Can Gay People Just Say No?

Are you gay? Do you want to be straight? Today a number of groups tell people it's possible to stop being gay, saying that through therapy and prayer, God can help people change their sexual preference.

Some groups offer advice such as telling gay people to inhale ammonia when they have homosexual thoughts. Programs have advised gay men to play sports and lesbian women to wear makeup. Jack Pantaleo went to one of these groups. He says it taught him things like how to cross his legs in a manly way: "On occasions it was okay to cross ankle over ankle," he explains, "But a real man takes his ankle and puts it over his other knee."

'Like Puberty at Twenty-Five'

There are lots of testimonials from people who say this type of therapy works. Alan Chambers says he's been straight now for 11 years. He's on the board of Exodus, which is the biggest network of groups claiming to help people become, "ex-gay." Chambers says learning to be straight was "like puberty at age 25." He just chose to deny feelings of homosexuality and says other people can do it too. Chambers is now in his third year of marriage.

I talked to people who went to these groups hoping to become ex-gay. Many say the groups just don't work. "You can pray for brown eyes, it doesn't mean you're going to wake up with brown eyes if you've got blue eyes," says Charlie Rose.

Many Argue the Groups Don't Work

Until recently the chairman of Exodus was a man named John Paulk. He's a homosexual who claims he went straight 14 years ago. He's now married with two children. Paulk was a spokesman for Exodus, and his "successful change" was featured on Oprah and 60 Minutes. Newsweek did a cover story on Paulk and his wife.

However, this past fall, some gay activists spotted Paulk in a Washington, D.C. gay bar. When they pulled out a camera, he ran away. Paulk later said he didn't know it was a gay bar; he was just trying to use the bathroom. Then later he admitted he knew it was a gay bar, but claimed he was just curious about the scene. He denied he had come there for sex.

At the Cathedral of Hope church in Dallas, almost the entire congregation is gay and many of them have tried to become ex-gay at some point in their lives. The minister, Mike Piazza, argues that groups like Exodus teach "psychological and emotional repression." He says, "Whoever thinks that this is healthy needs to go back to school."

Unbearable Pressure

Piazza says that groups that suggest that gay people become straight can cause depression and even suicide. "Two of three times a week you're reminded that you're defective, that something's wrong with you, that there's something about you that God hates and you can't go through ten years of that unscathed," says parishioner David Fetke.

I asked Exodus for statistics that show how many people who try to change succeed. They say they keep no records, that it's "impossible to keep track" but believe that "thousands have been successful."

The groups continue to point to those who say they have changed as examples of the program's success saying, "We are the living proof [that change is possible]."

Give me a break!