From Conversion Therapy to Living Authentically
By, Adam Trimmer
“You are not alone.” This message is simple, but when the comfort of those words resonate, they provide an unmistakable feeling of empowerment and freedom. When I initially left conversion therapy in the summer of 2008, at age 18, I left behind teachings of shame, denial, restructure of identity, and blame towards family. In the years following, I was not met with empathy and understanding; I was seeing that very few people knew anything about this, and that for me to seek comfort, I had to explain everything first. There were so many parts to explain, including group therapy, conferences, mentors, pastoral counseling, and how I myself believed in the process because it was introduced as a recovery program following a suicide attempt. I did not have the energy to reflect back on my life as an ex-gay, so instead, I kept it completely hidden. I felt alone.
I attempted dating after conversion therapy, but many of these teachings still pervaded my mind, resulting in unintentional sabotage. For example, in 2013, I was so careful to “not get too emotionally dependent” on a first date, that I did not end it with a hug, kiss, or any form of touch. In conversion therapy I was taught that because I struggled with same-sex attraction, I was susceptible to becoming emotionally dependent and that I was to obsessively manage my interactions with other men. My ex-gay counselor led me to believe that this was because of an emotionally absent father and an overbearing mother, neither of which were true. While I was able to escape the programs and the pseudo-therapy, I was too ashamed to speak of the specifics, so those messages still influenced my lifestyle.
It was not until 2016, at age 26, that I finally decided to seek counseling. Previously, I was so vehemently against getting help because I felt that I would never again trust a licensed professional with my mental well-being. However, after two years of real, affirming therapy, I started feeling free, understanding that the ex-gay part of my past will always be there, and that I have the capacity to acknowledge it and live in the present.
Earlier this year, I stumbled upon a book titled Boy Erased by an author named Garrard Conley. It was absolutely life-changing to hear another story with ex-gay terms that I knew well but had not heard anyone else use for a very long time. Each page of the memoir refuted the misconceptions that I was alone as a conversion therapy survivor and that I should keep quiet. I highly recommend this book to fellow survivors because of this impact.
I established a group in Richmond called Love Actually Won RVA with my friend Takari. We are a group for conversion therapy survivors and allies. We are not a non-profit group, nor are we a counseling service; rather, we exist as a MeetUp group. We informally meet once a month, united by our common pasts and one message: We are not alone.