Why did IOM sign WHY?

by Martina E. Faulkner, IOM Founder

Randy Scobey is the author of WHY: A Memoir, a book which documents his journey from birth to the present and includes a history of abuse, betrayal, lies, and brainwashing. Randy’s story is unique, but not uncommon. When he first came out as a gay teen, he was kicked out and abandoned by everyone he knew before being rescued by a Christian drag queen (Momma Mella). From there, his decisions and longing for community sent him back into the closet, but this time it came with stained glass windows. Ultimately, he found freedom (and his voice) when he finally left the closet and came out a second time in his late 40s. Randy’s freedom came at a cost, though, as he left behind him a trail of hurt, trauma, and regret, something he works daily to repair while also being the advocate he needed decades earlier.

When I founded IOM, I knew the type of work I wanted to focus on as a publisher. From the start, we decided to sign books that were aligned with our values as a publishing company—books that would in some way help change the world for the better. This meant that the work would have to be compelling while also being inspirational, educational, or entertaining. We have been fortunate to have many manuscripts cross our desks in the five years since we officially launched. The ones we ultimately ended up signing have all ticked numerous boxes, but most importantly, they all also had something more intangible behind them: an authentic voice.

When Heather Duffy (of Better Together with Anne and Heather—her podcast with the late Anne Heche) reached out to introduce Randy and suggested that we consider his manuscript, we were hesitant. After all, the subject matter was emotionally charged, to say the least. We knew that his book could be controversial, and being such a young company, it seemed like a lot to take on. Ultimately, we agreed to meet with Randy, because we believe in second chances, redemption, and compelling stories. 

Additionally, to be honest, I was personally hopeful:

  • Hopeful that his manuscript was more than just a retelling of what everyone already knew from the documentaries he participated in. 
  • Hopeful that his manuscript did more than just rehash the controversy surrounding conversion therapy and the ex-gay movement. 
  • Hopeful that his words answered the unasked questions of “how?” and “why?” 
  • Hopeful that his book would be about his human experience, not just his years at Exodus International as an ex-gay poster child.

Though we know people love to read “tell-all” books that expose the dark underbelly of industries and organizations, that wasn’t the book we wanted to sign. There is no benefit to perpetuating gossip or rumors; we prefer to invest in opportunities that share important stories and voices.

So, after reading some sample chapters, we decided to meet with Randy. The man we met was a human being who had been through unspeakable trauma and who had also participated in systems that perpetrated similar trauma for other people. What we saw was a wounded human who was doing his best to make amends by helping others through shifting the narrative and highlighting the truth that conversion therapy does not work, has never worked, and should be banned entirely.

Randy was kind, thoughtful, remorseful, and genuine. By the end of our call, it was clear that we would offer him a publishing agreement. More so, though, as a publisher, I knew that I wanted an opportunity to work with him directly to help him hone his voice and create the book that would help the most people—a book that could help his community and beyond. In publishing WHY, we have done that. Randy has done that by sharing his stories from birth to the present day, while bravely and humbly wearing his heart on his sleeve. He invites us all to consider what it means to belong, to have community, to feel connected.

Randy’s story is his own, but it’s also incredibly universal. Everybody wants to feel like they belong, like they are part of something. When that is missing, a person can unknowingly become more vulnerable to perpetrators. After gaining a better understanding of this, I can now see how homeless youth end up being sex trafficked, or young women end up “grooming” other young women. This helps to explain how marginalized members of society end up in gangs, cults, and other organizations that take advantage of their very basic human need to connect and belong.

Throughout WHY, we learn that abuse and trauma create the perfect opportunity for predators. When someone is searching for connection out of desperation to belong, they become an easy target. A friend of mine once told me that a desperate person is like someone bleeding in the water: The first thing it attracts is sharks. In this instance, the sharks were dressed up in clothing that looked like love, compassion and… faith.

Though there is no excuse for Randy’s years in the ex-gay movement, there is an explanation. Randy’s not looking for an excuse, however. He openly acknowledges his past, apologizes for his role, and is willing to talk with anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of what actually happened. As long as the conversation is civil, Randy doesn’t hide or shy away from these discussions. That takes a measure of courage that can only be found in someone seeking genuine redemption.

Our hope for Randy’s book is that it shows just how easy it is to turn someone against their own kind, demonstrating what can happen when a child is rejected and kicked out by their own family, and the damage that can occur when a person is marginalized and stigmatized by their community. We also hope it shows what’s possible when love shows up in its purest, most accepting form, prompting us to simply ask the question: How can I help? Just like Momma Mella did all those years ago when she took Randy into her home after he was kicked out.

Randy’s words invite us to consider how our lives can change for the better when we choose to honor who we are, and how much easier that is when we have loving support around us.

WHY by Randy Scobey is available in English in hardcover, paperback, or ebook on Amazon or by request wherever books are sold.