I first became aware that I was gay at a time when it was considered a sin, a sickness, and a crime. During elementary and junior high, I was regularly bullied and beaten by boys who sensed somehow that I was different, who called me “homo” and “sissy.”
Before I even reached my teens, I had decided that someday – somehow – I would find a way to change.
I went to the local library to find out if there was a cure. There were five books, kept in a locked case for subjects too taboo to have on the open shelves. The authors all agreed: being gay was a mental illness and very difficult to treat, but, with enough motivation and the right professional help, it might be possible to reverse the affliction.
I gave the books back to the librarian and left feeling both despair and determination.
I told no one. I couldn’t tell my Mom or Dad. The books said they had caused it. But they were never anything but loving, supportive, and dedicated parents. The books said they must have abused me. But they never did. The books said I must have been molested. But I never was. I just liked boys.
In my senior year of High School, I became a born-again Christian. It was at the height of the Jesus Movement, and my ministers said that God could do miracles – if I only had enough faith and prayed hard enough. I devoted myself to intense Bible-study and begged God to change me. He didn’t.
When I went away to college, I got involved in Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim, California. People said that miracle healings happened there.
Article continues belowI wanted so much to believe I would get one of those miracles. But, when I finally went to my youth pastor and told him I was gay, he insisted that I wasn’t. He told me to get engaged to a girl I knew from high school and that if I “stepped out on faith,” God would give me straight feelings.
I decided to start a small Bible study and prayer group for other “same-sex attracted” Christians like me. Maybe full time ministry would help. We called the group, “EXIT”, believing that we would find the way out.
In 1976, with two other friends, we hosted a conference, the result of which was something brand new. That week, we created Exodus International. I think we actually coined the term “ex-gay.” We took it as a statement of faith. If we said it, it would happen. If we believed it, we would get a miracle.
But we didn’t. No one did.