John Paulk (born April 13, 1963) is a former advocate and promoter of the ex-gay movement and conversion therapy and author. He founded and led the ministry Love Won Out, which was launched by the organization Focus on the Family. From 1998 to 2003, he was chairman of the board of Exodus International North America. His 1998 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 disciplined him, but he remained with Focus on the Family until 2003. He resigned as Exodus board chairman but continued his elected position until his term was completed. In 2005, Paulk opened a catering business in Portland, Oregon.
In the April 2013 issue of PQ Monthly, he was quoted as stating that he no longer supported the ex-gay movement or efforts to attempt to change individuals' sexual orientation, and that he was in the process of ending his marriage to his wife, Anne. The couple divorced in June 2013.
A native of the Columbus, Ohio, Paulk attended Fort Hayes High School for the Performing Arts and The Ohio State University, where he majored in music/voice. During the late 1980s, Paulk managed Cocolat, a San Francisco patisserie owned by Alice Medrich.
Paulk claimed that he overcame his homosexuality following his conversion to Christianity, through a combination of counseling, groups, prayer, and his relationship with God. He identified himself as a heterosexual. Paulk's wife, Anne, also identified as ex-gay. John Paulk co-wrote the books Not Afraid to Change with Tony Marko and Love Won Out with Anne Paulk. Both books are now out of print.
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. That year, Christian right groups including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association spent $600,000 on advertising promoting conversion therapy.
Paulk left "ex-gay" ministry work in 2003 and moved to 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.
Washington, D.C. incident
On September 19, 2000 while on a speaking tour, Paulk was seen sitting inside at the Washington, D.C. gay bar Mr. P's. 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, Paulk denied that he was John Paulk, instead insisting he was "John Clint". 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 that it was a gay bar, and he 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 that he was gay.
Paulk was called back to Focus on the Family headquarters and questioned by James Dobson. At first, Paulk reportedly avoided giving a direct answer about the incident; however, he later confessed that he had been in the bar for the purpose of finding connection with other men. Paulk reduced his activities for six months and then resumed his position as manager of the Homosexuality and Gender Division of Focus on the Family.
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.
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
- Kaleem, Jaweed, and Lisa Shapiro. "Ex-Gay Christian Groups Will Continue After Exodus As Religious LGBT Support Grows". The Huffington Post, June 21, 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
- 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
- Jonathan Merritt (15 Apr 2015). "How Christians Turned Against Gay Conversion Therapy". The Atlantic.
- "Ex-Ex-Gay Pride". Newsweek. 1 May 2014.
- "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, "Chairman Disciplined For Gay Bar Visit"
- "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.