There are few things more unsettling to the LGBTQ community as the idea of conversion therapy. The fact that organizations and practitioners exist to drive human beings to try to kill off part of their true identity is worsened only by the reality that this unique brand of torture is still legal throughout most of Canada. It’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Dec. 13, 2019 announcement that he would move to ban conversion therapy nationwide has brought such palpable relief to victims like myself.
A 2019 report out of the University of British Columbia and submitted to Canada’s House of Commons estimates that more than 20,000 sexual-minority Canadians have been exposed to some form of conversion therapy — though I suspect the real numbers to be much higher. Roughly 700,000 U.S. adults have been subjected to some form of the practice. Not all of these folks were coerced into a form of conversion therapy; in fact, a great many people actively seek out these programs and willingly sign on to their methods.
I know, because this is precisely what happened to me.
I was 24 years old and living in Vancouver, B.C., when a plea for help turned into a six-year nightmare that altered my life forever. In 1989, my family’s rejection of my homosexuality left me spiralling into a deep depression. My family doctor referred me to a psychiatrist who, over the next six years, told me that he was repairing my damaged inner masculinity and sexuality using drugs and methods such as aversion therapy and “reparenting;” that he was helping me “unlearn the error” of my homosexuality. I left the treatment feeling dead inside.
You belong. Sure, you also may contemplate suicide, but that’s beside the point.
In the medical malpractice lawsuit that followed, the psychiatrist denied any wrongdoing. He claimed he had simply treated my depression, but his actions echo the false belief that people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or any other sexual minority...