Gays are now being faced with a new type of resistance by the more fundamentalist sects in America. This resistance disguised as a ministry is riddled with the promises of understanding and healing for those “in the bondage of homosexuality.”
The August (1977) issue of Christian Life kicked off an extensive series of articles taking the hyper-conservative stance on the issue of homosexuality. The article dealt with Christians who discover their child is gay and how they should cope with the situation. The author, though not listed, is Barbara Johnson, the founder of the Spatula Club, “a branch of the growing EXIT team – a group of Christian ex-gays who have developed a ministry to the gay community...” (1) According to Mrs. Johnson, the Spatula Club was so named “because parents have to peel themselves off the emotional ceiling when they first learn of their child's homosexuality...” (2)
Mrs. Johnson distributes literature to all who write her. One of the letters of advice she received and redistributes is from C. S. Lovett of Personal Christianity and deals with how she should handle the fact that her son David is gay. “I think we're on the right track in placing David in Satan's hand so that he can land in the pigpen as quickly as possible.” (3) Johnson says that learning of a child's gayness “is no simple problem...treat it as a real DEATH or GRIEF (emphasis hers¹) situation...it is worse than death to me....” (4)
In her article, she tells parents that they will become sick and experience nausea upon learning of a child's homosexuality. “Terminally ill patients often struggle with denial, anger and depression before they can accept their own approaching death...The reactions of a parent whose child has labeled himself a homosexual often parallel these initial traumatic reactions, but the emotional loss of a child to homosexuality is more far-reaching. It affects one with physical symptoms of anxiety – chest pains, nausea. It becomes a living grief with an uncertain end...” (5) The power of suggestion to confused parents is strong, especially to those from an emotionally based religious background. What qualifications does Johnson possess to give out her psychological analysis? According to an affiliate of EXODUS (a group of EXIT-like organizations), “Barb Johnson spoke one evening, admitting that her only qualifications were that she had accumulated a series of traumas that would destroy the average person.” (6)
Johnson's article strongly suggested that the author received the help she needed, emotionally and spiritually, from the Spatula Club. This club, however, did not even exist at the time of her own initial confrontation with homosexuality and was in actuality founded by the article's author. In a speech before an EXODUS conference, Mrs. Johnson went into great detail concerning her efforts to found this organization after she had dealt with the situation in her own family.
The Johnson article also indicates that her son is slowly being brought out of homosexuality. “Can a homosexual be 'cured?' We have seen answers to prayer with our own son.” (7) Mrs. Johnson discovered her son's homosexuality when he was 19 years old and yet she was still proclaiming his gradual cure four years later in the Christian Life article.
The article ends with two interesting statements. “The 'once-gay, always-gay' philosophy is a myth gay activists would like us to believe. But there is a way out. His name is Jesus...Now I know that if God can heal the blind and the deaf, He is able to heal the homosexual!” (8) Christian Life completed the article with a list of literature and organizations that help the homosexual find this promised miracle.
Exit in Case of Desire
On this list is EXIT. The first bit of literature that comes to an inquirer to EXIT is a small testimony from the founders Jim Kaspar and Mike Busse. Kaspar claims: “Too many people believe the old lie 'once-gay, always-gay.' But I can tell you that becoming ex-gay is very much a possibility. I know I've been changed...” (9) Busse writes: “People often ask how I got out of gayness. They're looking for ABC's, fail-safe steps, a simple 'how-to' procedure. I suppose that's the way our society operates. But I've come to feel that 'how' is far less important that 'who.' A living person, not a method makes me ex-gay.” (10)
The secret, according to the “ex-gay” gospel, is to live a celibate life from the conversion experience onward. “We hold firm the belief that He will lead us through this valley, give us the victory over homosexual desires and give us new life and a new walk that is within His will, even if it means remaining single and celibate...” (13) Accordingly, the heart of the problem facing the homosexual is “the attraction to the gay life as opposed to that of the celibate, Jesus-centered Christian homosexual.” (14)
Frank Worthen, alias “Brother Frank,” said: “I've become a celibate and learned to live happily. I have a contented, fulfilling life without sex.” (15)
Seeing everything in simplistic either-or situations is one base for many of their arguments. “You can continue in a homosexual lifestyle, pursuing all the various forms of emotional and physical experiences, exciting times, etc., and in the end whenever that moments comes, you are spiritually dead, apart from God, destined for eternity in Hell following God's Judgment of all mankind. Harsh? Fanatical sounding? Yes...but true. There is no other way to state it. That is the choice.” (16)
EXIT printed a letter they received from a desperate college student that read in part: “The world offers two alternatives to the gay crowd: a life of animalistic surrender to lust, or one of paranoiac role-playing. I found, however, that God offers a third choice – the only one with true promise of relief from this obsession.” (17) Totally ignored, is the fact that many gays have not surrendered to animalistic lust, nor are they in paranoiac roles. For instance, Evangelicals Concerned, which is theologically conservative, repudiates this EXODUS myth and proclaims that one can live a fully Christian life in a homosexual relationship. The material put out by such anti-gay groups as EXIT ignores the fact that love, and not lust, can be the basis for a gay relationship.
This position led Eagle Ministry, another EXODUS affiliate, to dedicate the second issue of its newsletter to an attack on Evangelicals Concerned and its founder, Dr. Ralph Blair. The author, Greg Reid, begins the attack by stating that what “I am attempting to do is to challenge E.C.'s non-exegetical dissection of God's Word.” (18) This is followed by an emotional attack on Blair; but not one sentence contains an exegetical study of any verse in Scripture. The author accuses Evangelicals Concerned of basing its theology on “subjective feelings, not God's Word.” (19) These statements are followed by a very emotionalistic, irrational type of logic: “I assert God condemns the homosexual act. Blair asserts it (sic) doesn't. The burden of proof is on him.” (20) The author failed to indicate why Dr. Blair must prove that homosexuals are not condemned. The burden of proof should rest on the one doing the condemning. Double talk of this variety is popular with EXODUS people. For instance, they say: “A homosexual, when not building up walls of self-defense will be the first to admit that 'gay' life is anything but gay.” (21) Because these “ex-gays” could not handle their orientation, they are repulsed by the fact that others can; instead, they claim if you're happy, you're pretending. The only honest gays, according to them, are those who wallow around in the mire of self-hatred.
One would think that after all the publicity these people have had, that success stories of converted homosexuals would be flooding the market. One constantly hears of the many who have been healed under the “ex-gay” ministries. Under public scrutiny, however, these “cures” vanish.
The Ex-Gay Closet
The Jesus People movement has jumped on the bandwagon of “curing” gays. Volume 6, Issue 39 of Cornerstone published by Jesus People, U.S.A., in Chicago, carried an article entitled “Cult of the Month—The Gay Church” attacking Evangelicals Concerned and the Metropolitan Community Churches. Unlike other gay change groups, with the exception of an organization known as Teen Challenge, Jesus People, U.S.A., claims that a person must become heterosexually oriented to be a Christian and that abstinence alone is not enough.
The ignorance that Jesus People, U.S.A. possesses concerning the issue of homosexuality is evident by the fact that one tract they distribute, “The Gay Life—A True Story” deals with a transsexual and not a homosexual. This anonymous testimony concerns someone who said: “My desires took over my reasoning. I wanted to be a woman. I thought like a woman, so why couldn't I be a woman?”
Cornerstone criticized Evangelicals Concerned for not mentioning the “fact” that 75% of the homosexuals who went to Teen Challenge for counseling were “cured.” When a letter requesting literature on “curing” homosexuals was sent to Teen Challenge, Don Wilkerson, the organization's director, responded: “Unfortunately, there is very little printed material available on counseling homosexuals.” Wilkerson, instead, sent a copy of a book by his brother, the Center's founder, Dave Wilkerson. Wilkerson's book contradicts the Cornerstone by saying that in counseling gays: “There are minimal results, compared to the results of counseling other types of people.” (22) Wilkerson, in a previous book, Parents on Trial, said: “It is not necessarily true that once a youth has become a homosexual, nothing can be done about it, but it is true that the rate of cure is very low.” (23)
In 1971, Tyndale House published The Marriage Affair, which included a chapter by Wilkerson entitled “Homosexuality Begins at Home.” One would assume that if Teen Challenge is so successful at “curing” homosexuals, their knowledge of the subject would be extensive. Wilkerson's statements, instead, reveal his extensive ignorance of the subject. According to the article, “probably 50% of all suicides and homicides in a big city can be attributed to homosexuality...Crimes of arson and theft have often been linked directly to homosexuality. There is always the danger of alcoholism. One psychologist has gone so far as to say: 'Not every alcoholic is homosexual, but every homosexual is alcoholic.'” Also, the article claims that for every one case of VD reported, two were not “and that these two were cases of venereal disease contracted by young people consorting with older homosexuals.” Wilkerson also repeats the statistically repudiated myth that “the greatest threat hat homosexuals impose upon our society is the seduction of children.” (Teen Challenge is another group on Christian Life's recommended list.)
One of Wilkerson's most recent pronouncements on the subject appeared in his article The Coming Purge; the Homosexual Church Will Be Cast Out. Proclaiming that a great purge is coming, Wilkerson points out that the two things that will be destroyed in the purge are rock music and the “homosexual church.” Wilkerson also claims in the article “for the past ten years, we have helped finance a home for homosexuals.” The home Wilkerson refers to, however, was only in existence for six years.
A Different Graduation
Disciples Only, the home of which Wilkerson wrote, was directed by Roger Grindstaff in Saugerties, NY. Grindstaff has produced a cassette tape set, “Deliverance From Homosexuality,” which sells for $19.95. According to a promotional order form, “proceeds from the sale of the set will go to this ministry to homosexuals.”
Teen Challenge, in Chicago, said that they do not counsel homosexuals any longer and tell all those requesting help to go to Saugerties. “Once we heard about this program, it's so much easier to send people there if they really want help.” (24) For local counseling in the Chicago area, they suggested Jesus People, U.S.A., who had originally suggested Teen Challenge.
An interview with Mrs. Grindstaff revealed that Disciples Only is no longer in existence and will probably not be restarted. In the program's six years of existence, Grindstaff said 26 people “graduated.” She claims twenty of them have not fallen back into homosexuality, however she admitted, “some of them were what we call bisexual, I suppose.” She also admitted that some of them had been married or had girlfriends, but insisted that this was only a cover-up for their homosexuality prior to counseling. Despite her acknowledgment of this fact, she uses marriage as an indication of successful cure for a few Disciples Only graduates.
When asked how recent her figures were concerning the twenty whom she claimed are now heterosexual, Grindstaff replied: “I don't hear from them all, all the time. I'd have to write each one of them and say 'Have you ever fallen since you graduated?' The ones who graduated five years ago, we don't have a raving correspondence with.” Grindstaff also admitted that five times as many people have come to the Center for short periods of time, but left uncured.
Grindstaff took the stance that the condition of homosexuality itself is a sin and that only by being reoriented to heterosexuality does a person become “ex-gay.” Celibacy is not enough because: “We said it, not repression or abstinence; that's just repressing your desires, abstaining; that sooner or later, it's going to come out.” (25)
During the interview, she admitted that Disciples Only believed a person could not be a homosexual and a Christian at the same time. When asked if heterosexuality were a prerequisite to, or an outcome of, salvation, Grindstaff calmly replied: “outcome.”
No psychologist worked on the Disciples Only staff. According to Grindstaff, her husband is qualified enough because of “the authority given him by God, his knowledge of people, and his own deliverance.” (Mr. Grindstaff supposedly is a “cured” homosexual.) Her own qualifications, she said, are: “I had formal training as an English teacher.”
Grindstaff explained that “cured” homosexuals “gave us evidence (of their 'cures') by their confession of faith and by a feeling which you had, a spiritual intuition, if you want to call it that, that they were ready to graduate.
Anita and the Cure
One of the newest entries into the “gay cure” ministry is Anita Bryant. “Everywhere I go,” says Bryant, “I share hope for the homosexual because I've led several homosexuals to the Lord myself. I've seen a change in their lives and a deliverance from the homosexual lifestyle.” (26)
As evidence of Bryant's success in curing homosexuals, Flemming H. Revell, publishers of her book, is distributing a letter she received from someone “cured” under her ministry. The letter reads in part: “After listening & keeping up with your campaign, I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ. The Lord came into my heart & I gave it all to Jesus. He forgave me for my past & know (sic) through spiritual growth and counseling, I live a spiritual, moral, heterosexual life.” This “delivered homosexual” has, he admits in the first paragraph of his letter, never engaged in a homosexual act. (28)
A dialog between this writer and Anita Bryant's husband, Bob Green, also sheds some light on what Bryant means when she claims she is curing gays.
Q. Your wife mentioned that she has led a number of homosexuals to Christ and that they are now “ex-gays.”
A. There was one last night, as a matter of fact.
Q. Do you know exactly what she means by “ex-gay?”
A. Somebody, who was a homosexual, who is no longer a homosexual.
Q. The “ex-gay” movement says that an “ex-gay” is somebody who no longer commits sexual acts, even though they may have the desire to.
A. Well, I, okay that's, yeah, that's kind of, let's say I'd have to think about that. I would say that we all have in us sinful thoughts and desires.
Q. So an “ex-gay” may be somebody who is only living a celibate life?
A. I suppose, yeah. I think, according to our beliefs, I believe that when somebody is delivered from the sin of homosexuality he becomes a new creature. And I know a lot of ex-homosexuals we've met, the press will put them on the spot and say: “Well, you say you're not a homosexual; are you a heterosexual?” and they say “No” because there is a point, it seems to me, I'm not an expert, that there is a whole point there of, they're not a homosexual, they're not a heterosexual. It's not like all of a sudden you can, you know when we were kids we used to say you could straighten out the homosexual, just fix him up with a girl and overnight he'll become a heterosexual. Well, that's not true, but I think it takes a lot of prayer, a lot of love, and a lot of fellowship and staying close to them. And I think that the persons who minister to the ex-homosexual have to be ready for a lot of disappointment, because there is a lot of backsliding, but then they'll come back. You have to be very patient with them.” (29)
The Cause: Mom, Dad, or the Devil?
Christian Life, in the same issue as Johnson's Spatula article, suggested individuals contact New Wine Magazine for their article “Homosexuality.” The article is a rehash of the fundamentalist summing up of the cure method: “After the repentance and denunciation of the sin of homosexuality, the demonic spirit associated with it may be commanded to leave the person's life in the name of Jesus.” (30)
This article contains a very blatant, but interesting, contradiction. At one point, it states: “One of the root problems of the homosexual is often a life source that was tragically deficient in true authority. A domineering, pushy mother and a receding passive father – or, in some cases, a seemingly opposite pattern in an over-protective, coddling mother and a harsh hyper-critical father – will confuse the divine authority which was established in the home.” This, they claim, will “produce sexual role identity problems.” The contradiction comes in when one notices that earlier the article said: “The cruelest thing anyone can do to a homosexual is tell him he is a homosexual because of his parents, or genes, etc. If it is the parents fault, then there is no hope.” (31)
Drunk or Gay: What's the Difference?
Christian Life also suggested that those interested in helping to deliver gay people should contact the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. A request to this organization generated this response: “Thank you for your recent letter requesting information on counseling homosexuals. Enclosed is a brochure which deals not only with drug abuse, but with many life dominating problems.” Enclosed, was a small pamphlet entitled “What Do You Do When You Know That You're Hooked?” which deals exclusively with alcoholism and drug addiction. (32)
Did He or Didn't He?
Before Anita, the most well known of all the “ex-gay” ministries was Liberation in Jesus Christ, founded by Guy Charles, who claimed to be a delivered homosexual. Charles was widely recommended and referred to by fundamentalists as being proof of the validity of the “ex-gay” movement.
Liberation in Jesus Christ was a ministry of the Truro Episcopal Church, Fairfax, VA. Charles served as Executive Director and was the organization's chief spokesperson and counselor. However, on July 15, 1977, a press release from the organization said: “Munford Yates, Jr., President of Liberation in Jesus Christ, a ministry of healing for homosexuals, announced today the resignation of Mr. Guy Charles as Executive Director for personal reasons.”
According to the Virginia Churchman, “the breakup of Liberation involved charges against Charles...” Metro Gay News later wrote “reports also indicate that Charles was forced out after it was learned that he allegedly was taking sexual advantage of the male homosexuals who came to him for the 'cure.'” (33)
The Virginia Churchman also listed “an investigation by the national Christian newspaper, the National Courier...which had earlier run a 'miracle' feature about the ministry; questions about his counseling techniques; and an apparent hidden battle with his arch-foe, Ralph Blair, the head of a gay Christian group called Evangelicals Concerned” as being contributing factors in the abandonment of Charles' ministry.
According to Jan Franzen, an associate editor of Christian Life, Charles sent out a letter denying the charges. Franzen quoted Charles as saying “homosexuals are known liars.”
Love in Action or in Hiding?
Perhaps the most persistent of all the “ex-gay” ministries is the California-based Love in Action, founded by the Rev. Kent Philpott. Philpott is the author of two books on how gay people may be delivered. They are The Third Sex and The Gay Theology, both published by Logos.
His first book, The Third Sex contains interviews with three gay men and three lesbians who supposedly found deliverance through Philpott and his Love in Action. Of these six, perhaps the most active in the “ex-gay” ministry was the man identified as “Ted” in the book.
Ted has since become a vocal opponent of Philpott and the entire “ex-gay” movement. In an exclusive interview, Ted revealed exactly why he has chosen to speak out. “I wrote to people all over the United States (when involved with Love in Action) and the only comfort I could give them was to just hang on and God would someday undertake and deliver them. You see, I was really involved in that and now what I'm trying to do is correct some of the damage I've done, because now God has given me complete peace that it's okay to be gay and be a Christian.”
Perhaps one of the first questions a reader of The Third Sex might ask is what has happened to the six “ex-gays” since the publication of the book. Ted explained: “They have accepted the fact that they are gay. They are not cured by any means.” Ted also claims that two of the women in the book have moved in together and the third has moved back with her former lover.
Logos is pushing the Philpott book to Christian bookstores around the country with a promotional brochure that says: “Across America, homosexuals are campaigning for their rights. Not wanting to change, and indeed denying that they can, they are seeking acceptance for their heretofore hidden life styles.”
“What is the church's response to their demands? Can homosexuals ever change, or is that the way 'God made them?'” To show that gays can become “changed” and that “homosexuality is neither permanent nor hopeless,” they encourage bookstores to stock both of Philpott's books. “The Third Sex,” according to the brochure, “is graphic evidence that homosexuality can be changed.” This brochure was mailed to Christian bookstores all across the nation.
Logos publisher, Dan Malachuk, responded to a letter from this author about the deception Philpott's book encouraged by saying: “Your letter implies that all of the six people described in the book are still homosexuals. I do not believe that is true. Apparently, one of the individuals, who is named “Ted” in the book, has gone back into the gay life, but Kent Philpott tells me this is not true of the other five.” (34)
Philpott's number one man, “Brother Frank,” has said otherwise. In an April, 1977 letter, he wrote that two of the six believe “they can be gay and Christian” and that a third individual “is out of contact with us.” (35)
Ted has written a long letter to Malachuk, explaining in detail his situation and the truth about Love in Action. His letter reads, in part: “Because my life story is contained within the book and is inaccurately portrayed, I am requesting you withdraw the book from circulation immediately.”
Philpott, meanwhile, has come out with four new cases of cures to replace the six that were in his first book. One of the “cures” in this new book is David, a man who admitted being attracted to one woman for three years and finally ended up marrying an “ex-lesbian.” When Ted was asked about one of these “cures,” he said: “The girl I think you are referring to is bisexual. Now, this where a lot of people go wrong. There is one brother here in California claiming to be cured. Now, I knew him before he became a Christian. He was never totally gay; he was bisexual. I have known Christians and non-Christians who have made the change from being gay to non-gay without much trouble, but they were basically bisexual.”
The following is part of an extensive interview with Ted concerning Love in Action and his “deliverance” from homosexuality.
Q. What can you tell me about “Brother Frank?”
A. I don't like talking about people...but to this day; he is living with his old friend. This is why I got kicked out of Love in Action. People came to my home. They were there to get EXODUS off the ground and they all met at my house. Brother Frank was trying to explain what Love in Action was and some of the things we required of people who came into our group. He was saying that we recommended to everyone that they leave their lovers or their friends. He has done that to me and to other people, but to this day he still lives in the same home with his friend who he has lived with for years. They are still in business together. Frank is tempted everyday as of the last time I saw him, and Frank is not cured, although he's claimed it for many years.
Q. What can you tell me about Kent Philpott?
A. Kent Philpott and I were really close friends and I really loved that brother, and I still do. The only thing I can say is that Kent really needs a lot of prayer. Kent has many, many personal problems himself.
When the book first came out, I was behind Kent 100%. Kent had never been inside a gay bar and I've been in them all over the place, so Kent and I hit every gay bar in San Francisco. Kent was very impressed, because he thought there would be a bunch of drag queens. Kent, I think, has many, many personal problems and he really doesn't know what he's talking about. The thing that bothers me is that people are looking up to him as an expert, when Kent does not know anything about gay life. When we went to the gay bars, he did not believe it. He said: “I can see why it is so exciting.”
Q. Philpott claimed to cast a demon out of you. Could you recount what happened?
I was into spiritualism. You know, I tried everything because I was searching of an answer. I knew that I was gay all the time and that I could not be a Christian. So Kent knew this and said: “I'm afraid you have a bunch of demons in you.” I said I didn't know anything about that, but whatever he said. He said: “I think you're gay, too, aren't you?” I said I was. It kind of surprised me. He said, “I would like to perform an exorcism.” I said, “What are you talking about?” Then he said, “I'm going to get that demon of homosexuality out of you.”
I felt, well, whatever the Lord wanted from me, so I said it was okay. So he brought – this is really a trip – he brought a reporter, a Christian reporter, with him, with a tape recorder, to my houseboat. I didn't know what to expect. I was scared. I had a very uncomfortable feeling and so Kent came in and prayed over me. Thank goodness the tape recorder broke, because I didn't want anybody to hear what was going on.
So Kent came in, prayed a little bit, and began to speak in tongues. Then he said: “Sit in the middle of the room and relax.” I was trying real hard to relax. He said: “Just ask God to forgive you of everything you've done, anything that comes to mind. Ask God to forgive you.” Then I said: “Lord, I'm so sorry.” Then he put his hands on me and said in a loud voice: “Demons,” and he named the demons, “come out! Really, I didn't feel anything. And then when we were through, he said: “Isn't there something else?” I said: “I feel pretty good. I have asked God to forgive me of everything.” He said: “I think you should ask Him to forgive you of your homosexuality.” I said: “Lord, I'm sorry for being gay. Please forgive me.”
Then he tried to exorcise my gayness, but I didn't heave or vomit like he said a lot of people do.
Q. What effect did Philpott's book have?
A. We had a lot of young people read it and write us for help; some even came out here for the cure. Usually, Kent brought them to me and I'd talk with them. A lot of these guys who would come out here became so disillusioned. One was told to get clear of Marin County. Another kid was called a “flaming faggot” to his face. So many things have happened. God has laid it on my heart that something finally has to be done to stop this.
Electric Shock for Jesus
After running a series of articles on the gay lifestyle, the Minneapolis Star was challenged by “ex-gay” groups because “the article did not sufficiently emphasize the fact that gays can be helped or changed.” In response to the complaints, the paper ran another article in its November 25, 1977 issue entitled “Homosexual desire can be changed, counselors say.”
This article quoted Dr. William Backus of the Center for Christian Psychological Services in Roseville, MN. According to the article, the Center “has a treatment program for those wishing to change a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual one.”
Backus uses aversion therapy to train homosexuals to be heterosexual. According to Backus, his method “involves pairing thought and/or pictures of the problem object or behavior with a brief, but painful, electric shock, usually administered to the arm. This procedure is repeated many times until sexual interest and arousal are no longer associated with the fantasy or picture.” (36)
Perhaps the leading problem for those engaging in aversion therapy is the unwillingness of patients to go through the painful process. In the case of homosexuals, the problem is compounded by the fact that only a very small number homosexuals want to change their orientation. In a letter to this author, Backus wrote: “It is correct that I have done some treatment of homosexuals, but discouragingly little. For the most part, homosexuals who have inquired about treatment, upon discovering that it can be done, but involves some pain, decline and seek a less painful and also less-likely-to-succeed alternative.” (37)
Dr. Backus does not only use aversion therapy, but also teaches his patients how to act heterosexually. “If the person's overt behavior is kind of fruitcake-like stuff, you know, very fairy-like, we will try and get him to walk and talk like a man.” (38)
When challenged that mannerisms are a cultural aspect of sexual orientation, and not inherent in the orientation itself, he replied that this is true “but a person who flops his fingers around like a girl is much more likely to feel un-masculine than a person who learns to move the movements characteristic of a male. It is the same thing with sitting. If you teach or train the person with appropriate role behavior, you will assist him, because sexuality and gender are generally linked. If I feel like a man, I am going to feel much more sexually adequate than if I feel like a sissy or a girl. This has really done the trick for some people who haven't been able to make the adjustment.” (39)
After the glowing report on Dr. Backus in the Star, it was only natural to question him on success. When asked “How many homosexuals have you had go through your therapy?” he answered “If I were to reach for a round number, I could count only, acting out homosexuals, I wonder if I could come up with, well yes, I could come up with two or three. But we have had many more who have fantasized or who have at one time or another had a homosexual experience. Those are much more frequent, being bothered by it to the point they want to get rid of it.” (40)
When pressed for a number of those who fit this second category, Backus estimated their total at around twelve. Asked where he would place, today, those who have gone through therapy, he said “Well, today, I don't know where they are; I would have to place them on termination, somewhere where they were then and on termination they were for the most part, as far as I recall – I wish you had told me you were going to get into things like this. I should have expected it after what I wrote you. But most of them upon termination have little or no homosexual feelings. (One problem with aversion therapy is that the patient is often left with no sexual feelings at all, heterosexual or homosexual.) Now that's not a follow-up statistic; it's not as good as follow-up statistics; it is a well-known fact tat aversive conditioning, once completed, does not necessarily last without booster sessions.” (41)
Dr. C.A. Tripp, psychotherapist and author of The Homosexual Matrix, commented on aversion therapy thusly: “Aversion therapy is the name applied to no less than six different systems for trying to make a homosexual male 'aversive' to male partners...Although most such procedures have been carried out in respectable-sounding institutions, both in Britain and the United States, they are a professional embarrassment and a laughingstock. The usually entail giving the patient a number of jolts (at least one a day) until he says he is 'cured' – often to a doctor who is at that moment ready to order another needle or electric shock should the patient say he is not cured.” (42)
The Minneapolis Star article also mentioned another ministry know as Daystar Ministries. The organization's director, Larry Ballard, said: “The powers available in the Gospel will set people free from all forms of sin, including homosexuality.” (43) A direct inquiry to Ballard, however, brought this response: “Thank you for your inquiring about counseling homosexuals. I am sending you some literature which I feel would be very helpful to you in compiling your manuscript.”
“I am sorry to say that I am not able to put you in contact with an ex-gay for your research. The testimonies in the book I am sending you, however, should be a partial answer to your request.”
The book Ballard mailed out was the already discredited Philpott piece The Third Sex. Ballard was encouraging this author to use testimonies repudiated by those who made them. It is possible that he was unaware of the fact that all of the six testimonies in Philpott's book have quit Love in Action and are living quiet lives as gays. The book Ballard sent was a smaller edition of the same copy Philpott mails out. It appears to be a later edition and is less expensive. The only change is that the cover of the book now reads: “These six stories of how homosexuals were changed through Christ will help save your children.”
Pat Boone joined the supporters of the ex-gay movement in 1973 when he published Joy: A Homosexual's Search for Fulfillment. The book is a series of letters between a lesbian and Boone. The lesbian does claim to be celibate, but there is no indication that she becomes heterosexual. Five years later, Boone retitled the book Coming Out and re-released it. With the exception of a few new chapters and some very minor editing, the two editions are identical. Boone does add a couple of chapters by Greg Reid, who runs the ex-gay group Eagle Ministry. Reid admits that “being ex-gay doesn't mean I am heterosexual.” (45) He also said “I've come to know that the change is not from homosexuality to heterosexuality...I am an ex-homosexual, but I'm not heterosexual.” (46)
Boone also makes the same mistake that Jesus People, U.S.A. Did by confusing transsexualism with homosexuality. In his book, Boone includes the “cure” testimony of Perry Desmond: “a homosexual who had chosen a complete sex change operation to become the woman he 'always wanted to be.' He actually lived for a period of years, with apparent success, as a woman!” (47)
Kenneth Gangel, in his book The Gospel and the Gay, attempts to prove that homosexuality can be “cured” by telling the story of someone he calls “Billy,” who was imprisoned for arson. Gangel admits that “his homosexuality was not discovered until after his incarceration...” (48) Billy became a Christian and after leaving prison “he never returned to his homosexuality.” (49) and soon married. One of the most well-known facts about prison life is that a large number of prisoners engage in homosexual acts because no other outlet is available, but return to heterosexuality as soon as they are released. The vast majority of these persons are not homosexually oriented and therefore cannot be and were not cured of homosexuality. Since Billy's homosexual involvement was limited to an all-male environment and he returned to heterosexuality at the first opportunity, it certainly is erroneous, if not unethical, to claim he was “cured” of anything. It should be remembered that thousands of prisoners go through the exact same process of “cure” without religious conversion. Gangel has no evidence on which to base his claim that gay people can become heterosexual through Christ.
The greatest danger Gangel's position presents arises, not from his unfounded claims, but from his advice that “we certainly can learn form his (Billy's) story the tremendous need of a former homosexual to enter as soon as possible into a normal relationship with a member of the opposite sex – to see whether or not he or she can really establish a healthy marriage.” (50) Anyone who has dealt with homosexuals knows the danger of recommending marriage just to see if the gay person can do it. This is a scenario for failure and it is grossly unfair to the marriage partner. In instances like this, the spouse is treated as a panacea. This depersonalizes the spouse and makes them a means to an end instead of an end in themselves.
The Ex-gay Psychology
One supposed hindrance to change is masturbation. There is some controversy among “ex-gays” concerning this, however. One spokesperson for the movement called masturbation a “trap, and we keep falling into it...there are fantasies to contend with and what they do to you mental outlook. The fantasies are present. Any of us can stumble and fall, or make mistakes, but then we need to give these things to God to deal with.” (51) Disciples Only took the stand that masturbation was sin and that counselees who masturbated felt guilty because it showed that they hadn't trusted God.
The number of “ex-gays” who backslide into fleeting experiences in the gay community reaches almost 100%. A careful study of their own statements shows this to be true. Barb Johnson wrote in a letter that “(I) have to be honest with you because it is really a hurting process to help a gay...about two out of ten really come back...and they slip a lot...” (52) The March, 1977 Love in Action newsletter reported: “In the letters that I receive daily, I find that many are in the torturous process of trying to kill off that old lifestyle, but are losing ground, slipping back, losing all hope of a new life...” (53) One “ex-gay” in private admitted that he is still gay and only claims to be “ex-gay” for the ministry's sake.
The Wittenberg Door, an evangelical publication, carried an article entitled “A Christian Sociologist Looks at Homosexuality,” by Dr. Anthony Campolo. Dr. Campolo briefly discussed the “ex-gay” movement by saying: “One of my colleagues has claimed that he has no clinical evidence that homosexuals could have their sexual preferences changed. He argued that it is as inconceivable for homosexuals to consider a change in sexual orientation as it is for heterosexuals. Aside from one dubious case, I found that when homosexuals are converted, they become Christian homosexuals. I did find that bisexuals, on the other hand, tended to become exclusively heterosexual. This was particularly true among those who had a charismatic 'filling of the Spirit.'” (54)
Christian Life, in its October, 1977 issue, carried an article entitled “Case Histories of Deliverance” where they reported on six individuals who had demons cast out of them and were delivered from homosexuality. The first account is summed up thusly: “Where he is today in terms of spirituality, I do not know. I cannot speak for that.” Accordingly, the second case history shows someone who is still delivered, but does not give any details that would allow anyone to draw any clinical conclusions. The third person “was free and joyous for many months, until he met some homosexual friends who again ensnared him.” The last three cases are covered in a total of thirteen sentences and give no documentation at all. One of these cases is covered by the sum of twelve words.
Part of the “ex-gay” movement's psychological ignorance is indicated by their attempt to dichotomize homosexuality. They fail to recognize that homosexuality is more than genital in expression. They ignore the fact that homosexuality is just as equally vented, if not more so, emotionally as it is genitally. “Nearly every person who considers himself ex-gay,” according to EXIT, “has had as a part of the change process one very special Christian friend of the same sex.” (55) EXIT's Mike Busse described his change this way. “I meet a good, close, Christian friend; he was willing to let me be close to him and love him in a nonsexual way. This completely changed and challenged my ideas on love and sex in general. I had always confused the two. Here was someone loving me with Christ's love in a nonsexual way. I began to see maybe my need to be loved was not bad in itself. Maybe I could express that. Maybe I could get the love I needed without having it turn into a sinful situation.” (56)
Other “ex-gays” direct sexual energy into frantic religious activities. They separate themselves from all friends in the gay community. These organizations immerse the individual in their religious community and isolate them from past ties much in the same way as to cultic groups like the Unification Church.
Because “ex-gay” crusaders are dealing with a psychological issue, they create their own brand of psychology inconsistent with clinical data. Taking stands repudiated by more reputable psychologists, they hit gay people with false statements based on their own opinions. Because only gay peop0le who have problems accepting their orientation contact the EXODUS network, their literature is based on conclusions drawn from an unrepresentative section of the gay community. One such conclusion concerning gay people was published by the Seventh Day Adventist Church: “All previous self worth has been smashed to bits, so he (the gay person) isn't trying to preserve that part of him anymore...It is certainly understandable that a homosexual often resolves himself to a super-heavy plateau of self-pity. The more he evaluates his predicament, the more he becomes convinced that there is no way out of his sexual dilemma. Such a conclusion, once reached, is an enormous blow to the individual's self-respect and self-worth; so much so that it becomes relatively easy for the individual to escape into a fantasy world or non-reality or pseudo-reality quite unlike his previous 'straight' lifestyle.” (57)
“Ex-gay” organizations also ascribe to homosexuals, traits that are just as prevalent among heterosexuals. Gay people are accused, for example, of trying to “authenticate” their “identity by making up fictitious daydreams and fantasies often involving masturbation, and ultimately through overt sexual experience...” (58) What is not mentioned is that this is the exact process of sexual maturation that heterosexuals go through.
None of the “ex-gay” groups, meanwhile, can agree on the “cause” of homosexuality. EXIT says: “The homosexual is not merely a victim of circumstance. His own personal choices have a lot to do with the process of becoming gay.” (59) EXODUS supporter Christian Life contended in various articles that homosexuality is the result of demon possession. Eagle Ministries counters with the statement that “homosexuality is not demon possession, but a work of the flesh.” (60) The Christian Broadcasting Network, which is claiming responsibility for the deliverance of a few homosexuals, says, “Unthankfulness, vanity, passion and depravity are some of the steps that lead into homosexual bondage.” (61)
All in all, the “ex-gay” movement exists on a foundation of misleading claims directed, for the most part, not to gays, but to gullible heterosexuals without whose financial support the movement would collapse. It can be expected that the movement will slowly dissipate as, one by one, the false claims are held up to the light of public scrutiny. Slowly, perhaps in anticipation of the problems mentioned here, the movement is undergoing a metamorphosis in leadership positions. In its genesis, the movement was led by so-called “ex-gays,” however in recent years, leadership has increasingly been placed in the hands of heterosexuals.
Shortly after the first edition of this expose was published I was given a letter by a young man, Jack, who had attended Love in Action seeking a cure. He found the promises of change an illusion and chose to take his own life convinced that being gay was a sin. I published that letter in 1979 and included the text in future copies of this expose. I include it here as well:
This is the entire letter Jack left us.
"TO: Those left with the question, why did he do it?
"TO: Those left with the question, why did he do it?
"I loved life and all that it had to offer to me each day.
"I loved my job and my clients. "I loved my friends and thank God for each one of them.
"I loved my little house and would not have wanted to live anywhere else.
"All this looks like the perfect life. Yet, I must not let this shadow the problem that I have in my life. At one time, not to long ago, that was all that really mattered in my life. What pleased me and how it affected me. Now that I have turned my life over to the Lord and the changes came one by one, the above statements mean much more to me. I am pleased that I can say those statements with all the truth and honesty that is within me.
"However, to make this short, I must confess that there were things in my life that I could not gain control, no matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed.
"It is this constant failure that has made me make the decision to terminate my life here on earth. I do this with the complete understanding that life is not mine to take. I know that it is against the teachings of our Creator. No man is without sin, this I realize. I will cleanse myself of all sin as taught to me by His word. Yet, I must face my Lord with the sin of murder. I believe that Jesus died and paid the price for that sin too. I know that I shall have everlasting life with Him by departing this world now, no matter how much I love it, my friends, my family. If I remain it could possibly allow th
e devil the opportunity to lead me away from the Lord. I love life, but my love for the Lord is so much greater, the choice is simple.
"I am not asking you to sanction my actions. That is not the purpose of my writing this at all. It is for the express purpose of allowing each one who will read this to know how I weighed things in my own mind. I don't want you to think that, 'I alone,' should have been the perfect person, without sin. That would be ridiculous! It is the continuing lack of strength and/or obedience and/or will power to cast aside certain sins. To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can't keep is more than I can take. I feel it is making a mockery of God and all He stands for in my life.
"Please know that I am extremely happy to be going to the Lord. He knows my heart and knows how much I love life and and all that it has to offer. But, He knows that I love Him more. That is why I believe that I will be with Him in Paradise. "I regret if I bring sorrow to those that are left behind. If you get your hearts in tune with the word of God you will be as happy about my 'transfer' as I am. I also hope that this answers sufficiently the question, why?
"May God Have Mercy On My Soul."
"A Brother & A Friend."
I published this in a newsletter in July, shortly after I was invited to speak in San Francisco about the exgay movement—the year before I published the first expose of this movement, “Homosexuality and the Miracle Makers.”
At my talk individuals from the exgay group in question showed up and defended the suicide. They compared Jack’s death to the martyrdom (alleged) of St. Stephen. After the talk I received a letter from an “exgay” leader saying, “It’s good policy to always have proof of liable, (sic) slandrous (sic) states of defamation of character.” That was the last I heard from him.
Greg Reid’s “exgay ministry” was shuttered up and Reid disappeared. He later reappeared as a fundamentalist minister specializing in the equally bogus area of “ritualistic Satanic sexual abuse and the occult.”
Roger Grindstaff, who ran the exgay ministry Disciples Only, apparently had disappeared at the time of my interview with his wife. He was not available because he had left her and the ministry. Grindstaff moved to Rhode Island with a male partner and lived there until his death in 2010.
Anita Bryant and her husband divorced and she ceased all pretence of converting gays to heterosexuality. She admitted a problem with prescription medications, remarried and filed for bankruptcy at least twice.
Guy Charles left the exgay ministry and spent 21 years with his partner Mike Swislow, before his death in 2002, at the age of 78.
The most recent head of Love in Action was John Smid. Smid admitted that he was never exgay and further said, “Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
1. “Homosexuality. What Do Parents Do When They Discover Their Children Are Involved?” Christian Life, August 1977 p. 25.
3. C.S. Lovett, Letter to Barb Johnson, August, 1977
4. Undated letter from Barb Johnson to inquirer concerning the work of the Spatula Club.
5. Op.Cit., Christian Life, August, 1977.
6. Greg Reid, “Earthquake” Pinions (Eagle Ministry) Vol. 2, Issue 7, July-August, 1977
7. Op.Cit., Christian Life, August 1977.
9. Flyer produced by EXIT.
11. “What Do You Mean by 'Ex-gay'?” EXIT flyer.
12. Brother Frank, Introduction to Love in Action (cassette tape). Love in Action.
13. Love in Action Newsletter, December 1975.
14. Love in Action Newsletter, January 1976.
15. Tim Reiterman, “Bringing the Bible to gay parts of town,” San Francisco Examiner, June 8, 1977, p. 4
16. Love in Action Newsletter, January, 1976.
17. Flyer produced by EXIT
18. Greg Reid, “Beware Blair,” Pinions, Vol. 1, Issue 2, November, 1976
21. “Two of a Kind,” Wayout, (Seventh Day Adventist publication) distributed by EXIT.
22. David and Don Wilkerson, The Untapped Generation, Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan, 1971, p. 109.
23. David Wilkerson with Clare Cox, Parents on Trial, New York, Hawthorne, 1967, p. 124.
24. Personal phone call with Teen Challenge worker.
25. Telephone interview with Mrs. Grindstaff, January 9, 1978.
26. Penthouse interview, Penthouse, January, 1978, p. 133
27. Anita Bryant, The Anita Bryant Story, Fleming H. Revell, Old Tappan, NJ, 1977, p. 29.
28. Letter to Anita Bryant reproduced by Revell.
29. Taped interview with Bob Green, South Bend, IN, October 27, 1977.
30. Bob Sutton, “Homosexuality,” New Wine Magazine reprint.
32. Letter from the Foundation to the author.
33. Metro Gay News, November, 1977, p. 5.
34. Letter from Dan Maluchuk to author, February 22, 1978.
35. Ralph Blair, Holier-Than-Thou Hocus-Pocus & Homosexuality, NY, HCCC Inc., 1977, p. 29.
36. Wilmar Thorkelson, Homosexual Desire Can Be Changed, Counselors Say, Minneapolis Star, November 25, 1977.
37. Telephone interview with William Backus, January 1, 1978.
42. C.A. Tripp, The Homosexual Matrix, NY, W.W. Norton & Co., 1971, p. 590.
43. Op. Cit., Thorkelson.
44. Letter from Larry Ballard to author.
45. Pat Boone, Coming Out, Van Nuys, CA, Bible Voice, 1978, p. 124.
46. Ibid., p. 124.
47. Ibid., p. 133.
48. Kenneth Gangel, The Gospel and the Gay, Nashville, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1978, p. 147.
50. Ibid. p. 18
51. Love in Action Newsletter, February, 1976.
52. Op. Cit., Letter from Barb Johnson.
53. Love in Action Newsletter, March, 1977.
54. Dr. Anthony Campolo, A Christian Sociologist Looks at Homosexuality, The Wittenberg Door, Nov-Dec., 1977, p. 17.
55. Flyer from EXIT.
56. Ray Ruppert, “EXIT: Special ministry for gays,” The Seattle Times, Dec. 3, 1977, p. A8.
57. Op. Cit., Two of a Kind.
59. Flyer from EXIT.
60. Greg Reid, “Ministry” Pinions, undated.
61. “True Liberation,” The Christian Broadcasting Network, an undated tract.