Mormon Teen Forced to Carry Rocks to 'Cure' Her Lesbianism

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday March 18, 2016

A new book from an ex-Mormon woman tells of months of abuse at the hands of her parents and church elders who beat her, humiliated her and made her carry heavy loads of rocks to 'cure' the gay out of her.

The Advocate reports that 21-year-old Alex Cooper was abused and held hostage at a gay conversion house in Utah after she told her parents that she was attracted to women at age 15.

In her new book, "Saving Alex," Cooper writes about trying to escape the facility, and attempting suicide to stop the abuse. As a teen, Cooper was removed from her home in California and sent to an ex-gay house in Utah run by a couple who "used faith to punish and terrorize her," said her publisher, HarperCollins.

In an interview with KUTV Salt Lake City, Cooper described the futility of ex-gay therapy, sometimes called "reparative" or "conversion therapy." "It's like sending you to therapy to change your eye color," she said, "It's not going to work. What it's going to do is damage you."

The website Opposing Views reports that the couple, Tiana and Johnny Siale of St. George, Utah, forced her to stand in the corner for hours with a backpack full of heavy rocks.

"I did not know how many hours I had been standing there, quietly trying to manage the pain by shifting my weight from foot to foot," said Cooper.

While Cooper stood with the rocks, she recalled being told by the couple: "Your family doesn't want you. God has no place for people like you in His plan."

After she tried to escape the "reparative therapy," the Johnny Siales punished her. Cooper said, "I came to my feet in front of him. He made a fist and punched me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me. I doubled over and choked for breath."

Queerty reports that Cooper was eventually allowed to attend a local public high school, where she reached out to Salt Lake City attorney Paul Burke, with the help of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.

She fought for a year to obtain a court order barring her parents from forcing her into ex-gay therapy -- the first such protection given to an openly gay teen in Utah.

Cooper said that her parents have apologized to her, telling KUTV Salt Lake City that "They thought they were doing the best thing for me. I think that's what a lot of parents are under the impression of, that they're doing the best thing for their child."

Now, Cooper and Burke are fighting to ban gay conversion therapy, which is not recognized as legitimate therapy by any major medical organization, notes Human Rights Campaign. It is illegal in some states, but not all.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.