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Abstract

Second-wave feminism and the sexual revolution changed Americans’ relationship with not only sex and gender but also religion. In the late 1960s, Kent Philpott, a seminary student in San Francisco, experienced these changes first-hand. After feeling a calling to minister in Haight-Ashbury, Philpott increasingly devoted himself to one cause—remedying homosexual men and women. Philpott’s story, however, remains an underreported part of the history of contemporary conversion therapy. More specifically, Philpott’s charismatic beliefs have been lost in the expansive scholarship on sexual reorientation change therapies. The erasure of charismatic beliefs and healing practices from contemporary conversion therapy’s history only underscores the rapid nature of religious, gendered, and sexual transition in the 1960s and 1970s. This article argues that charismatic beliefs, including demonic possession of homosexual bodies, served as important religious and therapeutic ideas for the emergence of the ex-gay movement. Yet, at the same time, the rise of family values conservatism, which sought political support from a coalition of evangelicals, Catholics, and Latter-day Saints, divorced the ex-gay movement from its charismatic roots.

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