"It is horrifying to think that I was part of a system that held people like me down," says David Matheson, the former conversion therapist who recently came out as gay, in an interview with BBC 4 News. Matheson has been "described by some as the intellectual godfather of gay cure therapy in America." Hope he's not expecting a welcome basket!
Matheson, who once ran the program Journey Into Manhood and wrote ex-gay doctrine Becoming a Whole Man, says his former program "is not only built on a harmful philosophy, but should be banned." The former conversion therapist, who is Mormon, was married to a woman for over 30 years but is now dating men.
"I regret my part in perpetuating those ideas," Matheson said. "Perpetuating the idea that being gay is a pathology, a disorder. Perpetuating the idea that God is not okay with people being gay. That, I regret. I mean, it held me back and it held lot of other people back." Matheson says he feels responsible for the 700,000 people who participated in the Journey Into Manhood program. "I've had some conversations with other people who have been harmed by it. It creates a lot of sorrow."
Last month, Matheson shared a statement through Truth Wins Out in which he explained that his marriage and time "in the 'ex-gay' world was genuine and sincere and a rich blessing to me. I wasn't faking it all those years. I'm not renouncing my past work or my LDS faith. And I'm not condemning mixed-orientation marriages. I continue to support the rights of individuals to choose how they will respond to their sexual attractions and identity...With that freedom, I am now choosing to pursue life as a gay man."
Which is all well and good, but what about all the harm Matheson caused? Isn't dismantling conversion therapy, which the APA has denounced in 1998, more important than televised interviews? As Boy Erased author Garrard Conley wrote, "If you're a former conversion therapist who seems to be more interested in clearing your name/making media appearances than making up for your wrongs, I will not trust you one bit. I will simply move on to the phase of using your ignominy as a way to discredit the practice."