‘Not Afraid to Change’ by John Paulk | Review

John Paulk in Wonderland

During the past year, homophobic religious and political forces have accelerated and intensified their unrelenting attacks against homosexuals with ads in newspapers, magazines, and television. John Paulk and his “former lesbian” wife Anne have become symbols of the “ex-gay” push for acceptance and approval of “reparative therapy” and religious transformation of homosexuals into heterosexuals. (See the August 17, 1998, cover story in Newsweek about John and Anne.)

Now John Paulk has published his autobiography, Not Afraid to Change: The Remarkable Story of How One Man Overcame Homosexuality, to try to prove that he has been changed from gay to straight by religion. This book and books by Joe Dallas (former president of Exodus International) and others will have a devastating impact on young homosexuals seeking for help and encouragement in dealing with their sexual orientation.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, and the American Bar Association since 1974 have all taken the position that homosexuality is a sexual orientation and is not an illness to be treated or cured. [See “Psychiatry and Medicine” in the section on “Sexual Orientation and the Ex-Gay Fraud” on my website.]

My entire website on “Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse” is a response to John Paulk’s book and the fraudulent use of religion to give false hope and to raise money in the ongoing anti-gay religious/political warfare being waged against homosexuals.

John Paulk is on the staff of Focus on the Family (the powerful and rich political/religious organization owned and operated by James Dobson) in Colorado Springs, Colo. Paulk, with no formal theological or medical training, is “a homosexuality and gender analyst” at FOF and is North American Board Chairman of Exodus International, “a worldwide organization that provides assistance to men and women seeking freedom from unwanted homosexuality.” The fast-growing “ex-gay” industry is booming!

John Paulk’s credentials for his expert status in the ex-gay fraud consist of his personal story, told in his recent book, Not Afraid to Change, published in July 1998 by Winepress Publishing.

The foreword to the book is by Joseph Nicolosi, Ph.D., author of Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, which has been repudiated by the majority of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other medical professionals. Nicolosi has invented the term “homosexual condition” to use in place of sexual orientation. His incredibly prejudiced and judgmental attitudes against gay men become evident in the first few lines of his writing. His brief but pompous analysis of why John Paulk was homosexual would be ludicrous if it were not being set forth as though it were scientific and medical fact. Instead, it is dangerous, misleading, and false. Nicolosi’s logic is like saying that “gay equals crazy, and therefore all gays are crazy.”

I found all of the book very difficult to read and to follow, because the material is given in an overly colorful and exaggerated style of writing that sounds like the words and psychedelic images in MTV music videos.

This egregious volume was actually written by Tony Marco based on over 40 hours of interviews with John Paulk. Marco “has written extensively on the subject of homosexuality, is the author of 9 books, and is considered one of the nation’s leading non-profit fundraising copywriters and creative consultants.” The entire book is an advertisement for Exodus International, for NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), and for the “therapy” work of Joseph Nicolosi. All of the people who recommend the book on the book cover and in the first two pages are leaders in the rapidly growing homophobic religious/political campaign against homosexuals.

Chapter One tells of John Paulk’s first visit to a gay bar at the age of 18 in 1981 (The same year that I moved to Atlanta and went to my first gay bar). Somehow, over 17 years later, John was able to recall in vivid detail everything that he saw and heard at this first gay bar visit. Here is the paragraph that begins the story:

Suddenly I felt overwhelmed, plunged into what might as well have been a giant, surrealistic pinball machine: gleaming, refracted disco lights with frenzied bursts of every color imaginable, ultraviolet lights, fluorescent tubes and neon shapes twisted like flying phantoms… mirrored balls spun out spattering starbursts, beer and alcohol fumes, tobacco, and other smoke mixed in a pinkish haze.

The first chapter goes on to give an incredibly detailed description of just how much and what John drank (a lot) and what everybody wore and said, and the expressions on their faces. Either John wrote down every detail in a journal as soon as he got home or he has a photographic mind that rivals Einstein — or the whole thing is a fabrication! Little details are thrown in to make the anti-gay points that gays are seduced into homosexuality, such as this bit of dialogue in which John said to his friend, Richard: “You know I’ve never done anything like this before. I couldn’t help myself. You of all people should know what this place can do to someone.”

I went to my first gay bar in Atlanta in 1981 also. I don’t even remember which one it was, much less exactly what everybody wore and what each person said and what I said! The detailed description of John’s early gay experiences are as lurid as they are ludicrous and fanciful.

I realize that each person is an authority on his/her own experience. But John Paulk is not telling his story in this book. The book is a biased and distorted account put together in the name of John Paulk by Tony Marco and a great host of people like Frank Worthen, Bob Davies, Mike Riley, Joseph Nicolosi, Joe Dallas, John Smid and many others (named by John as those who have most influenced him in “Acknowledgements” at the end of the book).

Far from offering hope to homosexuals, this book offers a highly imaginary and fanciful tale that is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Yet, unfortunately, the book will be used to convince many homosexuals of all ages to hate themselves and to follow the path down the rabbit hole into the Wonderland that John Paulk has described.

Purple prose and fantastic descriptions are no substitute for the truth. Words can hide the truth just as words can tell the truth. The book is an overly wordy story that tries to convince with too much information, much of which is questionable.