Hollywood Erases Hope

On November 9, a film with star power titled Boy Erased debuted.  It’s a direct attack on the idea that young people (or any) with unwanted same-sex desires are entitled to professional counseling.

The cast includes Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, who play Christian parents who coerce their 19-year-old son into what the film calls a “gay conversion therapy” program.

Not surprisingly, the media are promoting the film.

In a brief review, the Washington Post claimed that, “by one estimate, nearly 700,000 Americans have been subjected to what’s known as conversion therapy, a practice that attempts to change one’s sexual orientation and -- without evidence of efficacy -- is still legal in 41 states.”

Think they have an agenda? Why not frame it: “In nine states, clients’ constitutional rights have been violated by state laws preventing them from getting the professional counseling they need to help them recover their natural sexuality.  And In 14 states, parents are barred from securing licensed reparative therapy for their children.”

In his paper, “Are Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) Effective? Are They Harmful? What the Evidence Shows,” Family Research Council Senior Fellow for Policy Peter Sprigg summarizes:

"Critics of SOCE make two claims -- that it is ineffective, and that it is harmful.  Six studies or surveys from 2000 to 2018 are reviewed, all of which show that SOCE can be effective for some clients in bringing about significant change in some components of sexual orientation.  Few harms were reported. Older reports, including 600 studies and five meta-analyses, showed the same. One widely-cited report on harms, with a sample selected for that purpose, offered almost entirely anecdotal rather than statistical evidence. These studies make clear that the evidence for the effectiveness of SOCE far outweighs the evidence of its harm.”   

A Los Angeles Times reviewer was honest enough to inform us that Boy Erased portrays “with the coolly restrained tension of an art-house horror movie” the Love in Action (LIA) ministry as a place with a “toxic level of obtuseness.”

Mr. Sprigg read the book on which the film is based and went to a screening.  He concluded that the book was more truthful in revealing pre-counseling motivation and trauma experienced in real life by Garrard Conley, on whom the film’s “Jared” character is based.  But even in the book, Mr. Conley misconstrues therapeutic programs.

“Critics of SOCE, including Conley, are also obsessed with “shame,” and a belief that such counseling operates by instilling a sense of shame over the client’s homosexuality,” writes Sprigg. “Yet every sexual reorientation therapist I have met has said the exact opposite -- that one of the primary goals of such therapy is to overcome the shame that clients already feel when they begin therapy… actual quotations from LIA’s handbook and other materials express the opposite:

  • “I believed many lies that I was worthless, hopeless, and had no future.”
  • “I’ve learned that I am loved and accepted even though I have been involved in sexual addiction.”
  • “I have worth. I am intelligent, funny, caring and strong.”

Boy Erased is just the latest attack on the freedom to obtain SOCE counseling.

In 2015, Jews Offering New Alternatives of Healing (JONAH) was found in violation of New Jersey’s consumer fraud law over JONAH’s referring people to reparative therapy counselors.  The judge hamhandedly suppressed evidence.  Stating that no one can possibly change his or her sexual preference, the judge disallowed testimony by successful clients. The far-left Southern Poverty Law Center had brought the case, which put JONAH out of business.

Likewise, during passage of New Jersey’s draconian law against reparative therapy, legislators heard false testimony about abuse at a camp that came directly from a fictional movie that alleged the use of long-abandoned psychiatric methods.  

California, which banned “conversion therapy” for minors in 2012, came within a heartbeat this year of enacting AB 2943, which would have banned advertising, counseling and materials that advocate traditional sexual morality and the ability to change.

Now, Hollywood is again throwing its weight around, trying to brainwash the public into accepting more laws abridging the freedoms of speech, conscience, and religion.       

Boy Erased even shows family members beating a young man with a Bible. 

Like everyone else, people caught up in homosexuality need to know they are loved and that our sins -- of any kind -- should not be our defining identity.

After citing a long list of sinners, including homosexuals, who have become Christians, the Apostle Paul says: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

This profound message of salvation rarely finds its way into the public realm. 

Boy Erased might more accurately be titled Hope Erased.

Regina Griggs is executive director of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a parents support group based in Northern Virginia at pfox.org