Personal Stories From Survivors and Ways to End this Practice in MA
Boston, MA – A group of conversion therapy survivors and their supporters known as Project Unbroken is proud to announce that on July 19th, 2013 Exodus International released their plans to shut down and end their conversion therapy practices. “From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters. Exodus International is the prodigal’s older brother, trying to impose its will on God’s promises, and make judgments on who’s worthy of His Kingdom. God is calling us to be the Father – to welcome everyone, to love unhindered” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus.
The closing of this anti-LGBT ministry is life changing and brings the country one step closer to ending all conversion therapy practices. There is a problem though: here in Massachusetts, parents can still legally subject their children to these abusive practices.
Conversion therapy systems stemmed in the United States from the religious concept of homosexuality as a sin. A number of organizations try to coach people caught by what is seen as the temptations of homosexuality to either change their sexual orientation or remain celibate and not give in to sin. Conversion therapy involves tactics that are often painful and sexually inappropriate. Part of this process involves treatments where LGBT individuals are shown images of heterosexual and homosexual sex acts while being given a certain stimulation to teach the body what is right or wrong, good or bad. When shown homosexual acts, survivors are exposed to pain through methods involving electric shock, heat, ice or nausea inducing drugs. The electric shocks are administered through small needles that are fitted into the fingertips, and when heterosexual acts are displayed, no pain is inflicted. This process is supposed to condition the brain to view homosexuality as negative. [pullquote]The closing of this anti-LGBT ministry is life changing and brings the country one step closer to ending all conversion therapy practices. There is a problem though: here in Massachusetts, parents can still legally subject their children to these abusive practices.[/pullquote]
Currently in Massachusetts, advocates are working on a bill that will legally prohibit parents from entering their children into conversion therapy. The most important way to stop this dehumanizing practice is by coming together to share our stories.
As one young man described his personal experience with conversion therapy, “I grew up in a very religious and conservative household. I knew that even if I could accept myself, and the feelings I was experiencing, my parents would never be able to see past their religious beliefs. I would be the demon child, shunned and unwelcome. Filling myself with these thoughts and all the comments my parents and religious institution had made pushed me off the edge. I didn’t want this life. My issue wouldn’t go away, it wasn’t temporary. My issue was permanent and I thought suicide might be the only answer.
“Through a whirlwind of events I was forced out to my parents. Since the spring of 2008, they have tried many ways to tell me I’m not gay or to ‘cure’ me. I went to all the sessions they requested me to. I went from youth pastors to ex-gay ministries, and was even sent to an exorcist. I’ve blocked out a lot of what I was told or encouraged to believe in from most of the sessions I went to.
“I tried running away several times, but it never worked out. Still dedicated to my academics I stuck it out for one more year of high school. I worked hard and graduated a full year early to get away from that unhealthy environment. Since moving away to college, I try to make trips to visit as short as possible. Even in the best circumstances, my parents are passive-aggressive.
“In addition to the pain I endured through the various conversion therapy sessions and the trauma I still carry, this process drove me away from religion. Faith used to be an incredibly important part of my life and my identity, and now I feel no connection to faith. I have tried many times to regain my connection by going to LGBT affirming churches, and still have not been able to reconnect.” Faith used to be an incredibly important part of my life and my identity, and now I feel no connection to faith. [pullquote]”… .I have tried many times to regain my connection by going to LGBT affirming churches, and still have not been able to reconnect.”[/pullquote]
In reference to this residual trauma, another young male survivor named Ryan explains, “I don’t know that I can actually describe all the lasting effects, or that I want to. Conversion therapy inflicted lasting harm and psychological damage that I will live with for the rest of my life. The harm of telling LGBT youth that they are defective or immoral is immeasurable.” Survivors often feel isolated and alone within LGBT community since their process of coming into their identity as an LGBT person is filled with so much pain. Connecting with other survivors can feel challenging too. As Ryan says, “I have some survivor friends through activism and they are wonderful people. I’m not keen to get that close to many other survivors, because of the lasting harm that I mentioned above. I’m full up on dealing with my own issues. Honestly, I try not to think about conversion therapy, outside of what is required of me for advocacy against this heinous practice.” [pullquote]”The harm of telling LGBT youth that they are defective or immoral is immeasurable.”[/pullquote]
Just as these survivors have done by sharing their experiences, personal stories are powerful and can help change hearts and minds. Together we can make this legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors a reality in Massachusetts.
To share your own story, please visit www.ProjectUnbroken.org.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by reading these survivor stories or thinking about how you want to share your own story, you can always call the 24/7 youth and young adult Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386, Fenway Health’s LGBT Helpline for youth and adults at (617) 267-9001, or Samaritans 24/7 helpline for youth and adults at (617) 247-0220.
Project Unbroken is a group of conversion therapy survivors and their supporters coming together to take a stand against these abusive practices. Project Unbroken provides an empowering space for people who have experienced conversion therapy to speak for themselves and become part of a movement for change. Project Unbroken fosters a sense of community among survivors, connects survivors to supportive mental health resources, and offers anyone who has been affected by conversion therapy the opportunity to become involved in the process of making legislative change in Massachusetts.
[From a News Release]