It’s been a long time coming, but finally, almost eighteen months after the rebranding of Exodus International began, President Alan Chambers has acknowledged the harm he and his organization have done.
When I heard he would be appearing on Lisa Ling’s Our America on the Oprah network, I steeled myself for more hazy, defensive posturing that failed to get to the heart of the issue. I recently commented:
I am really gonna flip if [Alan Chambers] tries any of the following tacks:
a) we’re sorry “if” we unintentionally hurt anyone;
b) we never meant what you thought we meant – we just communicated it badly;
c) sorry you misunderstood our message.
Amid all the changes, I’ve yet to hear a frank acknowledgement and apology from Exodus leadership that wasn’t softened by something like the above.
In the apology Alan published yesterday on the Exodus website, he finally gives me hope that he is getting the message. His first frank admission is that he deceived himself and others about his own failure to change his sexual orientation:
There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away.
No ifs and buts – just sorry. He speaks for Exodus International and for himself, apologizing for pain and hurt, shame and guilt, the promotion of conversion therapy and sexual orientation change efforts, the failure to condemn homophobia and the failure to celebrate where gays and lesbians have gotten it right, even in parenting:
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know.
He is sorry that people’s faith has been destroyed through Exodus, and that even people’s lives have been destroyed in acts of suicide:
I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives.
I don’t begrudge him the statement that he is not sorry for his religious beliefs about marriage and sexual boundaries. I have always believed the best outcome of our fight against the ex-gay movement would be ending the false claims of conversion therapy, and at least getting to the point where Exodus and other groups were honest that they were promoting a struggle to be celibate rather than a way to change sexual orientation.
Yesterday’s apology is the first time I’ve sensed real honesty from Alan Chambers and Exodus International. And, as always, the words will only be good as whatever actions follow.
Watch the preview of tonight’s OWN broadcast (10/9 Central) here.
(This is solely the opinion of the author. I don’t speak on behalf of my fellow Ex-Gay Watch contributors.)