In 1998, Exodus International plastered the image of husband and wife John and Anne Paulk on billboards across America as proof of the ex-gay message that “Change Is Possible.” Together, the ex-gay married couple wrote a book, Love Won Out, the tale of how “God’s love helped two people leave homosexuality and find each other.”
In 2000, John was spotted and photographed in a Washington DC gay bar. His ex-gay career pretty much went downhill from there, but wife Anne continued her ministry apace, and in 2011, she became a founding member of the Restored Hope Network, a new ex-gay organization designed as an alternative to the now-softening Exodus.
The clues suggested John was not in sync with his wife’s continued hardline ex-gay activism. There were rumours of a split and increased speculation about the content of his Facebook page, and whether it pointed to John, now a successful chef in Portland, OR, returning to life as an openly gay man.
Apparent confirmation has come via an investigation by Truth Wins Out, alleging that John Paulk visits gay strip clubs, pesters men for sex, and uses his male employees as “arm candy.”
Paulk has never apologized for his part in promoting the myth that sexual orientation can be made to change, and Anne Paulk continues to hold up her marriage as evidence of ex-gay success. According to TWO’s report, however, her husband’s behaviour borders on sexual harassment, with one former staff member describing John as a predator, and saying he “felt like fish food to [John].”
The full but perhaps necessary details are here. It’s worth noting that, according to TWO, Wayne Besen gave John Paulk every opportunity to come out on his own terms before revealing what he knew.
XGW has little to add except to say that here we have a prime example of the mess that can ensue when gay men and women are lured into straight marriage by false promises of deliverance, healing and sexual orientation change.
If the allegations are true, the story also illustrates that when, through homophobia and oppression, you deny gay men and women the opportunity to express their sexuality in healthy ways — through loving, committed, humanizing relationships — those desires are often eventually expressed in other, destructive, ugly ways.
Incidentally, Love Won Out, the regular ex-gay conference spearheaded by John and Anne Paulk, was dropped by Focus on the Family in 2009. There’s reason to believe Exodus International may have dropped it, too — and if the brand is to be tainted even further by these new revelations about the Paulks, perhaps Love Won Out’s decline wasn’t so bad for Exodus after all.