“My family still don’t comprehend the extent of what happened to me and the church continues to flourish, embracing homophobia in their sermons and social media posts.”

In 2016, I was approached by a neighbour who went to my high school and invited me to a particular megachurch. His brother was the youth pastor. I was freshly 15 and very confused but this church maintained a neutral position on homosexuality and never really delved into it. Things took a turn when the youth pastor deflected from the well-known megachurch to start his own grassroots church. Anybody can start a church, despite their qualifications or lack thereof, but more importantly, there was no legislation that protected me from what would occur.

After I became more comfortable in my sexuality, I started sharing to other leaders in a circle of trust but found out immediately that this was something inappropriate and needed to be fixed. This started years of prayer, exorcisms and meetings with leaders in the church to discuss my private life. This of course did incredible damage to my mental health.

I recall one group meeting where I was pulled aside by my pastor and the toxic/homophobic theology spoken over me was so damaging, I considered taking my own life. This would then develop into hospital admission after hospital admission either due to attempt or ideation. But still whilst I was on a psychiatric ward, they would visit me, I would cry about my inability to not “change”, and they would pray (some in tongues), recite Bible verses and tell me that I was not created this way (homosexual). It wasn’t until I left in 2020 that I could start my healing journey but my faith, sense of self and identity is still fractured. I still experience tremendous mental health issues due to these practices. I have been on medication since, and have been in regular therapy since 2017.

It is important for the NSW government to pass legislation to protect LGBTQ people, particularly young people because I could have been spared the traumatic and emotional experiences of constant prayer, exorcisms and preachings that caused deep psychological harm to me.

I want the future queer kids in churches to be protected as they seek solace in an intended safe space. My family still don’t comprehend the extent of what happened to me and the church continues to flourish, embracing homophobia in their sermons and social media posts. I hope that the government commits to abolishing conversion therapy to prevent further harm to the Australian youth.

More information about so called “conversion therapy’ HERE

More conversion “therapy” survivor stories HERE

Anthony Venn-Brown says: “I’ve been hearing stories like this for 23 years now. I want them to stop. We can’t legislate to change an outdated, ill-informed religious belief about sexuality and gender, but we can create awareness and pass laws that protect vulnerable LGBTQ people from harm. You can help create awareness by sharing this story and also signing the Equality Australia’s petition in support of Alex Greenwich’s Equality Bill.”

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