In recent years, great progress has been made for LGBT rights. Gay marriage is becoming more and more accepting around the world and many churches are opening their doors to gay and lesbian Priests. Unfortunately, a dark treatment that forces gay men and women to change their sexual orientation is still practiced around the world and is convincing thousands of gay youths that they are unnatural human beings.
Gay conversion therapy camps or ‘Pray the gay away’ camps as they’re often referred to have one aim and one aim only: to convince gay people that their homosexuality is a disease and sin that can be cured. The methods used by the camp leaders to ‘cure’ people of their sexual orientation are nothing short of sadistic, ranging from electroshock therapy to nausea-inducing drugs and exorcisms. As a result, patients are often too traumatized by their experiences to form a normal relationship upon leaving these camps and many cannot face life at all.
Members that manage to endure the months of torture and abuse at the hands of these gay conversion programs are forced to live a lie and repress their true selves when they rejoin the outside world. For others, the horrors of the camp leave them with no choice but to escape and risk further abuse or put an end to it all and commit suicide. Astonishingly, most of these horrifying true accounts of life in a gay conversion camp are fairly recent – proof if any were needed that so much more needs to be done about protecting and ensuring the rights of the LGBT community.
Here are 15 moving and truly chilling stories from gay conversion therapy camps.
Many of the young men and boys that are sent to ‘straightening’ camps are felt especially stigmatized and judged by their father – this was the case for one unnamed member who was determined to reprogram himself because his own father didn’t view him as a normal kid. Most people would be equally hurt by their parents' decision to send them to a gay conversion camp, but feeling like a disappointment in the eyes of your main male role model can have a significant impact on some young boys.
Concerned so much about earning his father’s approval, one boy agreed to undergo a form of electroshock torture which involved taping electrical pads to his testicles while he viewed gay porn. If the young man got an erection from watching the video, he would get his manhood electrocuted. The lengths this boy went to just to win his dad’s respect is heartbreaking and reveals just how brainwashed camp members can become.
Gay conversion camps are hell-bent on destroying self-worth by any means necessary, so it’s no surprise to learn that for some, suicide can seem like the only way out. This was the tragic outcome for one young girl, who at the age of 17 decided to end her own life after camp counselors did what they do best by convincing her that she didn’t deserve to be loved.
According to her cousin, the young girl had long pleaded with her parents to take her back home since she was hopelessly unhappy. Unfortunately, her parents were adamant that she saw the gay therapy program through to the end. By then, of course, it was too late. Her suicide letter pointed the blame towards her parents, saying “Mom, Dad I love you, despite how misguided you are, you taught me how to hate and feel disgusted with myself rather than to love myself.”
At age 15, South African teen Raymond Buys was enrolled into a ‘Game Rangers’ camp by his parents. Buys was not gay, but was thought to have exhibited ‘gay traits’, so his mother and father sent him off to a training camp that they assumed would make him “a better man, and give him a better future.” The next time they saw their teenage son was in the hospital three months later – he was severely malnourished, bruised and fighting for his life.
The camp Buys’ parents had assumed would simply train their son in the art of being 'manly' turned out to be a gay conversion camp that subjected Raymond and the other boys to round the clock torture. According to a camp mate of Raymond’s, their camp leader reportedly chained Buys to his bed every night, refused him toilet access and one occasion, Buys was forced to eat his own feces. Raymond was later taken to hospital emaciated and suffering from brain damage as a result of his beatings. He died soon after.
An anonymous gay man on Reddit shared his experience of escaping from a ‘Pray the gay away’ program organized by his local church as a teenager. Faced with endless sermons about how destructive and sinful homosexuality was for the soul, he felt increasingly isolated and close to suicidal. He bravely decided that enough was enough and it was time to plan his escape.
Luckily one morning, one of the doors outside his dorm was unguarded and he managed to slip out of the camp and on to the main road. He followed it until he was out of sight and was able to get a reception to call his dad and brother. To the young teen’s surprise, his dad was proud of his successful escape attempt and applauded him for sticking to his beliefs. The camp counselors, on the other hand, were not so happy and considered him an abomination and destined for hell. By the sounds of things, he’d already escaped hell.
29-year-old Samuel Brinton is truly an inspiration to the LGBT community. As a boy, Brinton was physically abused by his father for revealing he had feelings for another boy. Soon after this, his mother sent him off to be treated with gay aversion therapy – the methods of which belong in a horror movie. Throughout his time in therapy, Brinton was made to believe that all gay people had AIDS, that all other gay people had been killed by the government and that he would be next.
In addition to the brainwashing came the physical and emotional torture that continues to plague him in adulthood. Brinton was made to associate gay sex and feelings of arousal with extreme pain using methods which included electrocution, being burnt with hot copper coils and being frozen with ice. Brinton attempted suicide 5 times and still experiences pain when his current boyfriend shows him any affection. Admirably, Sam now speaks about his hellish ordeal around the world as a campaigner for LGBT rights.
When most of us think of exorcisms, we can’t help but picture spinning heads, a possessed girl, and projectile vomiting. The reality, however, can simply involve hours of intense prayer and repentance for the so-called sin of being born homosexual – but this doesn’t make the experience any less traumatic for the individual. Exorcisms in gay conversion therapy can consist of shaming techniques to expose the unnatural ‘demons’ within people. This is what Peterson Toscano had discovered.
Toscano was raised as a devout Christian and problems arose when his faith stood in the way of his true sexual orientation. Fearful about being a gay teenager at a time when ‘gay’ was synonymous with AIDS, Toscano’s faith convinced him that he needed ‘fixing’. One area of his exorcism-like treatment forced him to record every homosexual encounter he ever had and share the most embarrassing one with his family. Toscano suffered from a long period of depression as a result of his treatment, which did nothing to suppress his true nature.
Very often, young gay men who are struggling to come out have a fractured relationship with their father and this is something gay conversion camps will frequently use to their advantage. An undercover reporter at a gay reprogramming camp recalls how most men in the camp lacked a father figure in their life and were often asked to think of their most traumatic and painful memories involving feelings of fatherly neglect. It wasn’t long before things got out of hand.
Camp leaders would often encourage these young men to engage in roleplay whereby they were able to beat up and brutally ‘kill’ their fathers. The undercover camp member reportedly watched as one young man was given a bat and a punching bag to represent his father. The camp leaders encouraged the member to beat his imaginary father until he was dead, allowing a new more accepting father to appear. By the camp’s logic, the young man no longer had father issues and was therefore no longer homosexual. Horrific.
You know things are bad amongst intolerant and homophobic people when you’d rather seek solitude in a psychiatric ward. This is exactly what one 16-year-old girl was driven to after facing extreme prejudice both from her family and officials at a ‘pray the gay way’ program. The young girl (who has shared her experiences anonymously on Reddit) recalls how she was found out as a lesbian by her brother. Her parents' immediate reaction was to send her to what she thought were ‘family counseling’ sessions.
These, of course, turned out to be a gay conversion-style program, where the 16-year-old was repeatedly told by staff members and her own flesh and blood that she was destined to go to hell. To make matters worse, her parents even asked her to sign a contract before allowing her to live at home again. Before long, the pressure overwhelmed her so much that she asked to be admitted to a psychiatric ward for a whole week, just to escape her overbearing counselors and family.
James Guay was brought up in a strict Christian household in California, where homosexuality was viewed upon with the same level of disgust as rape and child molestation. Once Guay began to experience feelings for other boys, he fought his natural desires at every opportunity, which eventually led to self-harm and suicidal tendencies. Since suicide was as much of a sin as homosexuality, however, Guay was torn between being true to himself and the prospect of burning in hell. Discovering he had self-harmed, Guay’s parents enrolled him in therapy sessions and it was here that he was told that his gay feelings were down to his parents.
Guay was wrongly told by his therapist that his gay feelings were down to ‘an overbearing mother and distant father’ and convinced him that he had suffered physical and sexual abuse throughout his childhood. There was no absolutely no truth to this, but James’ therapist would encourage him to remember non-existent abuse memories to ward him off homosexuality. Forced associations between abuse and homosexuality is a popular technique of anti-gay counselors, and these practices are thankfully now banned in Guay’s home state of California.
Like anything you repress about yourself for years on end, bottling up your true desires when it comes to your sexual orientation will always have a lasting and very damaging effect in later life. As well as affecting the life of the camp member, gay conversion camps can destroy so many other lives in their wake. One boy on Reddit disclosed how his father’s experience at a gay conversion camp in his youth eventually turned him into an abusive father and husband.
His father forced himself to believe he was ‘cured’ of his homosexuality and vowed to live a straight life – getting married to a woman for 30 years and fathering a son in the process. Throughout the marriage, they boy’s father was a pressure cooker of emotions – leading to violent outbursts that culminated with his father leaving his mother for a man. His son forever blames the camp for turning a man against himself and destroying innocent lives - all for the sake of being gay.
This sounds like the premise of a comedy film, but the reality was far more disturbing that it sounds. When one teenage girl was spotted hanging out with her gay and female best friend, her strict Catholic parents believed the two girls were secretly dating and decided to take action. Recalling her experience on a forum, the straight 15-year-old revealed that her parents had sent her to a ‘pray the gay away’ camp, where she spent a week before making a break for it.
While in the camp, she was made to attend regular prayer circles and was often denied food and water because she refused to admit that she was gay and had a ‘problem’. During her time there, she also witnessed a camp counselor and camp member of the same sex get together. Finally, sick of the hypocrisy and abuse at the hands of the camp, she escaped with the help of a male friend. When her parents found the two together, they assumed the conversion therapy had been a huge success!
An anti-gay organization in Australia known as Living Waters intrigued investigator, Claire Weaver, to go undercover and discover exactly how they operate. Like most gay conversion programs, Living Waters was designed to help men and women across the country ‘overcome’ their homosexuality – mainly by inventing idiotic statistics about gay people and brainwashing camp members into believing them.
Throughout her time at the organization, Weaver attended speeches that told members that 80-85 % of lesbians were sexually abused in the past and that women who were never breastfed were more likely to become attracted to women! Weaver also discovered the detestable philosophy the camp lived by, which was to enforce gender stereotypes in order to prevent homosexuality in kids. Living Waters believed in forcing feminine things on to girls and vice versa to ensure children never grow up ‘confused’. The only thing guaranteed to confuse children is to be taught this utter bullsh*t.
In the words of one gay conversion camp survivor, simply known as ‘TC’, conversion therapy made him and others feel that they “were no longer people at the end of the program.” At the age of 15 in 2012, TC was forced by his parents to receive conversion treatment. This form of treatment wasn’t simply designed to change his sexual orientation, however, it was to kill any trace of his former self and start afresh.
TC’s conversion therapy consisted of two major steps – to break his self-worth using torture methods and to rebuild a ‘new’ character with the teachings of Jesus. The initial step (lasting six months) involved shock therapy and physical abuse with sessions lasting for 1-3 hours at a time. By the second step, members had become numb, blank shells ready for the program to rebuild with a different way of eating, talking and thinking. TC survived his horrific experience but saw many friends take their own lives because of the inhumane system.
Churches should be seen as a place of peace and a sanctuary that welcome all of God’s children. In recent years, however, some have shown themselves to be very judgemental and backward in their view of the LGBT community. This was apparent to a girl from West Yorkshire, who found herself victim to anti-gay blackmail in her own evangelical church.
In 2007, the girl (given the pseudonym ‘Louise’ to protect her identity) was told that she was forbidden from socializing with anyone under the age of 18 in the church for fear that her homosexuality could influence younger churchgoers. As well as this, she was made to feel further isolated by having regular exorcisms performed on her. Her progress in shedding her ‘gay tendencies’ was constantly monitored by the church elders. Louise later revealed that if she had been more impressionable, she could have easily become very “damaged by the process.”
Sometimes, the most difficult period in the lives of gay conversion camp members is the life that awaits them once they become ‘cured’. Having spent their formative years being taught that their natural desires for a homosexual relationship are inherently wrong and sick, many camp survivors struggle to form same sex relationships and consequently, wind up married to the opposite sex, raising kids and living a lifelong lie.
This was the harsh reality for men like Anthony Venn-Brown and Simon Tinkler from Australia, who spent years married to women and even fathering children because evangelical pastors convinced them that through enough prayer and marriage, they could become straight. Years of brainwashing treatment and enforced ‘manly chores’ in their youth had people like Venn-Brown and Tinkler convinced that their conversion therapy had worked. But both now live openly gay and are having to start their lives from scratch – all because religious nutcases perceived their natural feelings as ‘evil’.
Sources: BBC News; Huffington Post; Now To Love.