“I came to therapy thinking that my sexuality didn’t matter, but it turned out that every part of my personality was intimately connected. Cutting one piece damaged the rest.”
Boy Erased is Garrard Conley’s true story of his experiences in conversion therapy in the early 2000s. Growing up as the son of a soon-to-be pastor in Arkansas, he hid his sexuality from his family until he got to university when they finally found out and enrolled him in a popular ex-gay program in Tennessee called Love In Action.
I came across this book online in a post that listed off a bunch of must-read non-fiction books. As I’ve probably mentioned in my earlier book reviews, this year I want to delve more into genres that I don’t typically reach for, and non-fiction is definitely one of them. After reading a few non-fics already, I was eager to read another so I decided to pick this one up. And it was definitely a good choice.
I thought this book was really interesting because Garrard’s story is one that could have easily gone untold. He’s from a small southern town, where he was raised by a fundamentalist family helmed by a father whom was, at the time, working towards becoming a pastor. His father views homosexuality as a sin, therefore leading Garrard to hide his sexuality from his father and the rest of his family and friends. At the start, Garrard went to Love In Action somewhat willingly - not because he was dying to do it, but because he was horrified with how his family saw him once they discovered his sexuality. The fact that he found the strength to go against the therapy was what made this book so remarkable because frankly, the experiences he went through were so demeaning and horrifying, that I couldn’t even handle it sometimes from a reader’s point of view. I can’t begin to imagine what he went through himself, living it.
The stories that Garrard tells about his early adulthood - not just about his time in conversion therapy, but in university, too - are harrowing and heartbreaking. So many times I had to stop reading for a second because it was just so difficult to get through. It’s so hard to imagine a nineteen-year-old going through all of what he went through. He had zero support system whatsoever, especially once everyone around him began to find out about his sexuality. They acted as if his sexuality had anything to do with what sort of person he is, which is despicable honestly.
I think that arguably the most important aspect of this book was that it shed light on the fact that there are still conversion therapies open and commonly used, even in the United States. Love In Action, where Garrard attended conversion therapy, only just shut down in 2012. From a quick Google search, I found that only a handful of States have a ban on conversion therapy for minors. The rest still allow it, which is something I didn’t even consider until I read this book. I hope that this book continues to make that a more widely known fact, so that there can be more done to get rid of these horrible therapies.
Have you read Boy Erased?
Goodreads Challenge: 13 out of 50