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Quoted In The Atlantic Magazine Concerning JONAH Gay Conversion Trial

I recently had the honor of speaking with The Atlantic staff writer Olga Khazan about the trial against gay conversion group JONAH that started this week. She quoted me to close her article:

Randy Thomas, a former executive vice president with the ex-gay Christian network Exodus International, now says he wished he had never tried to change his sexual orientation. Exodus disbanded in 2013 amid growing skepticism among its own leaders that sexuality conversion is possible.

After coming out as gay at 19, and converting to Christianity five years later, Thomas spent many years working for Exodus as a self-described “poster boy” for the idea that gay people can become straight. This past January, he came out as gay once again. (“I still love Jesus, and he still loves me,” he told me recently.)

To gay people who are considering conversion therapy, Thomas now says, “spare yourself the shame, pain, and condemnation. If you’re LGBTQ, never buy into the lie that God is angry with you. God is there for you; he loves you. You are beloved by him, and anyone who can’t see the inherent worth of who you are, just walk away.”

These quotes are verbatim and I am passionate about *every* word. It’s been difficult for me to get to this place because I truly believed and bought into the lie that sexuality could change for a very long time. Years ago, I was even friends with the leaders of JONAH at one point. But, today I know the liberating and healing truth that I as a gay man, and those who are LGBTQ, are truly loved by God for who we are. Please do not go to conversion therapy groups. Whether it is professional or peer based support groups, avoid them. Go to a reputable licensed counselor, or pastoral care, that acknowledges and embraces God’s gay children. Yes, we may need some help but it’s not our sexuality that is broken. That significant part of our core sense of self is an integral part of the foundation from which we grow.

Stay strong, no need to argue with anyone pressuring you with stigmatized cultural expectations. Simply walk away and know that there are many resources that will truly positively impact your life, not force you into a different “closet” of shame and condemnation.

Please, I highly recommend reading Olga’s entire article. It’s a heart breaking and eye-opening look into the JONAH trial

Graphic Credit: The Atlantic

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23 Comments

  1. David Pickup David Pickup

    Randy, I completely get why you would feel the way you do and hold the strong views you have, especially since the Exodus debacle a few years ago. However, I want to plead with you to not judge everything or everyone using only your own experience as the template for truth on these issues. Authentic Reparative Therapy really works. And for many, many years, our colleagues attempted to inform Exodus what change was really all about, emotional change, not just behavioral change. You’ve also evidently made a major change in your belief system of the causes of homosexuality. Evidently, you now believe it is inborn and created by God. There are many people who simply don’t agree with you based on their OWN experience, who know that, for them, homosexuality has a cause/effect nature and that they actually do experience real change. They are dealing with the root emotional causes of this by resolving the undeserved gender identity inferiority and unmet male emotional needs that made their lives so hard when growing up. No one is saying you can’t be Gay or that you have to believe anything. So please, do not make the same mistake and attempt to force other people with whom you do not agree to end something that is wonderful to them. Real RT is about Love in the end. It’s just so very sad that Exodus evidently never got that across to any of you.

    • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

      If it is so wonderful, and helpful, why is “RT” opposed by EVERY major professional medical and mental health organization? Why are states moving to ban its practice?
      If it’s so wonderful, how do we explain those who, like Randy, were once leaders…but now denounce it? What about all the damage done to those who left?
      Where are the “success” statistics?
      And HOW is it about Love?

      • David Pickup David Pickup

        Great and legitimate questions. I don’t believe institutions are always correct simply because they say they are on these issues. One only has to look at the unscientific and faulty researched primary report from the APA on these issues in their 2009 Task Force Report, which is still the main and last word on these issues. If you’re going to believe the APA, then look at the conclusions on page 82-83 where they expressly indicate there is no proof of harm of SOCE, and earlier where they say evidently some people benefit by SOCE. I explain Randy as being first abused by Exodus and now abused at the other end of the spectrum. I have great compassion for Randy. And, he like so many Exodus folks, were not lead down the path of true growth and change. Also, this is his experience, not many, many others. Blame Exodus if you need to blame someone, but this does not cancel out the wonderful things that are happening even more today with real RT because Exodus thankfully has stepped out of the way. Statistics are on the NARTH website, and there’s a new study coming out next year. Also, you might check the wonderful stories of therapeutic change on http://www.voices-of-change.org. Really great authentic pieces by the clients themselves. Personally, I believe that Love without Truth is not Love, even though it might feel that way.

        • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

          “Stories of change” are not proof of change! Self-reporting is not verifiable. All of us who were once in RT, and left have those stories.

          • David Pickup David Pickup

            You might consider that self-reporting is a legitimate (although not complete) form of accepted research methods for Gay affirmative research. With all due respect, if voices of change were a Gay affirmative website, my guess is that you would have no problem with self-reporting.

          • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

            Then you would guess wrong, sir.

          • David Pickup David Pickup

            Great, I appreciate your honesty and consistency Bill. I’m glad.

        • mbussee mbussee

          The more I ponder Mr. Pickup’s response to your article, the more disgusted I become. Randy isn’t being “abused by the other end of the spectrum”. He simply decided to live honestly as a gay Christian man. To be himself. No one is “abusing” him — except perhaps Mr. Pickup with his arrogant and self-serving comments.

          What IS abusive is to communicate to LGBT people (particularly LGBT kids) that there is something ungodly, disordered, “damaged”, “inferior” or pathological about being LGBT. That toxic message has done deep harm to many. This sort of attitude is no “therapy”. It’s poison. Top that off with his blatant attempt to advertise his own counseling practice on Randy’s blog, above.

          • Thank you, Michael, for cutting through all the phony, obfuscating “ex-gay” verbiage and stating the crux of the matter so plainly.

  2. Thanks for speaking out, Randy. As you mentioned, the promise (either implicit or explicit) that one could change their orientation was always part of the Exodus message. Even the slogan “Change is possible” and words like “ex-gay” and “former homosexual” gave that distinct (but false) impression.

    One past president of Exodus claimed that he was “one of tens of thousands of people who had sucessfully changed their sexual orientation”, only to admit years later that that was a “mistake” and that “99.9%” never did.

    The sad turth is that many people were misled (intentionally or not) into believing that they would become heterosexual if they had enough faith, and ended up feeling guilty, inadequate, depressed and even suicidal when orientation change didn’t happen. Many ex-gay Survivors still battle those feelings years after they left the programs.

    I agree that some people have selective memory if they believe that Exodus never promoted or supported orientation change as a goal or by-product. For many years, Exodus actively endorsed NARTH — an organization that still promotes orientation change via “reparative therapy”.

    To its credit, Exodus later denounced NARTH and became much more honest about orientation change, shortly before they closed down. In retrospect, Mr. Chambers told the media: “I think we set people up for unrealistic expectations,” he told CBN News. “As I look back over the course of 22 years at Exodus and 12 in leadership, I wish we’d been a whole lot more honest.”

    • David Pickup David Pickup

      Please don’t put down authentic Reparative Therapy when there are so many people who have experienced emotional change, not just behavioral change. We at NARTH tried for years to get Exodus to see the difference between Pray away the Gay, and authentic RT that truly affects the core being of the individual as they know reflects their God-given gender and sexuality. You do not have to put down other’s experience just to compensate for the hurt and pain you experienced with an organization that betrayed you.

      • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

        David…do you realize how condescending you sound when you respond, in your original response to Randy, as well as to me and to Michael?

        Why can we not oppose RT without it being about our hurt? Aren’t YOU denying the experience of those who have been hurt/harmed by RT…the very thing you accuse us of doing by opposing it?

        You speak in very broad terms (as so many do) about the “many people who have experienced…change.” Where are the numbers? Where is the VERIFIABLE proof?

        • I would like Mr. Pickup’s response to Joseph Nicolosi’s claim that watching gay porn while doing EMDR effectively reduces unwanted SSA. Does Mr. Pickup agree?

          • David Pickup David Pickup

            That’s easy Michael. Nicolosi doesn’t have clients watch Gay porn in any of his sessions. I know this because I talk with him often and hold office space with him. Evidently, watching Gay porn was some kind of blown up idea from Exodus resources, or possibly a misunderstood concept from some other source? On the other hand, when clients bring in a thought or feelings of homosexual attraction as represented by a memory, their homosexual feelings naturally and spontaneously lessen or dissipate when the gender inferiority and pain of unmet needs is revealed and rectified through talk therapy and sometimes EMDR.

          • Nicolosi suggested that Exodus members try watching their “best gay porn” at home, along with an EMDR technique to reduce their unwanted SSA. That’s a matter of public record. Does Mr. Pickup agree with that suggestion or not?

          • I would be happy to send Mr. Pickup the link wherein Mr. Nicolosi makes that exact suggestion. It was evidently even too distasteful and weird even for Exodus.

        • David Pickup David Pickup

          Bill, if you felt condescension, then I get how that feels. I know personally how that feels. However, I truly don’t believe I was condescending. I think you felt that way however. My opinions are strong, yes, but I’ve used compassion in my words, quite literally. Using this word and defending my position because I see a group of people who refuse to let others have their opinion is not an act of condescension. Look at what I stated. I was primarily speaking up for those whose experience is not the same as yours. I wasn’t putting you down for you beliefs. Also, the proof is in my clients, in me, in several studies (although there of course needs to be much more research done), in the therapeutic testimonials that are reported on in http://www.voices-of-change.org. If you’re happy and rectifying the damage that was done to you, then wonderful. My main point for all of us to not use only our own experience to define an entire genre.

          • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

            “My main point for all of us to not use only our own experience to define an entire genre.”

            But YOU are using your experience…and those of your clients…to define how gay people should handle their sexual orientation. When you advocate for RT, you are telling gay people that they need to be fixed, cured, healed. You let them know there’s something inherently wrong with them.

            As for needing more study about the effectiveness of RT, when will that happen? It’s been around for many, many years…and no startling success statistics so far. Just…stories of change.

      • It’s not just former Exodus clients who report feelings of failure, depression, guilt and even suicidal feelings when orientation change didn’t occur. What of those Surrvivors who report harm by therapists associated with NARTH? Are we to ignore their stories?

        Is Mr. Pickup the only one who knows how to to “authentic reparative therapy”? That strikes me as mighty grandiose. To the deny or diminish the reports of people who say they were harmed by “therapeutic” or religious programs to change their orientation doesn’t sound at all loving to me. It sounds arrogant and dismissive.

  3. When the JONAH case is finally decided — and I believe the jury will rule in favor of the plaintiff’s — no doubt people like Mr. Pickup and organizations like NARTH will quickly blame it on a liberal activist judge or suggest that the witnesses who reported harm were lying.

    They can claim all they want that Reparative Therapy actually changes people’s sexual orientation and that it never does harm. I think the jury (and the general public) knows better. Reparative Therapy is an unscientific fraud. It is nothing more than prejudice masquerading as “therapy”.

    • Bill Prickett Bill Prickett

      I think you are correct, Michael. Blame will be assigned, and no responsibility will be acknowledged by those who practice this sham therapy.
      As I saw in an earlier exchange, David was able to ignore the published of every major professional medical and mental health organization as if it were meaningless and irrelevant. Of course the decision of the courts will be “explained” away and discounted.

  4. I thought your readers might be interested in this article from 2011 which asks, “What if NARTH was a scientific organization?” by Dr. Warren Throckmorton, once a member of NARTH:

    “What if NARTH’s representatives disclosed the problems with the research in their public statements? What if they were candid and reported that some of the old studies are flawed to the degree that they cannot be used?

    What if these representatives disclosed that many of those who report change continue to be attracted to the same sex? Or also mentioned that some studies find no change? What if the differences in results for men and women were disclosed? Or the existence of bisexuality was included in the discussion of what the reported changes mean? What if they reported data from studies discrediting reparative therapy?

    Can you imagine a 125-year landscape review of autism or childhood schizophrenia produced in the manner NARTH touts its survey? NARTH reps would be on the radio bringing back cold, distant refrigerator mothers as the cause. It is possible that groups like the Parents Action League, ACPEDS, and Defend the Family International (Scott Lively) could find some other way to promote their views, but if NARTH was a scientific organization it wouldn’t be NARTH.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2011/10/25/narthscience/

  5. […] did quite a few (not a huge amount but a few) interviews; notably the BBC (around the 27:20 mark), The Atlantic, and The Advocate (here, here and mentioned here). Gay marriage was legalized, and I participated […]

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