A teenager who was subjected to gay conversion therapy has spoken out about how he was driven to attempt suicide.
Nathan Dalley, 19, spoke out on Thursday (February 21) as LGBT+ rights group Equality Utah teamed up with lawmakers in the state to seek a ban on the practice.
The teen explained that he came out as gay as school aged 16, and was “very comfortable with just being out and open” — but had a “much less comfortable” experience when he came out at home and at church.
Dalley began to struggle with the response to his sexuality and was sent to a faith-based conversion therapist.
Gay cure survivor: Therapist taught me I was unworthy of God
He recalled: “When we went into the office the therapist asked me, ‘What is your goal from this?’ I said, ‘I’m experiencing depression and I’m gay,’ and he said, ‘Okay, those are things we can fix.'”
The teen explained that the conversion therapy efforts focused on encouraging him to stop being effeminate and to play more sports.
Dalley said: “The therapist told me, ‘Your voice is too effeminate, you don’t have upper body strength, girls aren’t going to like you if you don’t have upper body strength, you’re too skinny.’
“There was a point where I would carry a little rubber band on my wrist, and I’d flick it every time I thought of a man or a boy.”
He added: “Instead of teaching me coping skills to help me learn how to love myself as I am, they went along the approach of teaching me that my sexuality was something that was meant to be erased, and was something that wasn’t worthy to stand before the God I was taught to believe in.”
Conversion therapy survivor: I believed that if I died, I’d be resurrected perfect
Dalley’s attempts to cure himself of same-sex attraction ended in failure and an attempt at suicide.
He said: “One night I’d been laying in my bed, looking at my ceiling.
“Thankfully, I woke up the next morning. Other kids just like me aren’t as lucky.”
“I was feeling discouraged and disappointed in myself, because I thought it was my fault that the therapy wasn’t working, that I wasn’t trying hard enough. I felt imperfect.
“I thought, if I die then I’ll be resurrected perfect, so that night I took a bunch of pills. Thankfully, I woke up the next morning. Other kids just like me aren’t as lucky.”
The teen continued: “Therapists like them are what cause LGBTQ people and youth, especially, to [attempt] suicide.
“When it comes to conversion therapy people often have the misconception that it’s something that is in the past, but the only thing that’s changed with conversion therapy is that they’re a lot more sneaky with how they do it.
“Despite the fact that they don’t physically harm you, they do psychological and deep emotional harm to people like me, still today. It’s not legitimate therapy, it’s manipulation. This is a practice that has to stop.”
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A recent UK report found that two-fifths of gay cure therapy survivors had considered suicide, and a fifth had attempted suicide.
15 US states have laws banning gay cure therapy for minors.
Utah state Senator Daniel McCay and Representative Craig Hall, both Republicans, introduced a bill to outlaw the practice on Thursday (February 21).
The Mormon Church, which dominates politics in Utah, has agreed not to resist the bill, which includes some religious freedom protections for “clergy members or religious counsellors.”
Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said: “For decades, LGBTQ Utahns have been subjected to the harmful and fraudulent efforts of conversion therapy, and it’s sadly still happening.
“We still meet young people who are being told they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity, and the impacts are devastating. We are grateful to Representative Hall and Senator McCay for sponsoring this bill to protect our youth.”
“We are grateful that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognises the harms of conversion therapy and has denounced the practice.”
If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.