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.
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story, like many of the others, was heartbreaking, and helped to highlight some of the disastrous consequences of this outdated and dangerous practice.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."