It was seven years ago today that I laid myself off from being on staff at Exodus International. I did it because it was what was best for this infamous organization to close down quickly and stop its damage. I also did it because I needed to get out. There was a tremendous amount of pain and fear while walking out that door. I am so glad I did because today is filled with love, authentic relationships, and joy.
From 2002 till 2013, I thought I was “called by God” to work at Exodus for the rest of my life. I had made a decent salary, speaking around the country/world, networking with top evangelical and political leaders, got accolades from evangelical and ex-gay leaders alike. Helping to write and edit books and resources, overseeing staff, and three networks. Now, mix that with having to call state licensing boards (for professional counselors) to report a counselor doing inappropriate things, interceding when ministries fought (all the time), putting out embarrassing to the networks/Exodus fires (there were always several, not always public), removing organizations or counselors from the network for this or that inappropriate action, the inevitable “you did what?!” drama at every conference, plus dealing with hypocritical leadership (including me at times), kept me very busy, all the time.
Did I even mention all the effort of trying to defend us to our critics; who I would eventually discover were right all along?
I did all of that and more until I realized, after way too long, after way too many warnings and tragedies, it was all a sham. It doesn’t matter how much of a “true believer” I was, I truly believed in lies, in a false idealism driven by self-loathing instead of reality.
However, once truth and reality set in, I had no other choice but to help put the shut-down of Exodus in motion and make my departure. It was devastating to realize my identity, relational approach to people and God, my career, my reputation, all that I had invested *everything* into was a lie, not just a lie but a dangerous and destructive lie to myself and everyone involved. My “calling” was a systemic peer-pressured hyper-spiritualized myth. Mix that with my narcissism of being “chosen” for the role, it all turned into toxic relational super-glue.
But, then real love with its sometimes hard-hitting eye-opening epiphanies completely upended everything through a couple of years of network hypocrisy and personal tragedy. Love would not let reality be pushed out any longer. I could no longer defend Exodus. It was a tool of destruction. Two decades of my life felt like *poof* … all gone.
After leaving Exodus, I did freelance social media/graphic work for a while. After coming out, dating, meeting Dan and eventually moving to a place to try and provide for our family, freelance wasn’t cutting it. I knew I would have to start completely over from the ground up and look for opportunities along the way.
Desperate, I ended up stocking groceries at a grocery store for a couple of months and then found a job with a humongous cable tv/Internet/Phone company doing technical customer support. I have now been doing technical and billing support for them for a little over two and a half years. I have had a couple of promotions and a few raises. It’s not easy work. No first-class upgrades. No Senator’s on Capital Hill patting me on the shoulder for my “bravery.” No pastors are flying me out to speak to their congregations or conferences. Since coming out again in 2015, I don’t get invited to those parties anymore.
But you know what? I also don’t have to call state licensing boards or local law enforcement to report conversion therapists or ex-gay “counselors” dating or touching their clients inappropriately. I don’t live a lie that ate at my isolated heart and soul, promoting a stigmatized theology that caused pain and hurt in others. It has been difficult but so much healthier to struggle to rebuild a career and provide for my family living at peace with who I am instead of painting on a smile walking into a black-tie dinner where the main course was a litany of confirmation bias.
Today, I think if I was called to something, maybe I was “called by God” to Exodus to help shut it down. Maybe my calling there was to learn it backward and forwards and to advocate for shutting it down from within. Perhaps that is why I now have the education and experience to join the resistance to current efforts in conversion therapy and its “pastoral” twin of ex-gay “ministry.”
Seven years ago today, I only knew that the next right thing to do was to walk right out the door of Exodus International. Today, as I look around at the coffee Dan made for me, him rushing to get out the door to go sand drywall somewhere, nagging our daughter to finish her reading assignment, picking up little Eli the Chillhuahua’s play toys while in our safe comfortable home, I am moved with abiding joy for the decision made seven years ago today.