Talking with Ex-Gay Conversion Leader McKrae Game: 'I Am Sorry, and I Was Wrong.'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 9, 2019

McKrae Game made headlines earlier this month when he told the world he is gay.

It is the kind of revelation that barely turns heads days, but McKrae Game's narrative is different than most: for nearly 29 years he worked in the Gay Conversion industry. In 1999 he founded Hope for Wholeness, a faith-based conversion therapy program headquartered in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The group started as an affiliate of Exodus International. McKrae led the group until he was fired by its board of directors in 2017. This summer he went public about being gay, followed, earlier this month, with his condemnation of the practice of conversion therapy.

In a lengthy Facebook post published on August 20, McKrae wrote: "I WAS WRONG! Please forgive me!... I certainly regret where I caused harm. I know that creating the organization that still lives was in a large way causing harm. Creating a catchy slogan that put out a very misleading idea of 'Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ' was definitely harmful. Promoting the triadic model that blamed parents and conversion or prayer therapy, that made many people believe that their orientation was wrong, bad, sinful, evil, and worse that they could change was absolutely harmful. People reported to attempt suicide because of me and these teachings and ideals...

"Today, I'm thankful to have it all behind me. I plan to communicate with anyone, including media, that wants to speak with me. I'll take advantage of any opportunity I get to share my experiences, and my belief that exgay ministry and conversion therapy IS HARMFUL."

"As a practice, conversion therapy has been widely discredited by health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association," TIME Magazine. Attempts at changing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity are linked with mental health trauma, including thoughts of suicide.

"Though roundly condemned by medical professionals, conversion therapy remains in practice in much of the U.S. About 698,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy, according to a 2018 study from UCLA's Williams Institute," continues the TIME report. "Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. currently ban conversion therapy for minors, according to the think tank Movement Advancement Project. South Carolina, Game's home state, is not among the ones that ban the practice."

It is a life-changing about-face from the 50-year old McKrae, whose organization has been one of the more successful in the ex-gay conversion movement, having found outlets in some 15 states where such therapies are permitted. EDGE recently spoke to McKrae about his own conversion, his conflicted history with homosexuality and what he plans to do to help rid the world of the discredited conversion therapy practices.

Coming out and falling out

EDGE: Can we start with your description of how you came out and the subsequent fallout?

McKrae Game: I just want to make sure it's clear that I didn't mean to cause this media stir. It all happened because I posted something on Facebook. I didn't mean to come out because I was terrified to come out, because I knew that it would cause a huge ruckus and I didn't know if I could handle the backlash from the Christian community, the gay community, and the ex-gay community. It was only 4 months ago that I was telling local gay leaders that I had befriended that I was terrified and that I didn't know if I would ever come out publicly. I accidentally came out because I started to change my dialogue on Facebook and someone asked me if I was pro-gay on Facebook and my answer was "I don't know if I am pro-gay, I know that I am not anti-gay, I am gay. I am pro-human. Everyone deserves the right to be loved, accepted and affirmed." Since I came out, I do need to apologize for my past works. I do regret what I have done. Now that I am out, I plan to have a platform and help end conversion therapy.

EDGE: Looking back, when did you realize that you were gay?

McKrae Game: I knew I was different at 5 years old when I am putting on my sister's ballerina outfit and looking at myself and wondering what it is like to be her... My father caught me that very first time and tried to shame me out of it. He pulled my mom in the room and he berated me. That experience imprinted in me and I continued to do it (relive the experience) after that day and every day for the next 7 years.

Never met a gay person

EDGE: But you had a period when lived your life as a not-so-closeted gay. Can you discuss how that came about?

McKrae Game: In 11th grade, boys hazed me, but it was also the same time that I started having same-sex attractions. I was raised in the church and never heard a sermon about homosexuality, but heard a lot of slurs about being gay even from my own family members. I have been called 'sissy,' 'queer,' and 'fag.' I didn't really know what being gay meant. Growing up, I never met a gay person until I moved out of my parents' house at the age of 18. I dated girls in high school but didn't have any sexual attraction to them. I got a roommate and he was gay. After having a conversation one night, he not only came on to me, but he reached over and kissed me, and we had sex that night. I had a nervous breakdown over the next two weeks. I had never experienced anything like that and all I knew were the negative things about being gay. We were never in a relationship but became friends with benefits.

EDGE: What drove you to suppress your own orientation?

McKrae Game: I had some friends reach out to me and invite me to church, so I told my gay friends that I was going. One of said to me, 'do you realize that homosexuals go to hell?' I had never heard that before. Here I was 22-years old and living as a gay male for three-and-a-half years. I did appreciate that my friends asked me to church. Fast forward a few months, I was at a Christian conference and an altar call was made and I accepted Jesus Christ in my life as my Lord and Savior. At that moment, because of the religious language that I had heard and what I was feeling, I did not believe that I could be gay and Christian, so I left that way of life.

A new path

EDGE: If you knew were gay why did you start one of the country's largest conversion therapy ministries?

McKrae Game: One day while driving in my car, the radio commercial asked 'Are you Gay or Lesbian and don't want to be? There is hope for change. Come to our Christian conference. There will be former homosexuals giving their testimonies.' I went and listened to their stories. I met the therapist who was hosting the conference, and he gave me a book entitled, 'You Don't Have to be Gay.' That put me on my new path. I was seeing him once a week for several years. I got married. During this period, I bought some gay porn and she (my wife) caught me with it. I also had a one-time sexual experience with a man and that got me back into counseling which led me to my first conversion conference. I really felt at that time that God was calling me into the conversion ministry.

EDGE: During that period was there a time that you knew what you were doing was wrong?

McKrae Game: During that time, you must understand, I really didn't believe that I was doing conversion therapy. I never told anyone that I could change their attractions or imply that their attractions would diminish. I was telling them that I had same-sex attractions and I didn't expect that to change, but I believed that my attractions and my faith did not align with one another, so I choose to deny my attractions. I was absolutely in denial. I was denying that part of me. I now consider that a form on conversation therapy when you encourage an individual to deny that part of who they are.

I don't think there is an accepted definition of what conversion therapy is, so my definition back then was that I did not do conversion therapy. Today, my definition has changed, and I would say that I did do it. Now, I believe that anyone who is encouraging someone to deny their natural sexual orientation is practicing conversion therapy. During that time, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, because people were coming to me. I wasn't seeking out gay people and telling them that they are wrong, or you have to change. They were coming to me saying that they don't want to be gay. That it doesn't fit my beliefs and I would try to help them.

'Eating me alive'

EDGE: Why did you continue and not just walk away from it all?

McKrae Game: This was eating me alive, but I didn't know it. I thought I had some type of anxiety disorder my entire life. I would see therapist and doctors. I didn't know what was wrong with me. It just wasn't that easy to walk away. I was in a cult-like mindset. The people doing this honestly believe that they are on a mission from God. During the second half of my ministry, I started moderating my teachings and belief systems. Early on, I was telling people that if you didn't do XYZ you would go to hell. I stopped doing that because I thought who am I to judge these people? I started to think how can I fix someone if I couldn't even fix myself? My new message started to become 'You need to start to like, love and accept yourself.' Now that I have allowed myself to accept who I am my stressors and anxiety are gone. Now I have an inner peace.

EDGE: Many states have banned gay conversion therapy. What needs to be done to make sure there is an end to this harmful practice?

McKrae Game: I want to help ban conversion therapy. It needs to end. I want parents to stop throwing their kids out when they are honest. They should be thankful that their kids trust them with something so personal. People like me and people who have been through conversion therapy need to be telling their stories. I am going to be going in front of legislatures and working on getting bills passed and speaking to anyone who will listen to my story. My hope is that I will help make some change and end this. Conversion therapy is harmful and needs to stop!

EDGE: How are you going to give back to the LGBTQ community that you wronged?

McKrae Game: I am committed to give back and right my wrongs. I have already donated my speaking fees to LGBTQ groups. I am volunteering as much as possible in my local gay community. Most importantly, I will be sharing my story and shining a light on the harmfulness of conversion story. I could have just disappeared and did nothing, but that is not what I wanted to do.

EDGE: What is your message to your conversion therapy survivors?

McKrae Game: I am talking to them now as they reach out to me. My message is 'I am sorry, and I was wrong.' How can I help you now? I've been talking to them via some live FB feeds and YouTube videos and will continue to do so.

EDGE: I feel like you will be spending the rest of your life apologizing. Is this something you are ready for?

McKrae Game: Yes, I want to do that. I don't plan on walking around beating myself up for the rest of my life. For the ones who are seeking me out, I am apologizing for what I have done. I am helping them in their healing process.

For more on McKrae Game, visit his Facebook page.

Watch this interview with McKrae Game: