(Rollin Riggs / The New York Times)

(Rollin Riggs / The New York Times)

Lone Star Q has a great profile today on John Smid, who used to be an influential leader in the “ex-gay” movement, leading the now defunct Love In Action in Memphis. Today, he lives in Paris, Texas, with his partner and works to repair the damage of the “ex-gay” industry:

Smid spent decades as the leader of Love In Action International, one of the most prominent ex-gay therapy programs in the U.S. He also spent 11 years on the board of the ex-gay group Exodus International.

Smid’s journey began in 1973, when he married a woman. They had two children before divorcing after six years when Smid came out. He would live as openly gay for about four years in the early 1980s.

“I had several significant, short relationships over a four-year period,” Smid said. “What happened is, I started struggling with the relationships. It just seemed like the relationship commitments weren’t working, either on my side or somebody else’s side. It kind of went back and forth. I just got really depressed about that. That’s when I got connected to evangelical Christianity.”

John tells the truth about the “straight” marriages that those who are still on the payrolls of “ex-gay” organizations won’t tell until their lives fall apart and they’re forced to contend with the truth:

When he met his ex-wife, they seemed to be compatible and have a lot in common. The intimacy wasn’t there, but Smid figured if he prayed enough, he could overcome childhood issues such as an abusive stepfather and a sociopathic mother.

“I just did everything I could possibly do over those years to try to heal my broken past, as we called it,” Smid said. “I just figured that caused me to not be able to connect to women, so if I healed all that, it should be OK. But what ended up happening is, it just kept getting worse. I felt more alienated, more disconnected. I had more anxiety about our relationship from the angle of intimacy. I just became more detached, more detached, more detached, and finally in 2011, I just really sat down and looked at my life and looked at my circumstances, and I said, I’m just going to be honest about this, it’s just not working, and I don’t want to live the rest of my life like this.”

When Smid tried to discuss the issue with his wife, she asked if he was willing to pray about it and continue their marriage.

“I said, ‘What do you think I’ve been doing for 24 years? For 24 years, I’ve prayed my guts out. I’ve hoped for the hopeless. I’ve believed in faith that something was going to happen, and it never did, and so at my age, right now in my life, I don’t have that many good years left in me, and I can’t live like this for the rest of my life, so I said no I’m not willing to keep pushing after something that’s not going to happen.’”

He explains that now, many of those who fell prey to the “ex-gay” movement are stuck in hopeless sham marriages, and that he works to counsel some of those people:

“Forty years later, after the beginning of the ex-gay movement, we’re seeing all these marriages wrecking all over everywhere,” Smid said. “Men who are disappointed and discouraged and wives who are broken and wounded and children who are confused — all coming out of this ex-gay message of hope and freedom. So, we are all victims of it.”

Smid said the collapse of the ex-gay movement — Exodus International folded last year, and some states have  banned the practice — has given many ex-gays permission to “follow their conviction,” and he counsels some of them.

“I don’t tell people what to think, or how to think,. I did that way too many years,” Smid said. “I do lead them to resources so that they can study it themselves.”

Read the whole article.