John Paulk (born April 21, 1963) is a former advocate of the ex-gay movement and conversion therapy and author. He was the founder and former leader of the ministry Love Won Out, which was launched by the organization Focus on the Family. From 1995 to 2000, he was chairman of the board of Exodus International North America. His 2000 autobiography Not Afraid to Change addressed his sexuality and attempts to change his same-sex desires. Later that year, after an incident in which Paulk was revealed to have attended a gay bar, both organizations removed him from leadership positions. In 2005, Paulk opened a catering business with his wife.
In the April 2013 issue of PQ Monthly, he was quoted as stating he no longer supports the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals  and in the process of ending his marriage to his wife Ann.
A former resident of the Columbus, Ohio, area, Paulk attended Fort Hayes High School for the Performing Arts and Ohio State University, where he majored in music/voice. While in college, Paulk worked as a male escort and a drag queen (calling himself "Candi"), as well as a scheduler for a "Dulcet" escort service. During the late 1980s, Paulk managed Cocolat, a San Francisco patisserie owned by Alice Medrich.
Paulk has said that he overcame his homosexuality following his conversion to Christianity, through a combination of counseling, groups, prayer, and Bible reading, and identified himself as a heterosexual. Paulk's wife, Anne, also identified as ex-gay. Paulk co-wrote the book Love Won Out with his Ann Paulk, his wife. They have three children.
Paulk became involved with Focus on the Family, where he was manager of the organization's Homosexuality and Gender Division. In August 1995, Paulk was elected Chairman of the board of Exodus International North America for a three-year term. He was subsequently re-elected to a second three-year term in 1998. As an employee of Focus on the Family, Paulk toured the United States, speaking of his conversions at Love Won Out conferences. Paulk and his wife became the faces promoting Exodus ministries in major daily newspaper full page ads. The couple appeared on the cover of Newsweek (August 1998), when the publication covered Exodus and the ex-gay movement.
Paulk left Exodus International in 2003. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and family. The couple started a catering business in 2005, and he appeared regularly in cooking segments on Portland television, as well as his own regular segment on Christian radio station KPDQ called "Food Talk with Chef John".
Washington, D.C. Incident
On September 19, 2000 while on a speaking tour, Paulk was spotted at Mr. P's, a Washington, D.C. gay bar. A patron recognized him and contacted Wayne Besen of the Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins Out, and other gay political action organizations. When Besen arrived at the bar 40 minutes later and confronted Paulk, he denied being John Paulk. Upon exiting the bar, Paulk's picture was taken as evidence that he had been in the bar. When confronted by Besen about the incident and the photographs, Paulk admitted being in the bar, but stated that he didn’t know it was a gay bar and had simply stopped in for a moment to use the restroom. However, eyewitnesses reported that Paulk stayed for more than an hour, flirted with other men, and when questioned about his sexuality, said he was gay.
Paulk was called back to Focus on the Family headquarters and questioned by James Dobson. At first, Paulk reportedly evaded a direct answer about the incident; however, he later confessed that he had been in the bar for the purpose of flirting. Paulk was placed on probation, and was chaperoned on future speaking engagements to ensure that he had "support" in the event that he needed it. Dobson also removed Paulk from the board chair position of Exodus International. He remained on the board under probationary status only, and was not allowed to attend meetings or vote.
An Exodus press release soon followed:
John's actions represent a serious lapse in sound judgment. His decision to enter a gay establishment for any reason opens him up to all kinds of speculation by both other Exodus leaders and also the gay community.
In a September 2001 interview with the Charlotte World newspaper, Paulk stated:
People wanted me to speak everywhere. I felt like a doll that someone would wind up and say come give your testimony, come speak here, come fly here, come fly there. ... I started squeezing God out of my life. ... So a year ago I wanted to escape. I wanted to escape my life. I wanted to escape everything. My reputation. I wanted off the treadmill and I thought I wanted to go back to a gay bar. Well, of course, because God loves me he is not going to let me go out on a leash too long and I was discovered in there.
The incident received national headlines in newspapers and news magazines. Paulk remained in his position as manager of the Homosexuality and Gender Department until choosing to leave that position in 2003.
In April 2013, Paulk disavowed his belief in gay reparative therapy, announcing that while he remains a devout Christian he also identifies as a gay (not formerly gay) man and believes that reparative therapy is both futile and harmful. He announced that his marriage is ending and he issued a formal apology for his role as an advocate of the movement.
- Is John Paulk ready to renounce his ex-gay gospel?, retrieved 2013-04-18
- Mezzaluna - The Chef, retrieved 2007-11-29
- Paulk, John, (Marko, Tony) Not Afraid to Change: The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality Winepress Publishing, ISBN 1-57921-097-X
- Paulk, John, (Paulk, Anne) Love Won Out: How God's Love Helped 2 People Leave Homosexuality and Find Each Other Focus on the Family Pub, ISBN 1-56179-783-9
- Archives, The Washington Post, "Ads Renew Ex-gay Debate", by Alan Cooperman, 21 October 2002
- "Mezzaluna - About Us". Mezzaluna.biz. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- "Mezzaluna - The Chef". Mezzaluna.biz. Retrieved 2013-12-05.
- Besen, Wayne, Anything But Straight Harrington Park Press, ISBN 1-56023-445-8
- Southern Voice, "Ex-gay Leader Confronted In Gay Bar", by Joel Lawson, 21 September 2000
- Southern Voice, "Ex-Gay leader loses post over gay bar visit," by Joel Lawson, 4 October 2000
- Southern Voice, "Chairman Disciplined For Gay Bar Visit"
- "30 Minutes With John Paulk", interview with Warren Smith, September 2001, retrieved from http://www.worldnewspaperpublishing.com/news/FullStory.asp?loc=TTW&ID=919 on 17 December 2007
- "Rejecting Gay Feelings, Some Strive To Change" (Letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch), by Alan Chambers (President, Exodus International), June 23, 2006, retrieved from http://exodus.to/content/view/733/262/ on December 17, 2007
- Brydum, Sunnivie (2013-04-24). "John Paulk Formally Renounces, Apologizes for Harmful 'Ex-Gay' Movement". The Advocate. Retrieved 2013-04-25.