truest freedom, and love to direct his decisions. Please also pray for the boys and myself as we also find our way forward.
4. His Catering Business Serves LGBT Clients
Since leaving the movement in 2003, John Paulk has been working as a caterer in Portland, Oregon. He’s made a name for himself running Mezzaluna Catering, which he founded in 2005 with his wife. His client list has included the likes of Terry Bean, known for his national support of the LGBT community, as well as other politicians, local leaders, and nonprofit LGBT organizations. He also does cooking segments on TV and radio in Portland.
5. He was the Founder of an Ex-Gay Ministry
John Paulk was known for being the face of the ex-gay movement after he founded the ministry Love Won Out, which was launched by the organization Focus on the Family. After “overcoming” his homosexuality when he converted to Christianity, he was featured in Newsweek with his wife Ann talking about going straight and what he did to make it there. The 50-year-old went through counseling, group sessions, and prayers to identify himself as a heterosexual.
6. He Was an Author
John Paulk also conveyed his message on changing one’s sexual identity by writing two books. His first one, an autobiography called Not Afraid of Change, , talked about his sexuality and his struggles to change his sexual desires. His second book, Love Won Out, which he co-wrote with his wife, talked about their lives together fighting against their homosexual nature using their faith to overcome the struggles.
7. Back When He Was Still Ex-Gay, Someone Saw Him at a Gay Bar
From 1995 to 2000, John Paulk was the chairman of the nonprofit ex-gay Christian organization Exodus International North America. He became chairman of the board until a controversy occurred on September 19, 2000, when he was spotted at a gay bar in Washington, D.C., during a speaking tour. Wayne Besen of the Human Rights Campaign approached Paulk, but he denied being John Paulk. Wayne took a picture of him as proof that he was there. John then admitted being in the bar but only to use the restroom. It was later proven to be a lie when eyewitnesses said John stayed for more than an hour and flirted with other men. Paulk was later removed as chairman but remained with the organization until 2003.
8. Ann is Still Ex-Gay
Despite her husband’s leaving the ministry, Ann has been standing by her beliefs of changing a person’s sexual identity by the ministry that John helped create. Ann still remains supportive of the reparative therapy, according to PQ Monthly.
9. The Evangelical Network Responded Positively to John’s Apology
The Evangelical Network issued a statement about what Pauk’s apology means for the community, saying that it “will not erase the pain suffered by many Christian LGBT people who believed the false teachings which claimed through prayer, counseling, and group therapy that their sexual orientation or gender identity would change. This will take time.”
Todd Ferrell, president of the Christian-based network, said:
It was obvious that he had been on a journey toward self-acceptance as a Christian gay man. No doubt that has been a difficult journey. Many of us have struggled with self-acceptance. I am glad that he recognizes the hurt that he has caused people in the past and is willing to publicly apologize for his past stance opposing homosexuality, and diverse gender identities.
10. He Was an Escort and Drag Queen
While he was in college, John Paulk worked as a male escort and a drag queen, going by the name of Candi in the 1980s. John also worked as a manager for the chain restaurant Chocolat, run by the famous Alice Medrich.