Boy Erased author Garrard Conley on 'surviving' gay conversion therapy



tell me the truth that's all I think about men I don't know why I'm so sorry all right well let's start by why did your parents decide that this institution you went to was the best course for you yeah I mean when I was outed my dad had no idea what to do he said I can't imagine you staying in this family like this mm-hmm you know as a very small town we had some set ideas about what homosexuality was and he called a church in Memphis Tennessee called Bellevue Baptist Church and when he called them the pastor said the only way forward is to go to this place called love in action so they thought they were helping you essentially they did I mean I'm careful to talk about it you know I I know that they now do not think they were helping me and and I think that their motivations were mixed because I think bigotry is involved in that right like you can think you're helping someone and you can also be discussed it with who they are and I think that that mixture was in my father I was 18 so I could have ostensibly said no the problem with that is that I was saying yes under duress I mean my parents controlled my financial future I was in a community that felt very homophobic there should never be a moment when anyone acting as a professional says this is the way forward you should change your sexual orientation it's just not scientifically proven it's not scientifically sound how did they try to change you well I mean they knew that I saw myself as gay or use that label and they they made me do these things called moral inventories which were basically just long speeches given to the whole group at love and action where we had to talk about our sexual experiences and/or thoughts and this is the first I'm talking about any of this out loud to anyone and that first moment was also when I was shamed about my feelings so it was an incredibly harmful practice to to be coming into your own and understanding what that means and at the same time aligning that with a sense of shame and guilt I mean you're someone you're growing up in a small town you have a religious father you're beginning to think that you're gay and now you're in this place where you're to LGBTQ people and they're judging you and they're showing you yeah I mean what put me inside your head what were you feeling like day to day I was just so embarrassed I think that like that's the word that comes to mind the most because it felt like first of all I knew nothing was changing it wasn't working but I also knew that I had to do it or else I'd lose everything and you're harder on yourself yeah getting upset and I'm crazy every night to change I'm abstaining from anything like books movies you know anything that could entertain me or distract me from this terrible thing that's happening to me and they're saying your soul is at stake yeah yeah they believe you're gonna go to hell or you were never saved you know as the way they would look at it I don't know I mean it's hard to reconstruct it but I think the most the most I felt was embarrassment and then anger and the anger was the only thing that propelled me out of there I mean you're in a better place now but do you think there were long term effects oh yeah of the kind of methods they used they're still with me really I mean the reason I first started writing boy erased was I found a blog of people talking about how conversion therapy affected them years later and I read a one report where someone said they couldn't touch their partner certain nights because the shame felt so intense and it felt like their skin was burning and I had the same exact feeling and what's so strange and you only realize it later this is why you feel so dumb like of course that's not normal of course that's not a normal sexual experience but you don't know that when the only thing you've ever known is shame and so you know you just think everyone else walks around feeling from time to time as if their skins on fire and that they don't want to touch a person you know and maybe some people do for other reasons other traumas but the the common denominator is that it's all trauma I mean you have this book but now it's a movie with the Nicole Kidman what do you think boy a race can do that maybe the book hasn't yet I think the book was more for my own community I think this movie is more for an advocacy that can raise awareness on the fact that this is even going on I mean at almost every screening I go to people are so surprised and these are liberal audiences who surprised that that conversion therapies of thing these are liberal audiences who should know this is happening and what are some of the common long-term effects you see from people who have undergone conversion therapy or we thought well we especially recognize each other really yeah I mean it's a you call each other survivors I mean that's a heavy turn yeah it is it we did and many of us didn't survive there were a lot of suicides I think when you when you survive something like that you also carry survivor's guilt a lot of it it as troubling as it is to see this in the news over and over again we're happy that conversion therapy is finally getting its moment what do you hope in terms of like what needs to change in America I see your pin there I don't know yeah I'm so glad yeah so thank are we talking legislation like in terms of more than awareness yeah wellness only go so far so what what then what so we have the 50 states 50 bill initiative from The Trevor Project and it's basically to create a bill in every state Outlawz conversion therapy for minors that's the first hurdle then you know we've got to look at can we make conversion therapy be labeled as fraud because it is and and and even if religious organizations can do conversion therapy make it so that they can't charge for it right that that will at least get rid of a lot of them because I think as much as people talk about their lofty goals about helping you know LGBTQ people come back to Christianity or whatever money is involved and love in action where I went I learned later made a million dollars the year I was there that's not a small amount for a small operation like that so I think when when we get rid of the ability to make money off of this and charge for it I think you'll you'll see that most things in America operate according to money

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