A former ‘ex-gay’ activist has warned that Rick Perry’s “ignorance” about homosexuality is common among Republicans.

John Paulk was the face of ‘Ex-gay’ organisation Exodus International, before leaving the group, apologising for his work, and admitting he had always been gay.

Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry arose controversy last week, when he said: “Whether or not you feel compelled to follow a particular lifestyle or not, you have the ability to decide not to do that.

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.”

He later attempted to back away from his comparison between homosexuality and alcoholism, admitting he got “deflected” onto a “contentious issue”, but has since said: “I think my comments stand on their own. I can’t help you understand it.”

Writing for Politico yesterday, Paulk said: “There was a time in my life when I used to sound a lot like Rick Perry. In fact, for more than ten years I was one of the nation’s leading spokesmen for the ‘ex-gay’ movement.

“I traveled the country telling audiences that being gay was a preventable condition, and it could be treated if only you followed a simple plan, obeyed God and sought repentance for your sins.

“But I was in denial. It wasn’t in fact true, any of it. Worse than being wrong, it was harmful to many people—and caused me years of pain in my own life.

“Which is why I have this to say to the Rick Perrys of the world: You don’t understand this issue. At all.

“This wasn’t just some political mistake. What worries me more is the ignorance betrayed by Perry’s comments – an ignorance that I believe is still widespread among conservatives in the straight world — about what being gay means.

“As long as this widespread misunderstanding in the straight world about homosexuality persists, that it is a choice or a ‘lifestyle’, as Perry put it, not only will we never be fully accepted by society, some of us will remain unable to accept ourselves.

“I do not want young gay women and men today to go through what I went through. I want to tell them—and Rick Perry: We are not broken, damaged, inferior or throwaways. We are created in the image of God—just like everyone else.”