Truth Wins Out Applauds Group of Former ‘Ex-Gay’ Leaders for Statement Opposing ‘Ex-Gay’ Conversion Therapy

FELA Steps Up as ‘Ex-Gay’ Industry Steps Out of the Shadows to Rebrand

PHILADELPHIA – Truth Wins Out praised the Former Ex-Gay Leaders Alliance (FELA) today for releasing a powerful statement refuting the movement they once started. Their statement is perfectly timed to debunk the scientifically backward and bizarre “ex-gay” industry at moment when it is trying to rebrand after decades of failure.

“It’s so powerful when former ‘ex-gay’ program leaders debunk the lie that people can pray away the gay,” said Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen. “We applaud FELA’s effective statement and hope it dissuades people from following in their footsteps. As their words attest, there is no happy ending with ‘ex-gay’ conversion therapy.”

Michael Bussee, the co-founder of Exodus International, started FELA. Once the world’s largest “ex-gay” program, Exodus shut down in 2013 after its leaders claimed the program was ineffective and harmed clients. Today’s statement by FELA makes it clear that “ex-gay” programs are dangerous and harm the people they purportedly are trying to help. Written by former “ex-gay” leader Bill Prickett and representing more than two-dozen former “ex-gay” counselors, the declaration warns that conversion therapy leads to “terrible emotional and spiritual damage.” Here is the full statement:

Conversion Therapy, also known as “reparative therapy”, “ex-gay therapy,” or “sexual orientation change efforts” (SOCE), professes to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people to change or overcome their sexual orientation or gender identity. The majority of those who practice this “therapy” often do so with little or no formal psychological training, operating instead from a strict religious perspective, believing homosexuality to be a “sin.”

At one time, we were not only deeply involved in these “ex-gay” programs — we were the founders, the leaders, and the promoters. Together, we represent more than half a century of experience, so few people are more knowledgeable about the ineffectiveness and harm of conversion therapy.

We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBTQ youth. We once believed that there was something morally wrong and psychologically “broken” about being LGBTQ. We know better now. We once believed that sexual orientation or gender identity were somehow chosen or could be changed. We know better now. We once thought it was impossible to embrace our sexual orientation or sexual identity as an intrinsic, healthy part of who we are and who we were created to be. We know better now.

Looking back, we were just believing (and sometimes teaching) what we had been taught—that our sexual orientation or gender identity needed mending. We grew up being told that being LGBTQ was disordered, sick, mentally ill, sinful, and displeasing to God. We grew up being told that loving, same-sex relationships were shallow, lust-driven, deceived, disordered, and impossible. We grew up with the repetitive message that LGBTQ people were not enough — not straight enough, not Christian enough, not manly or womanly enough, not faithful enough, not praying enough. Never, ever enough. “

“Toxic” probably sums it up best. That message is poison to the soul. Especially a child’s soul. It can take a lifetime to get rid of that old programming and replace it with healthy, non-toxic views of yourself. Recovery from conversion therapy is difficult at best. Some remain forever scarred, emotionally and spiritually. Conversion therapy reinforces internalized homophobia, anxiety, guilt and depression. It leads to self-loathing and emotional and psychological harm when change doesn’t happen. Regrettably, too many will choose suicide as a result of their sense of failure.

In light of this, we now stand united in our conviction that conversion therapy is not “therapy,” but is instead both ineffective and harmful. We align ourselves with every major mainstream professional medical and mental health organization in denouncing attempts to change sexual orientation or gender identity. We admonish parents to love and accept your LGBTQ children as they are. We beseech the church to accept, embrace, and affirm LGBTQ persons with full equality and inclusion. We stand for equal treatment under law, including the right to marry.

As former “ex-gay” leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy. It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBTQ individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives.

The latest effort to deceive the public comes from a group called Changed Movement that is now disseminating misleading propaganda that falsely claims that the “ex-gay” industry produces success stories. Truth Wins Out released an ad on Friday that featured former “ex-gay” leader John Smid who said, “I’ve never seen a real success story of anyone who has changed from homosexual to heterosexual.”

Founded in 2006, Truth Wins Out is a nonprofit think tank and advocacy organization that fights against right wing extremism, the “ex-gay” myth and anti-LGBT prejudice and discrimination.