Based on his own life experience, the author Garrard Conley published in 2016 the book “Boy Erased: A Memoir” that tells his painful experience in participating in a conversion program that promised to “cure his homosexuality”. The book unfolds the traumatic and perverse consequences of “gay conversion therapy ” and Garrard complex relationship with his religious family, and how he found the strength to overcome these obstacles and assert his identity.

Garrard – the son of a Baptist pastor, raised in a conservative town in the southern United States – was convinced by his own parents to erase a part of himself. In a desperate attempt to please them and not to be expelled from the family, he almost destroyed himself accepting to go to the gay conversion therapy, but, he found the strength to seek his identity and he is now an activist against conversion therapies.

Garrard Conley

Touching and inspiring, Garrard’s story is a reckoning with the past, a complex panorama of the author’s relationship with family, faith and community. The book is a testament to the traumas and consequences of trying to annihilate an essential part of a human being.

The book became a phenomenon and it motivated actor, director and screenwriter Joel Edgerton to develop a film based on it, which was released on the big screen in 2018, starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Edgerton himself.

The narrative shows all the horror that LGBTQIA+ young people suffered in these conversion sessions, all the humiliation, the physical and mental abuses that the “therapists” used to “convert them”. It is a very cruel story to digest that totally violates human rights, especially when we think those LGBTQIA+ guys were forced by their parents who blinded by their own faith, using the name of God and false moralism allowed those grotesque evils practice.

The film makes several key changes to Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir. One pivotal scene in the film depicts the director pushing a lapsed participant onto his knees in front of a coffin and then having the young man beaten with a Bible. This scene does not take place in Conley’s memoir. 

Edgerton’s film was nominated for the “Golden Globe” and won “AACTA” awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. According to some critics, the film is a family drama with many emotional layers of history, anchored in empathy by writer-director-star Joel Edgerton.

It is worth reading the book or watching the film and follow the story of Garrard who in the film is called Jared (Lucas Hedges). In fact, Hedges is successful in his role transmitting with sensitivity the duality the character lives: accepting his nature or following “Christian values”.

Today, Garrard is an activist and fights against conversion therapies and LGBTQIA+ rights. Disguised as therapy, the process of “sexual reorientation” is still practised in 36 states in The United States of America today. According to the film, 600,000 LGBTI + people have already undergone similar procedures, which are considered a serious health threat by the UN.

Buying the book