One of America’s biggest conversion therapy advocates has come out as gay, admitting that the practice is not only “a lie,” but also “very harmful.”
McKrae Game is the founder of Hope for Wholeness, a South Carolina faith-based conversion therapy organization that purports to change a person’s sexuality.
“Our desire is to shed light on the complicated issues of sexual and relational brokenness with special expertise on homosexuality and transgenderism,” Hope for Wholeness’ website states. “We hope you will find comfort and guidance through this ministry by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and through godly love demonstrated by God’s people.”
But after leading the organization for two decades, Game was fired in 2017, and last year expressed doubts that conversion therapy is effective.
Speaking to the Post and Courier, Game admitted that he is gay, had severed all ties with Hope for Wholeness, and was trying to reconcile with the harm he’d caused to other LGBTQ people.
“Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful,” Game said. “Because it’s false advertising.”
Game has reportedly met with people who went through conversion therapy at Hope for Wholeness, including a man who was seeking counselling to undo the damage caused by Game’s efforts.
“I was a religious zealot that hurt people,” Game said. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”
According to his own estimates, thousands of people have undergone conversion therapy at one of Game’s ministries, noting that the organization has “harmed generations of people.”
In a Facebook post last week, Game admitted he was “wrong” about conversion therapy and noted the various ways he had harmed LGBTQ people.
“The memories aren’t all bad. There’s many good memories. But I certainly regret where I caused harm,” he wrote. “I know that creating the organization that still lives was in a large way causing harm. Creating a catchy slogan that put out a very misleading idea of ‘Freedom from homosexuality through Jesus Christ’ was definitely harmful.”
He said that making people “believe that their orientation was wrong, bad, sinful, evil, and worse that they could change was absolutely harmful.”
“People reported to attempt suicide because of me and these teachings and ideals. I told people they were going to Hell if they didn’t stop, and these were professing Christians! This was probably my worse wrongful act,” he wrote.
Game wrote that, ultimately, he’d like “all [ex-gay] ministry and conversion therapy counselors and organizations shut down.”
Conversion therapy is a widely debunked practice that purports to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
It can include a number of different “therapies,” including talk therapy, behavior-modification therapy, or forms of aversion therapy — including electroshock, chemical, and deprivation therapy.
Last month, a team of medical experts called for a nationwide ban on the practice of conversion therapy, citing its harmful effects on the mental health of those subjected to it.
Currently, 18 states have banned conversion therapy for minors. However, adults are able to engage in it if they so choose.
No states have officially classified conversion therapy as a form of consumer fraud, though there have been bills introduced in state legislatures and in Congress that would do so.
Game is also not the first prominent conversion therapy — or “ex-gay” therapy — advocate to come out as gay and call for an end to the practice.
In February, David Matheson, a former “ex-gay” advocate who spent years promoting conversion therapy to LGBTQ Mormons, finally admitted that the practice does not work and should be stopped.
In an interview with Britain’s Channel 4 News, Matheson said that conversion therapy “just can’t” change a person’s sexual orientation, that it “should be stopped” in the U.S., and expressed regret over the harm caused to LGBTQ people by his work.
In January, 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.
And in 2013, Alan Chambers, president of conversion therapy umbrella organization Exodus International, came out as gay and shuttered Exodus for good.
Speaking to Metro Weekly in 2016, he said 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.