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Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions. There is virtually no reliable evidence that sexual orientation can be changed and medical bodies warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and potentially harmful. Nevertheless, advocates and proponents do provide anecdotal reports of people who claim some degree of success in becoming heterosexual.
A prominent “conversion therapy” advocate, David Matheson, has come out as gay after spending what he said were decades of his life entrenched in homophobia.
David Matheson was a practitioner of the practice also known as “ex-gay therapy” or reparative therapy”, which promotes the false idea that being gay is something that should, and can, be “cured.” These therapies have been denounced by major medical bodies including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association and the UK’s National Health Service.
“Not that I would excuse myself, but any shortcomings I had as a therapist came from too narrow a view of what ‘emotionally healthy’ can look like.” Matheson said on Facebook. “They came from my own homophobia and narrow-mindedness. I am truly sorry for those flaws and the harm they have surely caused some people. And I’m sorry for the confusion and pain my choice may be causing others.”
Matheson, who was married, realized last year that he had to make a change in his life and divorced his wife of 34 years, because he could no longer ignore his desire to have a relationship with a man. He was exposed to homophobia as a youth in the Mormon church and found solace in the therapy he received to deal with his own same-sex attraction. He told the Salt Lake Tribune’s podcast Mormon Land that the benefits of that therapy, and his desire to help men like himself, drove him to become a therapist.
“To the men whose internalized homophobia I colluded with or who went away from therapy feeling that really was kind of hurtful to me, I am so sorry,” Matheson said. “I got into this because I really had a sense of compassion and love to this community.” “Even though it was a deep part of me, I had turned against that part of me,” he said. “So, I was buying hook line and sinker this idea that people can change.”