There's a new ex-gay org on the block, kids.
Exodus International, formerly the nation's oldest ex-gay org, folded in 2013, and finally admitted that ex-gay therapy doesn't work. Their leader even apologized "for the 'pain and hurt' Exodus had caused." This new ex-gay org calls itself "Equipped To Love" and their tagline is "nothing is impossible with God." (So I'll keep trying then.) And just in time for Pride, Equipped To Love is rolling out a
shiny hateful new ex-/anti-gay campaign called "Once Gay." They've got a slick website and an Instagram account that appropriates the Pride flag. Because that's what Jesus would do. If Jesus was an asshole.
Anyway, ETL's slick-and-hateful website features testimonials from men and women who've managed to escape the homosexual lifestyle with the help of—spoiler alert—Jesus Christ. So they're pushing the same garbage they've always pushed because garbage is all they've got. (Garbage and a small and very sad collection of self-hating re-closeted cases.) People become gay because they were molested as children or seduced by adults when they were teenagers? Lots and lots of that.
And, of course, lots and lots of slutty, slutty gay men...
"I began identifying as gay, and I found a lot of confidence in being accepted by the gay community. I started drinking, doing drugs, and being promiscuous at an early age. Then I started to drink more and do more drugs until I was having a lot of blackout nights and not remembering on the next day what I had done the night before. I was having multiple sex partners without using protection, and I was seeking men through outlets that weren’t safe." — Andrew Medina
"In 2006, I was fresh out of college. I had a career in musical theater in New York City. I was gay-identified, and I was sexually addicted. I went to auditions, occasionally did shows and regularly dated men. I was sexually involved with other men and had many one night stands, through Craigslist or other ways. I was in relationship after relationship that failed and had hookup after hookup that just made me feel bad about myself and the choices I was making. But it was what all my friends were doing. It was just life." — Andrew Franklin
"My life as a homosexual was pretty chaotic. There were certainly some high points when I was living in sexuality and bartending at a gay bar, but for the most part, the lows were extremely low, and there were many of them. The more I continued to live in homosexuality and identify as a gay man, the more unstable my life became. I was using a lot of alcohol, sex and other types of distractions in order to just cope with life. I would say that my life was going out of control. I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety." — Garry Ingraham
There's nothing religious conservatives like more than stories about slutty, slutty gay men having tons and tons of meaningless, soul-deadening, hole-wrecking sex. And you know what? It is possible for gay men to have tons of sex. Gay men can have too much sex. Anonymous and/or one-off sex doesn't have to be meaningless or squalid or hole-wrecking, of course, but gay men are men and men can be pigs. As I've long said: straight men would do everything gay men do if straight men could but straight men can't because women won't. And it's not that women are any less horny then men—women can be pigs too—it's just that women have to factor in sexual violence, the risk of pregnancy, and slut-shaming before deciding to jump into bed, bush, or backroom with someone they just met.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that these testimonials are real and that Andrew, Andrew, and Garry are actual people who left the gay lifestyle. Like the original ex-gay poster boy John Paulk—he was the ex-gay who appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 1998 with his ex-lesbian wife (and who went on to serve on the board of Exodus International)—Andrew, Andrew, and Garry have sad and squalid stories to tell. Paulk told eerily similar stories about the years after he came out: too many bars, too many drinks, too many dicks.
Ex-gay guys: it's always the hoes, isn't it? Every last ex-gay guy featured at Once Gay—if these guys exist—either believes or is willing to pretend to believe that he had only one choice: gay and ALL THE DICKS or straight and no dicks at all. Yeah, no. That's what we call a false choice. Because it's possible for a man to be gay and spend his entire adult life nibbling on just one dick. But in the ex-gay narrative beloved by religious conservatives, gay sex is meaningless and dehumanizing. Gay men are addicted to dick and we can't control ourselves. Only straight sex is meaningful and only straight people are capable of intimacy.
It's easy to laugh at the ex-gays and their stupid slogans and their false choices. But it's important to remember that gay people aren't the target audience for these campaigns. The religious right isn't attempting to save us from ourselves. This is about weaponizing a small handful of self-hating homos and using them to convince straight people that gay people don't need to exist. That we can change and should change and would change if only we weren't so stubborn and so very addicted to dick. It's a dangerous argument because it's just a couple short hops from "these people don't need to exist" to "they don't deserve to exist" to "let's end this faggot's existence." It's exterminationist rhetoric, it's eliminationist homophobia.
So whatever happened to ex-gay poster boy, author, speaker, and activist John Paulk anyway? You'll never guess.