A Conversation About Conversion Therapy

A Conversation About Conversion Therapy

This isn't going to be an easy article to read or to write. I advise that you listen to what I'm going to say, take it with the necessary pinches of salt, and sit down to reflect. Because it is a topic that warrants reflection and benefits from it.

Heartbreak is one of those words that everyone knows about.

We all know the ways that a heart can be torn apart or stretched to within an inch of its existence. The real kicker though? It's not always just a case of relationships breaking up and then having to deal with that. That's a fairly linear form of grief to deal with in as far as it's linear and you know who is hurting you and who is to blame. The heartbreak that I'm here to talk to you about is all about family and identity. Specifically about what we do and do not owe one another of ourselves. And the fallout that comes with people either asking for too much or of people not feeling comfortable giving anything.

Coming out to your parents remains the gold standard of stressful, alienating, and bewildering experiences. No matter what the media says or glittery sitcoms that resolve everything in 20-minute episodes, no coming-out experience is ever perfect. Half the time it still feels like a question. Or like a performance. Only because everything before has been a performance, so it's hard to separate the two. Indeed, the threat of becoming 'who I truly am' when I say a few words is very much too much pressure.

People forget that. Parents forget that.

So it's big when I tell you that conversion therapy is still 'a thing'. Just because you don't think you hear about it, doesn't mean that we're a utopian society where prejudice doesn't exist. It possibly just means that you aren't listening. That's not necessarily your fault, but this is the time to hunker down and think about the discourse.

Conversion therapy itself isn't something that I want or feel comfortable giving a load of screen time to. Instead, I want to talk about the situation or pressures felt by LGBT+ teens or anxieties of parents that lead to situations in which it may seem like a 'solution'. This isn't just featured in a tasteful Oscar-buzz film set in the 80s in Texas or another red state.

This is contemporary and an issue that very much reigns true today.

'Well-meaning' became the phrase of my December: 'ah they probably mean' or 'Nah that came out wrong'. While these concessions are true, I spent that month excusing everyone and convincing myself that everything was fine and ignoring the intense emotional cocktail of loneliness, confusion, and regret. It never occurred to me to take time to unpack all of that, because I felt that it was my duty, my obligation, to inform and release the information rather than just sit and chill with it for a minute. I do not need to bear the burden of re-educating everyone in my life.

I think even I presumed that telling my parents would allow me to be my 'authentic self', 'more me' or the killer, 'happier'. Sorry pals, that's not how it works, even if the coming out is relatively painless. You still have to flinch at your aunt's incredulous story that a guy hit on her son in the chippie, or sigh that your cousin's bio on Instagram still is 'it's not gay if no one sees it'. Your mum will still occasionally forget you're gay when she makes small talk at the dinner table. Embarrassed, you will not correct her.

No one will and you wonder if they even noticed the Freudian slip.

I did come out in the end, but only really as a courtesy; just some vague 'I probably should' knee-jerk reaction that I felt I 'owed' them. Sure, coming out opened loads of doors but I fell through most of them before I could see what was inside.

In one respect my parents were the ones 'coming out' that I couldn't take back, that I had to stick with, but also it was the most meaningless in the sense that we didn't talk about my love life before and we certainly don't know. It wasn't an event horizon, I just assembled the family after watching a football match in the living room and had it out. My parents are trying to relearn much of what they and everyone before them were taught, which I appreciate but also resent, somehow.

I need to figure myself out first before I let people in.

Even in a painless, if awkward, coming out, I hope it's clear to see how fraught and intense this experience is. It's not that I specifically feared in any way that I was in danger of being sent away or anything – unequivocally, not on my mind – but this represents the generic atmosphere of oppression, possibility, and the threat of everything that stands to change. I appreciate that their entire perception of me might change or be re-evaluated. That's understandable – this is new information. It isn't, however, information that ought to be used against me as though the revelation is bigger than my identity otherwise.

Like Katy Perry said, 'this is a part of me'.

The general gist of the song follows in the vein of 'hey it's mine, you don't get a say in it'. That's basically my point too.

We'd love everyone to know and share and support us. So ask yourself this:

Why is my first instinct still to hide it?