Former gay cure therapist David Matheson, who recently came out as gay, has backed called for the practice to be banned.
David Matheson was one of the architects of conversion therapy, setting up the Mormon Journey into Manhood program in line with church teachings that direct gay people to repress their feelings and marry someone of the opposite sex.
But after coming out as gay on January 20 and announcing a divorce from his wife of 30 years, the Utah-based Matheson has now admitted the damage caused by his work.
David Matheson ‘regrets perpetuating’ gay cure therapy
In an interview with Channel 4 News on Thursday (January 31), Matheson said he regrets his past work and thinks the practice should be banned.
“It is horrifying to think that I was part of a system that held people like me down.”
— David Matheson
Speaking to Channel 4 News, he said: “I regret my part in perpetuating those ideas. Perpetuating the idea that being gay is a pathology, a disorder. Perpetuating the idea that God is not okay with people being gay. That I regret… it held me back and it held lot of other people back.
Asked if he was sorry for causing hurt to others, Matheson said: “Are you kidding? It is horrifying to think that I was part of a system that held people like me down and I’ve had some conversations with other people who have been harmed by it. It creates a lot of sorrow.”
He added: “Any therapy that is based on the idea that being gay is a psychological disorder, which it’s not, that believes that being gay is wrong or bad, which it’s not, and that it can be changed and ought to be changed.
“Any therapy based on that idea has a great potential to harming people, and that kind of therapy should be stopped.”
In the US, performing gay cure therapy on minors is banned in 15 states and the District of Columbia, but GOP lawmakers have largely stood in the way of such laws in a number of Republican-controlled states. Republicans have also failed to back federal legislation on the issue.
In the UK, the government has said it is considering legislation to outlaw the practice.
Matheson trained under Joseph Nicolosi of National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), who is considered the architect of gay conversion therapy.
He was influential in spreading the idea of conversion therapy and forming its most fundamental ideas, but now says his work was harmful.
Matheson said: “I repudiate the idea that therapy can and should be used to change a person’s sexual orientation because it just can’t.
“I think back on things I created and I want to crawl into myself, because I there’s a sense of, oh my gosh, I used to think that was a good idea.”
“I do regret my part in propagating that view because I was in a sense kind of an agent of a repressive culture and that makes me really uncomfortable.”
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He added: “If those retreats are still doing that sort of stuff they need to stop.”
Matheson added: “One of the really uncomfortable things that I’ve been discovering, is my own homophobia.
“As I look back I see that I clearly had lots of homophobia. I will still have these stigmas about gay people.
“I will learn someone is gay and I will still have this thought, this homophobic thought – and I’m like ‘Dave that’s you too’.”
Other gay cure therapists have also come out
Matheson is far from the first practitioner of gay cure therapy to admit they are gay.
In November, it was revealed that Orthodox Jewish gay cure therapist Norman Goldwasser sought anonymous gay sex on hook-up websites Manhunt and BearNation, where he had the profile name “Hotnhairy72.”
Gay ‘cure’ therapy is still legal in more than 30 US states despite being condemned by nearly every major medical, therapeutic and psychological body.
Experts overwhelmingly agree that attempts to cure sexuality or gender identity are futile, misguided, and often extremely harmful, and governments across the world are coming under increasing pressure to crack down.
Attempts to force teens to repress their true selves have been linked to depression, self-harm and even suicide.