my father said, 'You'll never step foot in this house again if you act on your
feelings. You'll never finish your education,' I thought, 'Fair enough,'"
Garrard Conley writes. The year was 2004, and Conley, a college freshman, had
just been outed, against his wishes. Having grown up in a strict Baptist
household, Conley agreed with his parents' plan to enroll him in Love in
Action, a program of "ex-gay" therapy intended to "cure"
him. Patients were required to make daily moral inventories. When his mother
wondered aloud what happened if you ran out of sins to write about, Garrard thought, "What my mother didn't yet know about being gay in the South was
that you never ran out of material, that being secretly gay your whole life,
averting your eyes every time you saw a handsome man, praying on your knees
every time a sexual thought entered your mind" meant you could spend every
day repenting. Some people stayed in the program for decades. Conley broke
free, at the cost of years of strained relations with his parents—especially
his preacher dad, who was ostracized for having an openly gay son. The triumph
of this harrowing story lies not only in the reclamation of self but also in
the survival of one family's love.
— Dawn Raffel