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Gay Dad Opens Up About His Experiences With Conversion Therapy

The California-based gay dad was one of 8 people to be interviewed about his experiences with the disproven practice of conversion therapy for The Cut.

Conversion therapy, the disproven practice of attempting to change an individual's sexual orientation through psychological interventions, has been in the news a lot lately. This past May, Maryland became the 11th state to completely ban the damaging therapy for minors. Some states are even considering bills to further prohibit the practice for adults.

Hollywood is paying attention to the trend, with two major movies, Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, to be released before the end of the year.


So to gain some insight into the practice, reporters for The Cut interviewed 8 individuals who had undergone conversion therapy, one of which was a 57-year-old gay man from California, who was the father of two kids. His story, like many of the others, was heartbreaking, and helped to highlight some of the disastrous consequences of this outdated and dangerous practice.

"I was active with a few guys in college," Jon said. "Then I kind of put all of that away and went into a marriage with a woman and was married for about 15 years and had two sons. And of course that marriage got dicey — I ended up in ex-gay therapy at the referral of a pastor at about the age of 37, 38. I did therapy for about seven and a half, eight years, off and on."

Jon says in the piece, having grown up in a conservative, fundamentalist family himself, that he also raised his sons to be very religious. When he came out to them, they were 15 and 19, respectively. Neither of them responded well.

"By then I had stopped seeing myself as 'unwanted same-sex attracted," he said,"and started seeing myself as more of what I would call 'gay side B,' chaste and celibate. I went through a really messy divorce and spent years in family law court fighting for custody of my kids. It's really awful."

Jon is much more comfortable with his sexuality today, and has even started dating men. But his kids, who are 26 and 21 now, remain estranged from him.

"I do regret raising my sons so religious," Jon says. "I wish that weren't so. The hardest thing for me has been my son, my older son, I believe he's gay. A few years ago he met a girl in February, got engaged to her in April, they got married in August, split up in October and were divorced by the end of the year. It was like a horror story for me, a train wreck to watch. I still wish I would've been a dad, but I would've done that with a male partner and adopted and, you know, raised kids that way."

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Ed Smart, Father of Kidnapping Victim Elizabeth Smart, Comes Out as Gay

In coming his coming out letter, Ed Smart, a Mormon, condemned the church for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals.

In a post on Facebook, Ed Smart, father of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, came out as gay. He also discussed his strained relationship with his Mormon faith, claiming he felt he didn't feel comfortable living as an openly gay man in a church with a difficult history with respect to its LGBTQ members. He and his wife, Lois, have filed for divorce.

"This is one of the hardest letters I have ever written," he began the letter. "Hard because I am finally acknowledging a part of me that I have struggled with most of my life and never wanted to accept, but I must be true and honest with myself." He went on to acknowledged a new set of challenges facing he and his family as they navigate a divorce and his coming out — in the public eye, no less — but concluded, ultimately, that it's a "huge relief" to be "honest and truthful about my orientation."

He went on to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "ridicule, shunning, rejection and outright humiliation" of LGBTQ individuals. "I didn't want to face the feelings I fought so hard to suppress, and didn't want to reach out and tell those being ostracized that I too am numbered among them. But I cannot do that any longer."

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Ed Smart further discussed his reasons for coming out now, as a 64-year-old man.

"I mean, I knew that it would probably come out at some point, just because people can't leave things alone. I did anticipate that it would happen at some time, but my intention in writing it was to try to let my friends and family know, you know my extended family ... know where things were. So, you know, I was really concerned about how the rumor mill starts," he told the paper. "I knew that at some point in time, that would come out," he elaborated. "I didn't know when it would come out, and so I would rather have it come out the way that it did versus having some rumors going around, and you know the crazy way things can get twisted."

In 2002, Ed Smart's daughter Elizabeth was abducted at knife point by a married couple from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She suffered physical and sexual abuse at the couple's hands, for nine months, until she was finally rescued by police. During the ordeal, papers — including the Salt Lake Tribute — speculated about Ed Smart's sexual orientation based on some fabricated information sold to the paper by tabloids like the National Enquirer. (The Enquirer retracted the story, and the reporters at the Tribute were ultimately fired.)

"I think that in April I started feeling like I needed to prepare something," Smart told the Tribute. "Because during Elizabeth's ordeal, there were things said, and it wasn't what I wanted to say, and I was not going to allow that to happen again."

As to how his family has taken the news, Smart said they've been "very kind" to him. "I think it was very difficult to have this kind of come out of the blue. I don't think any of them knew I was struggling with this, so it was something they were, if you want to call it, blindsided by. I totally get that. They've really been very wonderful."

Congrats to Ed Smart on making the difficult decision to live his truth. Read his full letter here and his interview with the Tribute here.

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