Leader of “ex-gay” movement renounces gay “cure,” reparative therapy

This is big, but it’s also old news – to a degree.

For some unknown reason, our groups, and the media, have never chosen to broadcast the fact that a good twelve years ago, if not more, the “ex-gay” movement admitted that it can’t “cure” someone of their homosexuality.  I did a ton of research in 2001, preparing a big article for TALK magazine about the “ex-gays.”  I requested, or bought, a large proportion of the literature put out by the ex-gay groups, and even attended one of their conferences in Georgia.  What I found shocked me.

The “ex-gay” literature, even twelve years ago, admitted that the goal of “ex-gay” therapy isn’t to “cure” homosexuality, and isn’t to turn someone from gay to straight.  The literature went on to explain that if you enter “ex-gay” therapy you should expect to retain same-sex attractions.  The “goal” was simply to help you to stop acting on your gay desires – in other words, to become celibate.

Today we find out, via the NYT, that Alan Chambers, “the” head of the “ex-gay” movement in his role as the head of Exodus International, “the” ex-gay group, re-admits all of this, and then some.  But this time, he’s getting the media’s attention.

Alan Chambers, 40, the president, declared that there was no cure for homosexuality and that “reparative therapy” offered false hopes to gays and could even be harmful. His statements have led to charges of heresy and a growing schism within the network.

In a phone interview Thursday from Orlando, Fla., where Exodus has its headquarters, Mr. Chambers amplified on the views that have stirred so much controversy. He said that virtually every “ex-gay” he has ever met still harbors homosexual cravings, himself included. Mr. Chambers, who left the gay life to marry and have two children, said that gay Christians like himself faced a lifelong spiritual struggle to avoid sin and should not be afraid to admit it.

He said Exodus could no longer condone reparative therapy, which blames homosexuality on emotional scars in childhood and claims to reshape the psyche. And in a theological departure that has caused the sharpest reaction from conservative pastors, Mr. Chambers said he believed that those who persist in homosexual behavior could still be saved by Christ and go to heaven.

Only a few years ago, Mr. Chambers was featured in advertisements along with his wife, Leslie, saying, “Change is possible.” But now, he said in the interview, “Exodus needs to move beyond that slogan.”

This is great that Chambers is admitting this so publicly, but as I noted, this is not entirely new. These “ex-gay” groups admitted over a decade ago that “change” wasn’t possible, if by “change” you mean “changing your sexual orientation.”

The part about reparative therapy is, I think, new – and big.

The anti-gay religious right hate groups were happy to use Exodus and other “ex-gay” groups to further their bigoted legislative agenda, and groups like Exodus were only too happy to oblige.

So I’m glad that Chambers is finally coming clean in a more public manner. But I still find it rather criminal that the lead gay groups didn’t capitalize on this admission over the last decade.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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