Home Forums Ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy survivor stories High School Boy: Portland, Oregon 1986

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  • Jason Zenobia
    Post count: 1

    In 1986, when I was failing my freshman year of high school and suffering horrible depression, my mother forced me out of the closet then ordered me to tell my father. The first therapist I saw explained that lots of people were gay and that I could do anything I wanted with my life as a gay man. These were the first encouraging or positive words I’d had ever heard about my orientation and if I hadn’t heard them then, I don’t know if I would have survived what came next.
    When I told my father that there was nothing wrong with being gay, he flipped out and determined to find me a “real” therapist who could “cure” me. “You don’t want to be gay, DO YOU!?” I didn’t have the strength to defy him. My father found a clinic run by a Dr. Benson in the Sellwood neighborhood of Portland, OR, where they specialized in treating domestic abusers, rapists and people like me. I was only 15, living under my parents’ roof and still totally dependent on them, so I wanted to believe that I could change. Dr. Ross Neder, my abuser, encouraged me to deny my true feelings and my true self while he probed me for details about my sexuality. My parents were encouraged by my progress.
    I continued therapy for about a year while I learned to tell the “therapist” what he wanted to hear so that he would leave me alone, but at the same time, I also wished and hoped that I could really change. But I couldn’t. I was suicidal. When I had finally convinced my “therapist” that I was “cured,” he called my parents into my final session and yelled at me, demanding that I apologise to them for everything I had put them through. So, I returned to the closet, miserable and defeated and still contemplating suicide.
    It wasn’t until years later, during my freshman year in college that I came out to myself for real. A sudden, deep feeling of peace, relief and a conviction that I knew who I was and I didn’t need anyone else’s approval crashed over me.  It was like being struck by a bolt of lightening. When I came out to my parents again, they weren’t happy. I took my parents back to Dr. Neder because I wanted him to know that I was gay and that he had failed. His response was, “Well, it’s OK that you’re gay. They’ll probably have a cure for AIDS soon anyway.” Wow. My mother wanted to keep me in closet, but after several months they attended PFLAG and became real advocates for me and the gay community. In 2015, my testimony, along with my father’s was instrumental in banning this form of torturing minors in the State of Oregon.
    The experience of psycho-sexual torture as an impressionable teenager has affected me, my relationship with my family of origin and my personality ever since.
    I don’t know what I’d tell someone considering this form of self-torture. My experience was non-consensual and totally secular. There was no god or religion involved. I wasn’t afraid of going to hell, I was afraid of my parents’ disapproval. If you are seeking out this form of self-harm I can only offer my advice: Don’t. Don’t risk your life, your sanity, your spirit, by trying to live a lie.
    I now consider being gay to be the greatest gift of my life and I love being queer.
    My husband and I will celebrate 25 years together in 2019.

    Post count: 10

    Hey Jason…..so glad you’ve shared your story here. I love the fact that things have turned out so well for you (partner of 25 years) and with your folks (now LGBT advocates). I guess you never imagined this would happen.

    Sue G
    Post count: 14

    Wow, Jason, What an amazing story. It must have been so horrible, being subjected to that type of psychological torture: especially damaging at such a vulnerable age. You must have great inner strength and fortitude to have survived all that and come out to live as your true self. It’s wonderful that your parents finally did come over to support you, and that gay reparation therapy has been outlawed in your state. PFLAG groups all over the world need to be made aware of the damage done by gay conversion therapy. All the best to you and your partner. Sue G.x

    Post count: 18

    Hi Jason,

    Thankyou for your personal story and demons that you have had to face.

    I didn’t have the courage to tell my mum of whom I really am, only when she was unconscious and her organs were shutting down.

    I held her hand and said i know you can hear me mum and went on explaining.

    But 8 hours later Mum returns and everything starts working again.

    You see this is still so very fresh to me as it was only in July this year.

    Mums last 2 days on earth were special as all that could come out of her mouth was my name and how she loved me.

    I would like to say to a Pentecostal minister that I approached the other week, and discussing about accepting the LGBTIQ Community in their church he replied and said Love has boundaries

    But after what I experienced in that hospital room was there were no boundaries what so ever.
    Between a Mother and Son.

    Be you Jason and always walk with your head high.
    Happy 25 anniversary Jason for next year.


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