Black transgender rally at Brooklyn Museum protests violence and discrimination (Photo by julieannpietra)

Survivors Celebrate ‘This Is What Love In Action Looks Like’

A panel discussion among five conversion-therapy survivors, produced May 21, 2020, following a screening of the 2011 documentary, This Is What Love In Action Looks Like. The discussion was hosted by Born Perfect Virginia Ambassador Adam Trimmer.

Hey y’all! (Proper Virginia Greeting)  

My name is Adam Trimmer, and I’m the Virginia Ambassador for Born Perfect. I, along with many others, have fought hard by speaking at different health regulatory board meetings, and legislative sessions to help bring about an end to the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy.

As you know, Virginia is now the 20th state to pass legislation that protects youth from conversion therapy. This is an incredible step, and we are really excited to have you join us. This was our first digital panel and movie screening, so feel free to share about it!   

The Movie

This is What Love in Action Looks Like. Morgan Fox, Director. Please take a moment to learn about the very talented director behind the film that we show here. Visit his website to discover more of his projects over his impressive 15-year career as a producer and director.

Movie trailer on YouTube
Full movie for rent on Vimeo

Individuals and Organizations Represented on the Panel

Mathew Shurka
Co-Founder, Born Perfect
Conversion Therapy Survivor

Mathew experienced conversion therapy in Virginia, and today he is helping end the practice. As the co-founder of Born Perfect, he has helped survivors from across the country become fierce advocates for our community. Explore our website to learn more about the campaign, the staff members, and how you can get involved!

Garrard Conley
Author, Boy Erased
Creator and Producer, UnErased: A History of Conversion Therapy in America

If you have not listened to Garrard’s podcast, UnErased, I would highly recommend giving it a listen prior to this screening. His memoir, Boy Erased, was adapted into the Golden Globe-nominated film of the same name in 2018, and the UnErased podcast tells more of the story. Visit his website to learn more about Garrard’s work, including his memoir, podcast, interviews, and other publications.

Luke Wilson
Ph.D Candidate at Florida Atlantic University
Conversion Therapy Survivor

Luke Wilson has brought a lot of visibility to Virginians about conversion therapy’s existence on college campuses. Luke gave this phenomenal talk at Florida Atlantic University, and he also wrote an article for Queerty and RVA Magazine.

Lisa Linsky, Esq.
Partner, McDermott Will & Emery
Outside Counsel, Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

Please visit the Stop Conversion Therapy website for valuable information gathered by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The site includes a downloadable copy of “The Pernicious Myth of Conversion Therapy”, also known as “The White Paper.” Lisa Linsky was the architect and principal drafter of The White Paper; it is both an educational and emotional journey through the history of conversion therapy.

Additional Information

Pray Away Film – Visit prayaway.com to discover more about the upcoming movie, Pray Away.

Mama Bears – Discover the Mama Bears organization at realmamabears.org.


Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Calgary Standing Policy Committee

Born Perfect Supports Calgary Bylaw to Protect LGBTQ+ People from Conversion Therapy

Born Perfect presented the following letter to the City of Calgary on May 12 and offered public comment to the Standing Policy Committee on Community and Protective Services on May 13, 2020.

Calgary Standing Policy CommitteeMay 12, 2020
Standing Policy Committee
on Community and Protective Services
City of Calgary, Alberta
Canada

To the Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to support the proposed Prohibited Businesses Bylaw.

I am the co-founder and chief strategist of Born Perfect, a U.S.-based, survivor-led movement of survivors and legal experts working to end conversion therapy. In the past eight years, Born Perfect has helped to pass laws protecting minors from conversion therapy in 20 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 70 localities in the U.S. We have also consulted with a number of legislative bodies and public officials considering similar legislation in other countries.

As a survivor of conversion therapy, I know firsthand that attempts by a therapist to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity result in serious, lasting harms. Like many other young people, I believed the professional therapists who told me I could change my sexual orientation and become straight. But after five years of doing everything I could to change, I was plunged into depression and despair upon realizing that these “therapies” were bogus and that I could not change.

Like other survivors, it has taken me years to recover from the damage this experience caused. I will never be able to recover the time that I spent in this bogus therapy, which prevented me for years from living as my true self and robbed me of years that I will never regain. Conversion therapy also nearly destroyed my family, driving a wedge between me and my parents and siblings, based on my therapists’ false assertion that being gay is caused by problems or deficiencies in parenting. There is absolutely no scientific basis for that assertion, which underline almost all conversion therapy. Instead, by blaming parents, conversion therapists drive a wedge between LGBTQ youth and their families at the very time when young people most need parental love and support.

As my experience and that of other survivors shows, conversion therapy is an insidious practice that has no place in the practice of modern mental health care.

Since California passed the first law protecting minors from conversion therapy in 2012, many more states and localities in the United States, and a growing number of countries across the globe, have taken action to address this public health crisis. Importantly, these laws have been supported by elected officials from across the political spectrum, in recognition that this is truly an issue of public health, not politics, and that all responsible public officials have a responsibility to protect young people from a practice that is universally condemned as ineffective and unsafe by the international medical community.

For these reasons, we strongly support the proposed bylaw and urge you to vote in favor of its passage.

Very truly yours,

Mathew Shurka
Co-Founder, Born Perfect


Born Perfect is the leading campaign to end conversion therapy. We are survivors, lawyers, and policy experts working together to protect LGBTQ+ people nationally and around the globe. Born Perfect is a program of National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Mathew Shurka

BY MATHEW SHURKA
NCLR Contributor

Six weeks and I’ll make you straight. Guaranteed.

That’s what a mental health professional told me when I was 16 years old, and trying to understand the feelings I was having for another teenage boy.

My father—afraid that our close-knit family would be ostracized in our community because of my sexual orientation—took me to the so-called therapist after I confided in my dad about my feelings for a friend. Little did anyone know that the visit with the therapist would start a seven-year battle that would pit my well being against the therapist’s relentless attempts to change my sexual orientation, and cause me to sink so deep into confusion and depression that I couldn’t leave my house for days on end, and even considered taking my own life.

I was raised 20-miles outside of New York City in a traditional Jewish household, where I was close with my parents and my two older sisters. Growing up, I always knew I was gay, but I fought back my feelings until I began to fall in love with a friend, and needed to share what I was experiencing with someone who could support and guide me. I turned to my father, who grew increasingly concerned and sought the help of the therapist whose promises of being able to make me straight in six weeks guaranteed intrigued him.

For an hour each week, this therapist, whose work was deeply rooted in tackling gay stereotypes, taught me the steps – walking more manly, talking more manly, becoming popular with my classmates – that he wanted me to take to live a lie and to seem like a straight teenage boy.

Overwhelmingly, the therapist wanted me to avoid any meaningful interaction – regardless of how short – with any women, fearing that it would stunt my progress and somehow send me spiraling back into a world where I would be gay. Under the therapist’s rules, I couldn’t talk to my mother and sisters, unraveling our once close-knit home.

With the therapist’s encouragement, I soon became dependent on him, relying on him to literally be my on-call decision maker, guiding me through each day to prevent what he considered setbacks.  I would call him with even the smallest question, afraid of making the wrong decision, and possibly stumbling down a path that would lead me to shame everyone in my family, including the two-dozen aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom I once shared weekly Shabbat dinners. The therapist feared that misguided interactions with anyone could potentially make me fallback.

Each time the therapist and I talked, I grew more and more confused. Since I could only spend quality time with other males, I chose to hang out with my friend, falling deeper in love with him, and more confused by feelings the therapist told me that two men could never have for one another. But it was my friend who soon became my place of peace from the hellish experience of living a lie.

At 19, I severed my ties with the therapist and moved to Los Angeles to get away from the lie – the double life – I had created for myself in New York. But I couldn’t forget what he had engrained in me – that I needed to change who I was in order to be accepted. It was buried deep in my memory, and I was petrified to make a decision – any decision, really – that could set me on a disastrous course toward shame.

I struggled to come to terms with my true self and set aside the poisonous damage that he caused in his years of trying to brainwash me into thinking that I couldn’t be gay and happy. I became depressed, and at my worst, I couldn’t leave my apartment for days, fearing that somewhere, somehow, I’d make a bad decision.

Slowly, with the help of another therapist and my mother, I found my willpower, reassembling the pieces of my life that I had last over the years I spent talking to the therapist who made me believe I wasn’t good enough. I moved back to New York, and last year, at the age of 23, I found the courage to say: I’m a gay man.

But it wasn’t until California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in September 2012 protecting minors from the same type of psychological abuse that I endured that I truly felt a sense of closure.

Finally, others have recognized the long-term damage caused by these types of practices, putting an end to it in California, and I’m hopeful that other states will soon follow.

Mathew Shurka resides in New York City, where he’s a student at Baruch College, and plans on becoming an architect.

— December 2013