To deal with non-compliant individuals who do something outrageous such as think for themselves or make personal life-affirming decisions, a common practice in totalitarian societies is to incarcerate offenders in re-education camps. There they undergo corrective behavior discipline until they exhibit right thinking. It’s called brainwashing, a mental cleansing, wiping the mind clean so to allow the washers to program the individual to believe and behave as they do.
In the United States, similar places and practices exist. They are called gay conversion or reparative therapy camps. Reparative is a euphemism for deconstruction followed by reconstruction resulting in potential irreparable harm inflicted on fragile young people.
In 2000, the American Psychiatric Association stated those programs risk causing “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”
The young participants, remanded there oftentimes against their wills, are mentally assaulted, fed a steady line of lies and misinformation about their orientation and life as an LGBTQ adult.
“Many patients who have undergone reparative therapy,” said the APA, “relate that they were inaccurately told that homosexuals are lonely, unhappy individuals who never achieve acceptance or satisfaction.”
The APA noted also that the potentials for LGBTQ persons achieving happiness and establishing satisfying interpersonal relationships are never presented. The reason: Brainwashing is not about presenting evidence and choices, but to coerce and intimidate so to subjugate and control.
It’s 18 years since the APA’s report, a long time for remediation to occur in a health field, but Colorado is poised to become the sixteenth state to declare the quackery taboo for minors.
HB19-1129 “prohibits a licensed physician specializing in psychiatry or a licensed, certified, or registered mental health care provider from engaging in conversion therapy with a patient under 18 years of age.”
It’s a bi-partisan effort. Republican Rep. Colin Larson, who grew up with gay friends and never gave it a second thought, voted for it. He did so, he said, to protect kids like his childhood friends “from being pressured into conversion therapy as minors.”
The movement to ban the malpractice got a major boost last year when the film “Boy Erased,” based on Gerrard Conley’s memoir, was released. Conley had personal experience with the process so was able to provide firsthand, credible, graphic details about the abusive, debilitating methods.
The chapter “Friday, June 11, 2004” is especially poignant for me. In it, Garrard writes of the torment he endured. He reflects on Christian stories that are “swift demolitions leading, ultimately, to fulfillment.”
“But what happened when the fulfillment never came?” he asks.
Reading Garrard’s heart-wrenching tale reminds me of John of the Cross’s work “Dark Night of the Soul.” It also brings back memories of a personal traumatic experience when a well-meaning teacher took me to see a priest psychiatrist, which I recount it in my novel “Sisyphus Wins.” Fifty years later, I’m still struck by the power of the memory.
On another personal note, I strongly recommend the book. It’s a compelling read. The film conveys the storyline but doesn’t do the power of Conley’s story the justice it deserves despite the efforts of Nicole Kidman as the boy’s mother and Russell Crowe as his Bible-thumping preacher-father.
It’s thrilling to see positive, thoughtful action being taken by the legislature on this issue and, as I wrote last week, on HB 1032 that will provide critical human sexuality education to all students. That elation is compounded by seeing Republican support for the measures and Christian mothers stepping up for their children. The mothers—Serendipitydodah for Moms and Mama Bears to the Rescue—chose to reject the prohibitions imposed by their church authorities and, instead, follow Jesus’s teachings. Check them out via their Facebook pages.
We’re hearing a lot of weeping and wailing from the uptight right about these advancements. But, truly, resistance to them is nothing more than hysteria, a lot of noise “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” (Macbeth V, v, 27-28)