Boy Erased ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
Boy Erased is a nonfiction book, a “memoir,” by a writer named Garrard Conley. It is a first-hand account of a Christian-based therapy program whose goal is to turn homosexual people (male and female) into heterosexual people.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. However, that didn’t stop the formation of Love in Action (LIA), a nondenominational fundamentalist Christian organization that promised to cure all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) congregants of their “sexual addictions.”
Garrard Conley is the “boy” in question. He is from a strictly religious, Missionary Baptist family in Arkansas. His father is a fundamentalist minister who believes in a strict interpretation of God’s word. When Garrard realizes he’s gay, he has to keep it a secret because he knows his parents will never understand or accept his sexuality. They discover the truth about him when he is a college student. They view homosexuality as a “condition” or an “addiction” like alcoholism that can be “cured” through prayer and counseling. (LIA uses some of the techniques of Alcoholics Anonymous.) Garrard’s father tells him he will not continue to finance his education unless he submits to “ex-gay” therapy and becomes “cured.”
The therapy consists of first writing about and then talking through one’s sexual feelings in front of a group of strangers, feeling contrite and ashamed, and praying that God will make you “pure.” The idea is to remove all temptation and sinful thoughts that lead to sinful acts that will assure the practitioner will spend eternity burning in the fires of hell. It is a kind of brainwashing that sometimes leaves participants suicidal. There is no evidence, from a scientific point of view, that a person’s sexual orientation can be changed in this way.
Boy Erased is an interesting story about what one young man went through in an effort to please his parents and make himself acceptable in the eyes of the world. A better idea might have been to provide “re-orientation” therapy and counseling to the parents to get them to accept their son and his sexuality. The upshot of the book is that ex-gay therapy doesn’t work and apparently does more harm than good.
Copyright © 2017 by Allen Kopp