Lewis and Clark Community College’s newspaper The Bridge and LC Pride club held a forum on Oct. 25 about issues facing members of the LGBTQ+ community in the Ann Whitney Olin Theater in Hatheway Hall. The speaker of the event was Curtis Galloway, a survivor of conversion therapy and board member of One Million Kids for Equality.
The Forum began with a presentation by Louise Jett about key terms relating to the LGBTQ community, as well as a few notable LGBT historical figures, such as Alan Turing, Lynn Conway, and Andy Warhol. She also defined conversion therapy, which is a pseudoscientific therapy method where a psychologist attempts to cure their patient’s homosexuality through psychological or spiritual means.
Then Curtis Galloway took the stage. Curtis is from southern Illinois and classifies himself as a survivor, not a victim, of conversion therapy. “I made it through to the other side,” said Curtis, “Victims are the ones who don’t make it, the ones who decided they couldn’t handle the stress.” He went on to describe how he came out as gay to his parents at 16, which they responded to by sending him to a Christian psychologist in Kentucky. They had hand-selected this psychologist to be as unreceptive to the possibility that being gay was not a choice as possible.
The psychologist gave Curtis tasks to perform to curtail his sexuality. “He started trying to break me down as a person.” Curtis stated. He was cut off from his friends and given a list of tasks to accomplish during his time at home, including requiring him to masturbate to images of women. His parents were also told by the counselor that he was supposed to do this, and were asked to encourage it.
After the therapy ended, his relationship with his parents was damaged for years. “There will always be some part of me in the back of my mind that says ‘they did this to me,’” Galloway said. His parents later came to accept him for who he was.
Galloway went on to college, where he learned more about what happened to him. From there, he was directed to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which handles matters of injustice and inequality, and through them was brought into contact with the sponsor of a bill to ban conversion therapy. Partly due to his testimony in front of the Illinois House of Representatives about his experiences with conversion therapy, the bill passed, and conversion therapy from a licensed counselor was made illegal. Notably, this ban does not extend to religious institutions, which are granted freedom to continue with the practice due to First Amendment separation of church and state. Galloway stated that the only way to outlaw conversion therapy completely was to prove that it constituted child abuse, a difficult task due to the secretiveness with which it is usually undertaken. Galloway noted that such sessions usually took place at private residences, behind closed doors, and that the young men and women who were put through this therapy were usually cut off from contact with the world.
“Conversion therapy is evil,” Vice-President of LC Pride Ashtyn Britt said, “The idea that you can get somebody to change a really primal part of who they are is insanity, and not to mention incredibly traumatizing and hurtful, the idea that anyone would support this, whether it be on a personal level or, god forbid, a professional level, is beyond appalling to me.”
Today, Curtis Galloway continues to work toward banning conversion therapy nationwide. He started the Saint Louis chapter of One Million Kids for Equality, a gay rights advocacy group.
For more information, or if you or someone you know has gone through conversion therapy, you can visit the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website at https://www.splcenter.org/, or if you want to help contribute to the fight for gay rights, you can visit One Million Kids for Equality at https://onemillionkids.org/.