From Conversion Therapy to Living Authentically

By, Adam Trimmer

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“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.