There’s no question that social issues in America have been at the forefront of political conversation for basically the entire time it’s existed. America was founded on puritan, religious principles topped with a desire for colonization of which the displacement of millions of native inhabitants is directly responsible. With these religious principles came a common symptom of religious states which is the control of the lives in the community the religion presides over. America is touted as a place for religious freedom, but in reality we have society built on fundmentalist christian values. Under the wrong leadership, this can be a distructive force in our society, but what we’ll be discussing today is its effect on the LGBTQ+ community and conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is something practiced by fundmentalist church groups attempting to ‘convert’ gay members by turning them straight. This practice is extremely controversial and has caused a great deal of harm to many members of the LGBTQ+ communities who grew up in religious households. As a conversion therapy movie is on the horizon, it’s a good thing for everyone to understand it’s origins and how this practice has been so damaging to our society at large.
The origins of conversion therapy date back to the early 19th century. At this point, homosexuality was considered deviant and sinful due to the heavy influence of fundamentalist christian beliefs on everything in society. Scientists began to identify these behaviors by medical terms and attempted to discover ways to seemingly reverse it. These treatments varied from everything to electro shock therapy to lobotomies. These methods were reported to work, but if that was indeed observed it’s more likely that these procedures are tortuous and do a great deal of damage to the brain, which can certainly cause visible personality changes. The idea that these procedures have anything to do with sexuality is laughable, but alas these methods continued to be researched and popularized in fundamentalist communities. This also led to a variation of conversion therapy known as aversion therapy. The idea here is to make the individual disgusted by homosexual activities, in theory to avert them from participating.
Infamous Conversion Therapy Practitioners
Unsurprisingly, conversion therapy has made way for leaders of some popular church groups to develop their own cult-like systems of oppression meant to systematically target young gay people in the church. Most infamous for these practices is likely the group Exodus International, an interdenominational church group dedicated to eliminating gay desires for young members.
It was by far the biggest and most diabolical operation targeting and torturing gay youths and members of its church. Today, its founding members have mostly renounced it, but Exodus does still exist in various forms throughout the country. The central brains of Exodus, however, are long disbanded.
Conversion therapy is harmful for a variety of reasons. The big idea being that homosexuality is something that needs to be ‘cured’ is in and of itself a bigotted way of looking at human behavior, desire and sexuality. For centuries, LGBTQ+ youth have had to suffer through erasure, violence and intolerance, and conversion therapies are one of the worst ways that the church attempts to isolate those dealing with these feelings and praying on young people who are looking to the adults in their lives for guidance. Conversion therapy is just one of the ways that conseratives and fundamentalist christians instill shame and fear into society against the gay community, further supporting a patriarchical society that favors straight identities, relationships and conservative values over all else.
Conversion Therapy Today
Today, conversion therapy is largely touted as a violent scam and an attempt by the church to push outdated ideas about sin and lifestyle choice that simply aren’t true, and have cost the lives of millions of LGBTQ+ youth. And that number is still climbing. While conversion therapy isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be, homophobia is still alive and well in our country and the more awareness we have, the more hope we can hold that someday these horrible values will be absent from our society.
Conversion therapy is one of the worst traditions in fundamentalist church groups, and has caused an extreme amount of harm toward the gay community in America. Time and time again we hear stories of families being broken apart simply because of who their child is. We are all born beautiful, and whomever we love should be celebrated and embraced. There have already been a few feature films produced on the subject, and there is a new conversion therapy movie on the horizon to keep your eyes peeled for, one that has an amazing story. So, keep yourself informed and do all the research you can on the subject to recognize these harmful ideals when you run into them in real life.