LGBTQ People Who Endured 'Conversion Therapy' Turn to TikTok to Talk About It

Sunday August 23, 2020

LGBTQ people who were subjected to the practice of so-called "conversion therapy" have taken to TikTok to recount their experiences, reach out to others who have survived similar experiences and offer support to youths fearful of being sent away such programs parents, Reuters reports.

Reuters related the story of Mike Dorn, now 30, who was sent into a Christian program in California by his parents in a fruitless bid to "turn" him straight. Fifteen years after the traumatic experience, stuck at home thanks to COVID-19, Thomas needed to face the trauma of having survived a three-month period during which, he recalled, he was subjected to physical and psychological abuse. He made videos in which he talked about the experience and posted them to the popular social media app.

What happened next was a healing and validating. Said Dorn:

"A lot of people were messaging me, and it was this form of love and support and family that I've never experienced before."

Among messages of support, Reuters reported, "conversion therapy" survivors like Dorn have also found a community of others who endured the same treatment - "hundreds" of them, Reuters said. What's more, the article added, they've been contacted by "young people who fear they will be forced to undergo the secretive practice, which is illegal for minors in 20 U.S. states after Virginia banned it in March."

Dorn alone reckoned that he'd gotten around 300 messages from those who had gone through tribulations similar to his own.

Noting that "depression, suicidality and self-destructive behavior... often result from conversion therapy," Reuters also shared the story young woman named Merry who was subjected to "conversion therapy" by a church counselor at the age of 17. The counselor attempted to use "aversion therapy" - the infliction of pain that is then associated with thoughts or desires - to "turn" Merry's natural romantic and sexual attraction toward others of the same gender into an unpleasant experience.

Years later, the article reported, Merry's relationship collapsed, in part, Merry believes, because of the trauma of "conversion therapy."

But even at the time, Merry understood that the so-called treatment was doing something to her that she didn't like. When a pastor instructed Merry to pass along the homophobic messages she herself had been given by her church, Merry recounted to the media, she found herself telling another teenager "bullshit that I had been fed for the past year,"

"I remember watching this kid's heart just break and sink," Merry added. "I was like, I've really just turned into this monster. I'm now damaging this kid."

After sharing her story at TikTok, Merry said, she heard from LGBTQ youth who worried if they were going to suffer similar horrors.

"I got some terrifying messages from some kids where I ended up seeking out legal intervention to get them out," Merry told Reuters.

Merry isn't alone in having regrets over contributing to the cycle. In recent years, a number of high-profile former advocates of "conversion therapy" have stepped up to acknowledge what mental health professionals have long been saying: The practice has no therapeutic benefit, and can be deeply damaging to vulnerable individuals.

Some of those former adherents of the sham treatment have gone as far as to offer public apologies for the harm they have caused.

Meanwhile lawmakers have started taking notice. In addition to being banned for use on minor is 20 American states, "conversion therapy" bans have been put in place nationally in Germany and proposed in Canada. Other nations - including Israel, Mexico, and Britain - are contemplating following suit.