David Matheson, a former “ex-gay” advocate who spent years promoting conversion therapy to LGBTQ Mormons, has finally admitted that the practice does not work and should be stopped.
Matheson, a prominent figure in the conversion therapy community who authored books and created several “ex-gay” programs including Journey into Manhood, came out last month and said that he was “choosing to pursue life as a gay man.”
But Matheson at the time refused to denounce conversion therapy — a widely debunked practice that claims to change a person’s sexuality or gender identity — and said he wouldn’t be renouncing his previous advocacy for conversion therapy or his Mormon faith.
Matheson even said he “wasn’t faking it all those years” that he was married to a woman and promoting conversion therapy.
He added that he would continue to support “mixed-orientation marriages” and “the rights of individuals to choose how they will respond to their sexual attractions and identity.”
However, in an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News, Matheson now says that conversion therapy “just can’t” change a person’s sexual orientation, said it “should be stopped” in the U.S., and finally expressed regret over the harm caused to LGBTQ people by his work.
Asked if he was sorry for the “damage and harm” caused, Matheson stopped short of outright apologizing, but said it created “a lot of sorrow.”
“It’s horrifying to think that I was part of a system that held people like me down,” he said. “I’ve had some conversations with other people that have been harmed by it. It creates a lot of sorrow.”
Interviewer Minnie Stephenson later asked Matheson if his coming out proves conversion therapy doesn’t work. Matheson wavered in responding, saying he doesn’t know how to answer yet.
“I will say I repudiate the idea that therapy can and should be used to change a person’s sexual orientation,” he said, “because it just can’t.”
And Matheson finally said that he regrets participating in conversion therapy programs, after previously refusing to repudiate them.
“I do regret my part in propagating that view because I was in a sense kind of an agent of a repressive culture and that makes me really uncomfortable,” he said.
Watch the full interview below:
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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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