Exodus International has closed its doors after nearly four decades of institutionalized homophobia. Perhaps America's most well-known religious group to promote gay conversion therapy, Exodus has apparently had a change of heart: As reported by The New York Times, the announcement of its closing came "amid growing skepticism among its top officials and board members that sexual attractions can be changed," among them Exodus president Alan Chambers.
Chambers posted a statement on Wednesday to the Exodus website apologizing for the pain that his work has caused the queer population. He wrote, "I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn't change." Chambers himself is "ex-gay" and married to a woman, though announced last year that he does not "believe that cure is a word that is applicable to really any struggle, homosexuality included." I'm not sure what this means for his marriage, though it is certainly lukewarm good news for the country at large — as for the classification of queerness as a struggle, well, someone should check in with him about that.
Chambers said in an interview that despite this shift in core beliefs, it wouldn't be enough to simply change the group's name and mission: "Any good we could do in the future would be greatly overshadowed by the real stories of trauma and real stories of shame. So, we decided, we can't do anything but close this down." While for many, this apology has a definite too little, too late feel, the knowledge Exodus will cease imposing harmful beliefs on vulnerable, marginalized people is somewhat comforting.
However, as for the Times' claim that "Many gay rights advocates applauded Exodus’s closing, as well as Mr. Chambers’s apology to gays and lesbians," well, this lesbian right here is having a hard time finding the enthusiasm for applause. Yes, it's great that they are closing, but simply bowing out isn't going to fix the damage they've caused. Chambers doesn't deserve a pat on the back for coming to his senses; empathy should be an integral part of everyone's moral compass.
The best thing that could come from Exodus closing is silence from its former members. Though they are forming a new organization with the vague, ambiguous goal of "reducing fear," one can only hope that the world just won't care what ex-ex-gays have to say about right and wrong. I'd love to see the words "gay conversion therapy" removed from our cultural lexicon, and I really don't want to have to hear about alleged "success stories" from "ex-gays." It's offensive at best and damaging at worst, and people like Chambers should never have been given such a large platform from which to preach in the first place.
Exodus made the announcement during the opening night of the group’s 38th annual conference. According to their website, "Many attendees [of the conference] are attracted to the same sex, and desire to live in congruence with their faith. Others attend looking for help in coming alongside those with same-sex attraction." I hope with my whole heart that those attendees all had lots of shame-free gay sex with each other after hearing this announcement — now that would be a victory for our movement.
Photo: Courtesy of Exodus International.