One of the most recognized names from the now crumbling ex-gay industry, John Paulk, has renounced his past in a new interview with a local gay newspaper in Oregon.
Although he once appeared on Oprah and the cover of Newsweek in the late '90s to testify about the possibility of becoming ex-gay, Paulk told PQ Monthly in emailed responses to its questions that "I have made many mistakes and I have hurt many people." Now he's working at "giving generously to the gay community in Portland where I work and live."
Paulk is a chef who runs a catering service there called Mezzaluna, and no matter what he told PQ Monthly, some activists are calling for a boycott, saying Paulk's remorse isn't enough. “I will personally encourage people to boycott him until he rectifies some of the damage he’s done,” local business leader Terry Bean told PQ Monthly.
Wayne Besen is the founder of Truth Wins Out, which derives its name in part from mocking the antigay group, Love Won Out, for which Paulk was once the public face. "It is not enough to simply send an e-mail that says, 'I'm sorry,'" Besen said in a news release touting the story in PQ Monthly. "John Paulk must work to atone for the damage he has done to LGBT families by taking a public role in renouncing and working against the harmful 'ex-gay' industry by embarking on a speaking tour to show that he truly has changed. Further, he should advocate for a bill in Oregon that would ban so-called 'reparative therapy' for minors. Only then can he start to repair the damage he has done to countless LGBT people and their families."
In 2003, Paulk left Focus on the Family, which ran Love Won Out. And what founder James Dobson had to say then about him explains a lot about Paulk's once high profile as the face of a supposedly ex-gay man. "Anyone who has heard John's story knows the miracles the Lord has accomplished in his life," said Dobson. "While we're sad to see him go, we know God has great plans for him, Anne, and the boys in the coming days."
PQ Monthly reports that Paulk has told others he can't campaign against reparative therapy, as activists would want, because it could harm his relationship with his sons. Since leaving Focus on the Family and moving from Colorado to Oregon, Paul founded the catering service and has helped at fundraisers to fight AIDS while also getting spotted at gay bars, according to Truth Wins Out. Paulk called the resulting 10 years "a journey" on which he is "trying to understand God, myself, and how I can best relate to others."
Then he said definitively, “I no longer support the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals — especially teens who already feel insecure and alienated. I feel great sorrow over the pain that has been caused when my words were misconstrued."