A prominent advocate for conversion therapy — or ‘gay cure’ therapy — is now “choosing to pursue life as a gay man.”
Mormon therapist and author David Matheson created several “ex-gay” programs including Journey into Manhood, which told gay Mormons to ignore their attractions and instead marry someone of the opposite sex.
But now it has been revealed that Matheson has abandoned any pretense of heterosexuality and is instead living as a gay man.
The revelation came from Truth Wins Out (TWO), which advocates for a nationwide ban on conversion therapy.
The organization obtained a post by Journey into Manhood director Rich Wyler in a private Facebook group, which said Matheson was “seeking a male partner” because living a single, celibate life “just isn’t feasible for him.”
TWO contacted Matheson, who confirmed the news, but refused to apologize for the damage wrought to LGBTQ people by his advocacy for conversion therapy — a practice rejected by most psychological and mental health organizations as ineffective and potentially dangerous.
“My time in a straight marriage and in the ‘ex-gay’ world was genuine and sincere and a rich blessing to me,” Matheson said in a statement. “I remember most of it with fondness and gratitude for the joy and growth it caused in me and many others. But I had stopped growing and was starting to die.”
Matheson claims he “wasn’t faking it all those years” and that he wouldn’t be renouncing his previous advocacy for conversion therapy or his Mormon faith.
He will also continue to support “mixed-orientation marriages” and “the rights of individuals to choose how they will respond to their sexual attractions and identity.”
With that in mind, he says, “I am now choosing to pursue life as a gay man.”
But Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen said Matheson’s admission was just further proof that conversion therapy does not work.
“If conversion therapy does not work for authors like David Matheson who write books on the discredited practice, it is naïve to expect it to work for those reading such deceptive publications,” Besen said in a statement. “Conversion therapy employs guilt and shame to browbeat desperate and vulnerable people into renouncing their humanity. This is the latest evidence that conversion therapy is consumer fraud and ought to be outlawed in all 50 states.”
Chaim Levin, who underwent conversion therapy at Journey into Manhood and was apparently psychologically harmed in the process, said he hoped Matheson would work to correct the damage inflicted on LGBTQ people in the programs he advocated for.
“While I am pleased for Mr. Matheson that he has found a path forward for his life, I can’t help but think of the hundreds if not thousands of people who are still stuck in the closet, a closet that was created in part by Mr. Matheson himself,” Levin told TWO. “I hope that Mr. Matheson will do whatever he can to rectify the harm that he’s inflicted on many people in the LGBTQ community, myself included.”
Matheson isn’t the first prominent voice in the “ex-gay” community to later come out as gay — though his refusal to denounce the practice puts him at odds with some.
Last week, John Smid — former executive director of Love in Action, a conversion therapy organization — stated that the practice does not work and should be stopped.
Smid, who inspired a character in conversion therapy drama Boy Erased, wrote in a column for the Advocate that organizations still advocating for the practice in 2019 “blithely disregard the mountain of evidence” against it.
In 2013, Alan Chambers, president of conversion therapy umbrella organization Exodus International, came out as gay and shutterd Exodus for good.
Speaking to Metro Weekly in 2016 that people should be warned against conversion therapy: “This is not something that’s going to work. This is dangerous. It creates shame. It is not something that is going to produce an orientation change in you.”
Chambers said that conversion therapy should be banned for adults, not just minors, and unlike Matheson, both he and Smid are working to make amends for the damage inflicted by their work.