Survivor: James Guay

James Guay
James Guay

NCLR Contributor

I have known I was gay since I was a boy growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household, and was increasingly becoming desperate to escape what I was taught was the shame and sin of my sexual orientation.

Back then, a psychotherapist promised my parents and I that he could make me straight. I latched onto his words, envisioning a life in which I could be accepted by all – including my family and friends.

But my experience with a therapist deepened my depression, shame and feelings of isolation, rejection, and failure – resulting in me sinking so deep into despair that I struggled for the years that followed.

Now I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, who, for more than decade, has helped lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overcome the trauma they experience at the hands of other therapists who are trying to change a fundamental and unchangeable part of who they are – their sexual orientation.

I know from my own work that my experience was not unique. Many of my clients – including young people – went through these types of dangerous practices, which often include the use of shame, verbal abuse, and aversion therapy, and can lead to depression and even suicide.

These dangerous practices aren’t just ineffective. They are often damaging — even deadly, especially for young people. According to the American Psychological Assn. and other groups, these therapies significantly increase the risk of depression, feelings of worthlessness and suicide. Those dangers are especially serious for young people.

These are not the sort of harms we can or should trust the market to eradicate. Youth often undergo conversion therapy at the insistence of parents, who, however well meaning, don’t know or don’t believe the practice is harmful. These parents may or may not learn the error of their ways, but it will be at the expense of their kids, who often have no say in the matter.

Protecting youth from this psychological abuse demands action. No one else should ever be hurt.

James Guay, MFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, #LMFT 39252) practices psychotherapy in West Hollywood, CA.

If you are a survivor of conversion therapy, consider sharing your story and speaking out to protect others.  Your email to us will be confidential. We will not share your story without your permission.  Even if you do not want to share your story publicly, hearing about your experience can help us learn more and protect others from being harmed by these damaging “therapies.”

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