I never went through a conversion “therapy” program but…

I was 20 years old, and a Christian when I first met Sy Rogers.  I knew my Assemblies of God church was against homosexuality. I was in the closet and severely troubled.

I was invited to a small private meeting in an upstairs’ room in Hindley St, Adelaide organised by a church group to hear Sy Rogers speak. Sy Rogers was being presented at church and in the media as a famous “ex-gay”; someone who was gay but now was straight. His presentation included photos of when he was dressed as a woman. He was preaching what would become known as conversion “therapy” and he became a world leader in the movement. I left believing that being gay must be a choice, and I didn’t have to be gay if I didn’t want to be.

I was profoundly misled, and this sent me on a trajectory for the for the next 27 years trying to be straight.

If God could do it for Sy, then he could do it for me, I believed. I tried, I tried really hard and took every opportunity to hear Sy preach several times at C3 Oxford Falls and also at Hillsong. Whenever he preached, he gave me a false hope that I didn’t have to be gay, and I just had to keep trying. After the preaching, I’d always buy the recordings and studied them, looking for the answers as to why, what he was proclaiming, wasn’t happening for me. At church, I heard other preachers preaching the same message that being homosexual is an abomination in God’s eyes, and if you are gay, something is wrong with you. God can fix it….I just had to keep trying.

Trying to be straight meant asking God for deliverance, marrying a good Christian woman, having children, but constantly dealing with the guilt and shame of having gay thoughts that never went away. Suppressing those thoughts was challenging enough, but I wanted the change I’d heard preached. Because of the shame and fear these messages created, I kept my struggles a secret. I shuddered when I thought of the consequences of telling any of the church leaders what was really happening in my life.

I wonder just how many young people in churches are feeling the same thing I was back then.

I look back now, as a recently out gay man at 47, shame replaced with acceptance and a sense of pride in who I am, the fear is gone, and I am, at last, at peace….and I think what a waste. I also wonder just how many young people in churches are feeling the same thing I was back then; believing something is wrong with them and secretly trying desperately to conform.

Some people think that you have to go through some program or organisation to experience conversion “therapy” but I was experiencing it secretly, privately. It did the same damage I’ve read in survivor stories. I suffered years of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, was hospitalised and treated by doctors for 20 years. My former wife and children have also had to deal with the aftermath.

If all those years have taught me anything, it is that LGBTQ people should always be affirmed for who they are and the “you are broken, and God can change you” message will only create harm to all involved.

(name withheld for privacy reasons)

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 these to stop. We can’t legislate to change an outdated, ill-informed religious belief about sexuality and gender identity, 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.”

If you need help , the support services below are available.

Q Life   Online Chats or Call 1800 184 527 . 3pm to midnight in your state around Australia, every day.

Lifeline  Crisis support Chat Call 13 11 14

Beyond Blue  Call 1300 22 46 36