Boy Erased, a film based on Garrard Conley’s memoir, is about a young boy diligently joining conversion therapy to appease his deeply religious parents. Garrard Conley would later walk out of his conversion therapy and return home to his mother. As he himself admits in a later interview, this is an unlikely future for most LGBTQ youth at these camps.
Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual/ bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions. It originates from the belief that any deviation from heteronormative beliefs must be wrong. A practice denounced and rubbished by the scientific community and outlawed in Switzerland, Germany, and parts of the United States, it still infects our country, festering quietly.
Every once in a while a nightmarish tale will grace our feeds, be debated heatedly on news channels, discomfit the audience (read: orthodox families), only for these anguished voices to fade out, with no meaningful change left behind.
Just days before the country went into lockdown, a young college student from Kerala detailed her harrowing experience after coming out as bisexual to her parents.
Bringing attention to the torture camps that masquerade as “de-addiction and mental health centres” and dot our country’s map like the pox, Anjana, unable to recover from her family’s treachery, committed suicide on 12th May, 2020.
Most parents of LGBTQ children cared little for the legalization of consensual homosexual sex back in 2018 or the Indian Psychiatric Society asserting that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.
Instead they will drag their queer teens to ‘babas’ and ashrams, trusting spiritual healers to cure the so-called “deviancy”.
Panic-stricken and ashamed, parents then trust in conversion therapy, wherein they employ methods lifted directly from the pages of a horror story.
Some inject drugs, others abuse via psychological methods; strapping teens to chairs and forcibly making them watch gay/lesbian porn while electrocuting at the first sign of arousal. Antipsychotic medicines and even surgery don’t raise eyebrows here. Some places starve the inhabitants, and lock them in cages for days on end, for appetites of any kind may be killed in the face of death.
Those who even manage to make it out of these hellish ‘asylums’, leave with anxiety and a host of other mental illnesses that only undermine their mental stability. For a marginalized group already suffering from a strikingly low life expectancy, it’s nothing short of a death sentence.
In this changed world, wherein ‘normal’ exists only in the periphery of our distant memory, pushing for the conversion of individuals to “normal” is nothing short of Sisyphean labour.
Written by Kriti Gopal for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured Image by Jun Cen (for Human Rights Watch)
Artwork by Keith Negley