I finally got an opportunity to watch OWN’s (Oprah Winfrey Network) Our America with Lisa Ling special on the demise of Exodus International. She did a phenomenal job by asking all the right questions and holding “ex-gay” activist Alan Chambers (if he can still be described as such) accountable for misleading his clients.
It was riveting TV. It was raw. It was honest. It was factual — while still evoking powerful emotions through personal conflict.
In March 2011, we harshly criticized Ling for her first special on the “ex-gay” myth. It was our view that she gave too much airtime to “ex-gay” con artists instead of survivors, who represent the vast majority of people who enter these programs. We also thought she did not strongly challenge the false assertions put forth by Chambers and other “ex-gay” charlatans. Perhaps we were overly harsh, but our criticisms came from an overall frustration of the media giving equal time to a thoroughly discredited view — the “ex-gay” myth — compared to those harmed by this dangerous charade.
After enduring tough criticism, most journalists would have walked away and washed their hands of this controversial topic. To her credit, Lisa Ling hung in there and took another shot — and the result was a masterpiece. Her show was an example of first-rate journalism and the fact that she endured many arrows and still marched forward is a testament to her strong character and commitment to telling an accurate and honest story.
The survivors who appeared on the show, particularly Exodus co-founder Michael Busseee, deserve major kudos. They confronted Chambers and did not fall for his spin. They demanded that Chambers stick to the facts and followed up with tough questions. They simply did not let him off the hook and the results were poignant moments of reckoning for Chambers. Bussee and his band of survivors did their job and played a key role in the closing of Exodus. I am very proud of the brave men and women who appeared on Ling’s show — and thrilled that they did not let their emotions cloud their relentless cross examination of the Exodus leader. The result was an historic moment for survivors of “ex-gay” programs and vindication for all their hard work exposing this devastating myth.
In Ling’s original special she introduced the world to a man named Christian, who at the time, was a client of militant “ex-gay” activist Janet Boynes, who runs Minneapolis-based Janet Boynes Ministries. In the new Ling special, Christian comes out as a gay man, denying Boynes of her poster boy — and the only client she has ever publicly put forward. Other than herself (and she was bisexual to begin with), Boynes has shown a zero success rate in changing people from gay to straight. She is little more than a shallow talking head who reads meaningless talking points that her paltry record of failure does not support. Given this reality, how does Boynes justify staying in business and asking for money?
Hats off to Lisa Ling and we thank her for producing a special that will resonate for years to come. She has more than earned our respect – she has earned our deep gratitude.