One person's story can wield tremendous power. The film adaptation of Garrard Conley's memoir Boy Erased by Focus Features Films has hit the big screen and emboldened conversion therapy survivors to come forward and unerase their own story - revealing conversion therapy's shocking prevalence in modern society. And it's making an impact.
We recommend two podcasts (listed below with background information) to examine the origins and consequences of conversion therapy and broaden the context of the Boy Erased film. When you listen to these stories, it will be a profound reminder that the advancement of time is not always commensurate with the advancement of modern science and/or civil rights issues.
Making Gay History - The Podcast
The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) designation of homosexuality as a mental illness led to efforts to find a cure. Methods ranged from conversational conversion therapy to electric shock. Those sentenced to mental institutions often faced more extreme measures such as paralytic drugs, lobotomies and castration. In 1957, psychologist Dr. Evelyn Hooker published the research paper "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual" which postulated that homosexuality was not an illness, but a variant in sexual pattern within the normal range of human behavior. Dr. Hooker's research was highly influential in the APA's decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III (DSM III) in 1973.
FOCUS FEATURES, STITCHER & LUMINA HOUSE
This four-part series reveals the hidden and under-told stories of conversion therapy. Read the following synopses and then dive in to UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America.
Episode 1: This is a modern day story of Job. It starts with Garrard Conley, a young gay kid growing up in rural Arkansas, trying to find a place to stand between a devout father and unforgiving God, and ends in a dramatic escape from an ex-gay camp and the smuggling out of a book that overturns an industry.
Episode 2: What if you’re a mother who’s a leader in the Christian community and your kid comes out as gay? Who do you call? The Mama Bears. This is the story of one woman who created a supergroup of like-minded mothers who faced down threats of excommunication because they refused to disown their kids, and will step in if you disown yours.
Episode 3: This is one of the rarest stories of all: a man who publicly experiences a profound change of heart. This is a profile of one of the gods of psychotherapy, who through a reckoning with his own work (oddly enough in the pages of Playboy magazine), becomes the first domino to fall in science’s ultimate disowning of the “gay cure.”
Episode 4: You’re openly gay. Then you become the leader of the largest ex-gay organization and, under your leadership, many lives are destroyed. You leave that organization, come out as gay - again - and find love. Do you deserve to be happy? This is a story of identity, making amends and John Smid’s reckoning with his life.