Former ex-gay leaders offer apology to LGBTs

Source: The Advocate magazine
29 June 2007

A sincere apology
Leaders of ex-gay programs apologized to LGBT people in a press conference and called on other leaders to do the same

By Michelle Garcia

As the director of an ex-gay ministry in Hayward, Calif., Darlene Bogle appeared on shows like Sally Jesse Raphael, Jerry Springer, and 48 Hours to tell people that being gay is “curable.” She wrote several articles and two books­Long Road to Love and Strangers in a Christian Land­about being an ex-gay and held workshops on the subject.

In 1990, Bogle met Des, who was attending one of her ex-gay workshops, and sensed instantly that God bought them together. Within weeks Bogle was asked to step down from her leadership position at the Foursquare Church and she was removed from the Exodus ministry.

Bogle, joined by former ex-gay ministers Jeremy Marks and Michael Bussee, held a press conference on June 27 at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center with Soulforce and Beyond Ex-Gay to apologize for exposing LGBT Christians to such indoctrination.

The press conference and apology precedes the Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference in Irvine, Calif., this weekend. Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce partnered with the University of California, Irvine’s LGBT Resource Center to sponsor the conference with workshops, speeches, and entertainment.

“Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear, and loss of faith that this message creates,” Bussee said, speaking for the group. “We apologize for our part in the message of broken truth we spoke on behalf of Exodus and other organizations.”

Bussee, the cofounder of Exodus International, said that he was a devout evangelical who started the ex-gay movement in the 1970s out of his own self-hate. Eventually he and another cofounder, Gary Cooper, left the group and their wives to be together and happy. He has been critical of Exodus ever since.

In 1986, Marks became a member of a ministry in the United Kingdom where he met other gay Christians mired in the same struggle to be straight. He headed several ex-gay programs, including Courage U.K., and later became president of Exodus International Europe. By 2000, Marks abandoned the ex-gay theories and transformed Courage U.K. into a gay-affirming evangelical ministry.

Ex-gay survivor Eric Leocadio was on hand to witness the official apology in Los Angeles. As a high school freshman Leocadio ingested two fistfuls of pills, hoping to kill himself so that he would not have to struggle with his sexual orientation. “When I survived,” said Leocadio, now 31, “I realized that God wasn’t done with me. There was so much more that God had planned for me.”

But his journey of self-acceptance was arduous. After his suicide attempt Leocadio became a devoted Christian and used his spirituality to stifle his same-sex attractions. At 26 he ended up at the Desert Stream Ministries in Anaheim, Calif., where he underwent an intensive ex-gay program to heal his “brokenness” (along with masturbators, prostitutes, and fellow gays), yearning to live a straight and “normal” life.

“I received a lot of mixed signals from the church,” he said. “Everyone gets unconditional love from God but only conditional love from the church, based on the concept of `wholeness.’ ”

Leocadio left Desert Stream in 2004 when he realized the promise of an ex-gay life devoid of same-sex attraction wasn’t true. It became clear to him that one could not just shed sexuality and that he would have to devote the rest of his life to praying against his sexual urges. The following year Leoncadio started his TwoWorldCollision blog to document the conflict between being gay and being Christian; his posts have been known to move people to tears and inspire e-mail responses from around the world.

“I wanted to get to the point where I owned my belief,” he said. “What I knew about Christianity was the only thing I was taught. I decided to take a step back and learn more. I met other gay Christians who had a genuine faith and love for God. Through meeting them, I have been able to truly learn the love of God and own it for myself.”

Garcia is The Advocate’s editorial assistant.

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