The motion picture, Boy Erased, premieres in the USA today. It tells the true story of a young gay man, Garrard Conley and the complex relationship with his fundamentalist Christian parents before and after Garrard spent two weeks in the Love in Action ex-gay conversion therapy camp in Memphis, TN. The film is based on the Boy Erased memoir Garrard published in 2016. With academy award star power behind it, Boy Erased has a good chance of being seen by lots of people. From those told me about the premiere, I hear good things, and I have read reviews of moving performances by Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, and Lucas Hedges.
People who want to dig deeper into Garrard’s story and into stories about conversion therapy, there are lots of options.
UnErased–The History of Conversion Therapy in America
This is a brand new podcast series that aired today alongside of the Boy Erased film. The first episode gives Garrard a chance to share some of his story beyond what the film shows, and it introduces listeners to the Love in Action program the book and film feature. I speak a little bit about my own time in Love in Action. Jad Abumrad from RadioLab hosts the show and along with his team produced it. You can listen to UnErased wherever you get podcasts.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post
This film came out earlier this year and won top prize at Sundance. Like Boy Erased, this is the story about a teen forced to attend a conversion therapy camp. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Cameron and powerfully portrays her journey into conversion therapy and out. It is beautifully shot and extraordinarily moving. Much of conversion therapy has focused on cisgender gay men, the number one target of these Protestant Christian facilities, so it is refreshing to see this world through Cameron’s eyes.
Beyond Ex-Gay Website
This website was created by ex-gay survivors for ex-gay survivors–those people who went through conversion therapy and survived it to go on to pursue a new life out and proud. It includes personal stories, art work, articles, a survey of ex-gay survivors, and even apologies from former ex-gay leaders, who in addition to trying to cure others, also felt coerced to change their own sexuality and gender differences. If you have gone through conversion therapy, this site might be helpful to you.
Ex-Gay No Way: Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse
This Lambda award nominated book by fellow ex-gay survivor, Jallen Rix, not only highlights the horrendous effects of conversion therapy, it also provides insights into recovering from these experiences. As a train sexologist, Jallen provides a fresh perspective on finding a new life after conversion therapy.
Offering a detailed comparison of the ex-gay world and the phenomenon known as Religious Abuse, this manual shares a personal journey through the hopeless mistreatment and manipulative system of ex-gay ministries and the recovery process involved in regaining strength, acceptance, and self-worth.
Putting Lesbians in Their Place: Deconstructing Ex-Gay Discourses of Female Homosexuality in a Global Context (pdf)
Dr. Christine M Robinson at James Madison University along with Sue E. Spivey have done more academic research into conversion therapy than anyone else I know. Many of their articles appeared in academic journals, so are difficult to read unless you have access to these types of journals, but one of the most important ones they wrote is about the experience of women in ex-gay ministries and conversion therapy programs. Putting Lesbians in Their Place: Deconstructing Ex-Gay … highlights how the world of conversion therapy has been a boy’s club for a very long time and unmasks the often overlooked fact that these program exist to help gay men regain lost power and privilege because of their sexual orientation and gender differences. It operates as an anti-fem space.
‘Ex-Gay’ Survivors Go On-Line–Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide
Back in 2009 I wrote this article for the Gay and Lesbian Review in order to provide some history about the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement and the vital role the internet played in the movement.
OVER THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, new voices have entered the public discourse over anti-gay ideologies. One of the loudest and most hostile toward us is the “ex-gay” movement, which attempts to de-homosexualize homosexuals under the pretext of saving souls in the name of Jesus. On the Internet and in the press, we are increasingly hearing the stories of ex-gay survivors, people who attempted and failed to alter their sexual orientation through programs such as Exodus. Although these survivors have been around pretty much from the moment the faith-based movement launched itself in the early 1970’s, it is through the Internet that these former consumers of ex-gay theories and treatments have been able to connect with each other and speak out. In so doing, they have rerouted the media and refocused the ex-gay debate.
Read more at Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide
Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House
While Garrard’s memoir takes a serious look at the Love in Action facility, back in 2003 I took a ridiculously serious look at it through the comedy, Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo House–How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement. I retired the play in 2008, but before I did filmmaker, Morgan Jon Fox, filmed and edited it. It is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.
This is What Love in Action Looks Like (documentary film)
Morgan Jon Fox directed and edited this award-winning documentary about the Love in Action program. It centers on the true story of a 16 year old, Zack Stark, who is forced to attend the new Refuge program for teens. In response, Zack’s friends rose up in loving protest and helped shut the place down. I especially love the 2010 extended trailer for the film. It is a condensed version of the final product. It always makes me tear up at the end.
What is missing from this list is any resource about transgender and gender non-binary people who experienced and survived conversion therapy. According to a study Garrard references on his blog, “over 700,000 Americans have been subjected to conversion therapy and over 20,000 Americans are currently affected by this abusive practice.” What is striking is how many of those people are transgender and gender non-binary.
But we also want to share even more important message, especially in light of the current administration’s proposed idea of limiting gender classifications and therefore of erasing trans lives: that “trans people are twice as likely as LGB people to be subjected to conversion therapy, which substantially increases the risk for suicide” (Trans Lifeline).
In the past few weeks, both the Trevor Project and Trans Lifeline have received four times the normal call rate, with a significant increase in new calls. As we celebrate Boy Erased, “we also need to redouble our efforts to fight for the most vulnerable members of the community it portrays” (Trans Lifeline).