Conversion Therapy: Cure or Con?

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News)– It’s been a month since Governor Gary Herbert banned conversion therapy for minors, but the fall out is far from over.  

The rule says all licensed therapists and psychologists cannot practice conversion therapy on minors.  

Clergy members and religious advisors are exempt.  

Some of the governor’s supporters disagree with his decision.  

“I asked my dad when I was younger, do you think I am gay?” said Orem resident Stephen Done.  

For the past two decades, that’s been a question weighing heavy on Stephen Done’s mind.  

“I don’t like the term conversion therapy,” Done said.  

Because, for Done, it’s just therapy.  Family pictures show his wife, kids an otherwise traditional family.  

“My counselor helped me get more in touch with my emotions and helped me understand that I could feel more than just depression,” Done said.  

Done turned to a group called Brothers Road.

The group that charges hundreds of dollars to attend so-called “coaching groups.” 

“A peer lead organization that helps people live according to their beliefs,” Done said.  

Done is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  

He says Brothers Road helps men cope with same-sex attraction, the same organization that helped him see a new perspective.  

“Most of what I was feeling was just a desire for connection with other people, especially with other men, because since I was eleven, I hadn’t had any close friends,” Done said.   

McKrae Game helped create that idea and says it’s all a lie.

“They see the slogan that I created ‘Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ’,” Mckrae Game Former Ex- Gay Ministry founder said.  

McKrae Game is gay; he founded Hope for Wholeness, the largest group in the country that teaches folks how to be free from homosexuality.  

“I believe conversion therapy is a con because it implies that you can go from opposite-sex attraction to same-sex attraction, and from 20 years of working with people in that issue and being around that issue–myself included–I never found that to be the case,” Game said.  

“You can only speak for your own experience; your experience doesn’t say anything about anyone else’s and anyone else’s doesn’t say anything about your experience,” Done said.  

According to a 2018 study from UCLA’s Williams Institute, 698,000 LGBTQ adults have undergone some form of conversion therapy. More than half received conversion therapy as a child of which 63% are more likely to die by suicide.    

“Trauma is a part of some people’s experiences with regard to sexual issues and sexual identity issues,” Doctor Nanci Klein Utah Psychological Association said.  

Doctor Kelin says that’s the issue that needs to be addressed.  

“Conversion therapy, conversion practices are not the interventions. We have a vast literature of how to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Doctor Klein said.  

Reconciliation and Growth is a group of local therapist to try and help folks on both sides of the issue.

“What we as mental health professionals need to do is get back to our core ethical practices around client self-determination and around doing no harm to clients,” therapist Jerry Buie said.

For Done and Game, it is about more than research, it is about a kind of lifestyle they choose to live.  

“I don’t believe that being unauthentic to your natural inclination is healthy and I think we need to stop telling people that their attractions are going to change when we don’t have evidence to show that,” Game said.  

These two men have decided to deal with their sexual identities differently, but their bottom-line message is to be true to yourself.  

 “My family went through a lot of trauma and I disconnected from a lot of people. I shut down and I stopped really understanding my emotions,” Done said.  

Click here for resources to manage mental health and to speak with an LGBTQ advocate.  

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