1. Get more therapy.
The first thing you’ll do after going through conversion therapy is go back to therapy to undo all the damage done by your misguided therapists. Only this time, you’ll go to a therapist that doesn’t think your homosexuality is unnatural, sinful and should be treated like alcoholism or pedophilia. You’ll go to a gay-positive therapist this time, even if you’re religious, because you tried so hard in conversion therapy and it didn’t work and you are on the brink of a total meltdown.
2. Sue your old therapist.
This should be happening more often and I regret that I didn’t take this approach after I got out of conversion therapy (it’s been six years, so the statute of limitations has run out on me). Conversion therapy should be considered malpractice and therapists and institutions that support it should be held accountable, particularly when the victims are young and vulnerable. I applaud Max Hirsh, a 22-year-old gay student at the University of Oregon, who with the backing of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently filed an ethics complaint with the American Psychiatric Association against a therapist who allegedly subjected him to conversion therapy.
3. Marry the gay lover you met in your therapy group.
My conversion therapy experience not only included one-on-one sessions with counselors but also group therapy sessions that were part of a local “ex-gay” ministry. I attended these sessions for three hours every week and they consisted of worship, teaching and small group time where we learned about the “roots of homosexuality” and confessed our struggles with same-sex attraction (and any mess-ups we had, like watching gay pornography). I didn’t fall in love with anyone in my ex-gay ministry, but others have, most notably, Michal Bussee and Gary Cooper, leaders within Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organization in the country, who publicly renounced the organization, left their wives, and committed to each other.
4. Renounce conversion therapy and advocate against it.
After you leave conversion therapy, the haze begins to wear off, the untruths begin to manifest themselves and you realize that the last few years you spent in therapy were really destructive. You get comfortable enough to start telling your friends and family what it was like. Some of them respond shocked and appalled that conversion therapy is still practiced in this day and age. Others want you to go back and try harder. But you are done with it and you start telling people that it was a harmful experience and that people shouldn’t have to be subjected to it. You begin to support efforts to end the practice, like the legislative efforts in California to prohibit therapists from practicing conversion therapy on teens.
5. Forgive the people who hurt you.
This one takes longer. Sometimes there are a lot of people to forgive: your parents (for sending you or supporting it), your church (same), people like Dr. Robert Spitzer, who provided scholarly backing to conversion therapy and recently renounced the practice, your therapists and the ex-gay groups you attended. And yourself: for deciding to go (if you had the choice), trying so hard and wasting so much time and energy you could have spent on making yourself a healthy, fabulous person ready to meet the love of your life.