Boy Erased is a movie based on the Garrard Conley book that shares his experience inside gay conversion therapy and touches on many issues of the controversial practice that speaks volumes to the LGBTQ+ community.
Conley, represented in the movie as Jared, had experienced everything from being told God would never love him, to seeing a boy get beaten with a Bible by his own family by the time he left.
Still, conversion therapy is still legal in 36 states, and while some people like Jared make it out without harm, others do not experience the same result. Members of Blake’s Allies for Equality weigh in on the conversion therapy practice. “It’s just training you to hate yourself,” says Ally Sworkle a member of the club.
In reference to the flaws of conversion therapy, the American Psychiatric Association (ASA) shares that opinion with the Ally. The ASA website says, “The practice often reinforces self-hatred.”
The movie depicts the possible harms of conversion therapy by including a boy’s suicide. Even though the movie does seem gloomy until the end, the grim and uncomfortable tone was necessary for the message it highlights. One student who saw the film says, “It made me uncomfortable, but I think that was needed because if it were censored in any way it would have lost the effect that it needed to have.”
Boy Erased also calls into question the legitimacy of conversion therapy. The specific camp in the film is shown to have no qualifications to practice therapy. Despite the lack of qualifications, the camp claimed to have an 80 percent success rate. Ironically, the man running the camp who claimed to be “ex-gay,” now lives in New York with his husband.
The film found a way of addressing several issues without severely disrespecting the Baptist religion. Towards the end of the movie, Jared managed to maintain a connection with his church, even after his experience at the camp, a connection that most gay people in America don’t have. Even though religious people had harmed Jared in such a way, he didn’t start disliking all religious people solely because they were religious.
“I think bashing religion would have been childish and would not have gotten the point across,” says Ally Sworkle, a member of Allies for Equality. She adds, “Besides, if they had bashed religion completely people would be less likely to support our struggles.”
Boy Erased sheds a light on the struggle of the LGBTQ+ community that few people are aware of, as not everyone is aware that conversion therapy even exists. The movie brings this practice to more attention than it has been previously given and is a step in a new direction for support and awareness for the LGBTQ+ community.