Lesbian who started self-harming after being forced through traumatising conversion therapy has been found dead
A lesbian who spoke out against the trauma of conversion therapy has been found dead from a suspected suicide.
Alana Chen, 24, was reported missing by her family this week when she didn’t return from a hiking trip. Her car was found next to a reservoir in Chautauqua Park in Colorado, and search parties identified her body several hours later.
The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has said Chen’s death is “not considered to be suspicious.”
Chen was raised Catholic and came out to a priest at her church in 2009. In August she told the Denver Post how the priest continued giving her informal counselling throughout high school, urging her not to tell her family about the conversion therapy.
“I felt a lot of shame and anxiety,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Was I going to hell? But I was still extremely faithful, and I felt like the church and the counselling was the thing that was saving me. The worse I got, the more I clung to it.”
Chen eventually distanced herself from the church in 2016 after her family found scars on her arms from self-harming and admitted her to a psychiatric hospital. She directly blamed the priest’s counsel for her hospitalisation.
“I was feeling so much shame that I was comforted by the thought of hurting myself,” she said. “I’ve now basically completely lost my faith. I don’t know what I believe about God, but I think if there is a God, he doesn’t need me talking to him anymore.”
A spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver said that they “reject any practices that are manipulative, coercive, or pseudoscientific.”
So-called ‘conversion therapy’ refers to the harmful and discredited practise of attempting to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity. There are many different techniques, ranging from ‘praying the gay away’ to electric shocks and testosterone injections, but no reliable scientific evidence that sexuality can be changed.
Chen opted to speak out about her experience as she wanted to educate people about the harms of conversion therapy so others who went through the same wouldn’t feel alone.
A memorial fund has been created to support her parents after her death.