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Troubled Teen Programs and Gay Conversion Therapy

Hi guys. I debated writing a post about this for a long time, since I know the topic is “out there” and probably doesn’t apply to many people. Anyway, I was wondering if anyone here has ever attended a troubled teen program or gay conversion therapy? I spent roughly 2 years (age 13-15) in a lock-up conversion therapy program. Without sharing too much information, it was indescribably abusive and actually meets the federal government’s definition of a cult. I feel like the existence of these programs is one of America’s darkest secrets. In fact, they are illegal in most civilized countries. I don’t speak about my experience much because people – especially in Connecticut – would simply not believe it, or at the very least would think I was exaggerating. I was literally dragged out of bed at 4:00 in the morning, blindfolded, and driven to the desert in the Idaho/Utah border. For two years I was, to put it bluntly, a captive. We weren’t allowed any contact with the outside world. We couldn’t touch another person or have any human contact at all. All conversations were monitored. We were routinely humiliated – not allowed to shower for months, denied given bathroom breaks until some folks soiled themselves, forced to eat cups of salt. I think you get the idea. Actually, someone else wrote about the wilderness program I went to in this Cracked article: http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-1270-6-shocking-realities-secret-troubled-teen-industry.html. I did 3 months in that Idaho program, and then was sent to a Utah program for the remainder of the 2 years. Despite having left Utah 8 years ago, I still suffer from severe complex PTSD. It is an isolating experience, especially since I don’t know anyone in real life who has gone through the same thing. I feel like meeting just one other survivor would be a huge boon to my mental health, which is why I’m reaching out on this forum.

p.s. for those who would like to learn more about the troubled teen industry, please check out the following links:

10 Replies to “Troubled Teen Programs and Gay Conversion Therapy”

  1. RaiC says:

    The troubled teen industry has surprisingly been kept under raps for a very long time! I have always been against the idea because it never felt right. I am literally so happy and appreciative that you were able to share that. I’ve heard similar stories and experiences about those “camps” but only via Internet, never from a first hand account. I believe EVERY word that you’ve shared and I’m so sorry that you had to endure that, that is complete BS. All of you deserve to be treated with respect..& should never have been subject to that harsh treatment. It’s really sad that people are able to get away with this sort of stuff.. But I’m honestly not surprised. What they do is portray themselves to be something that they are not, tricking parents and friends into believing that this is the best treatment for the young adult. They paint this picture and make it feel as if sending your trouble teen off with them is the right idea and sometimes, families and mental health providers believe it only because they may have exhausted all other options or can’t figure out a way to deal with everything that’s going on. I think it’s a cop out.

    I’m so glad that you are able to share your experience and speak on something that so many people are hiding! You’re so brave and I admire your strength. I noticed that you posted in another thread about this in hopes of possibly assisting someone who may be headed to a similar place… You are truly amazing. You stuck your head out just to potentially help someone and not a lot of people would do that.

    Despite all that you went through and are still dealing with, you’re thinking of others and looking out for them… Spreading the word about this industry. I’m def going to do my research, this is far more serious than I thought. Thank you for shedding light on this and once again for sharing your experience. You are definitely not alone !

  2. Kevin A. says:

    OMG! Thanks for sharing your story. It was just this morning that I woke up with a thought on conversion therapy and feeling really disgusted about it. I made a post about it.
    I have not personally been through conversion therapy but earlier when I realized that I was gay, I thought about it and actually thought it could work.

    But I have come to learn that its legalized abuse and NOBODY deserves such evil. I think once more people talk about this, we can help those who are at risk.

  3. AlliAnonymous3 says:

    Thanks for the support Kevin. Sorry to hear you’ve struggled with homophobia too, and that you’ve even considered conversion therapy. My own personal experience aside, there seems to be a consensus in the scientific community that conversion therapy doesn’t work. People may stop subjectively identifying as gay, but the objective markers of sexuality (e.g. arousal in response to homosexual stimuli, etc.) tend to remain unchanged. I’m really glad people are starting to pay attention to the issue now, and that more and more states are banning the practice. While the conversion therapy bans are a step in the right direction, I am concerned that these laws are essentially toothless. Very few conversion therapy programs are upfront about their goal of changing a person’s sexuality. My program, and many others, would never publicly admit to being a conversion therapy program. The farthest they’ve gone is to go on record saying that they “want to make girls comfortable being girls, and help them live a life of integrity.” In private the conversion therapists would obviously say that the goal is to straighten folks up, but if anyone ever sued them it would become a he-said-she-said battle. Ultimately, I think pressure from the media and the public will be more effective than laws when it comes to shutting these places down. Anyway, thanks again for sharing some of your story, and I wish you the best in your journey.

  4. AlliAnonymous3 says:

    Wow, thanks for the very thoughtful reply Rai. I totally wasn’t expecting anyone to respond, never mind with that level of understanding. You’re the first person I’ve talked to who has actually has an understanding of the TTI. Trickery and deception is definitely the name of the game when it comes to convincing parents to send their kids away. I won’t get into all the scumminess too much because I don’t want to end up ranting, and honestly I still can’t spend too much time thinking about it all for the sake of my wellbeing. Fortunately, the internet has helped survivors stand up against the industry, and I think the TTI will have a harder time keeping things under wraps now that the word is out.

    Thanks again for the support. Sorry if my response seems short in comparison, it’s still a hard topic for me to focus on. Best of luck with your research, and let me know if you want any more links/sources.

  5. ech says:

    I have an acquaintance who is looking for a Connecticut conversion therapy survivor – he is a survivor from other programs and is helping pass bills across the US. He is currently working on ending the legality of conversion therapy in Connecticut. If you are interested in helping let me know and I will put you in touch.

  6. Kevin A. says:

    This is a great outlook for the state Ech. Thanks for the good work that you are doing. I’m sure that there are many people who would be willing to help. Do you mind providing a way that individuals can reach you directly? Also, reaching out to organizations such as Triangle Community Center; New Haven Pride Center and The Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective may be a great idea, especially if he is looking for individual testimonies.

  7. ech says:

    They can reach me directly at recruiter.hanson@gmail.com or

    samuel.brinton.mit@gmail.com stated HELP me find a conversion therapy survivor, partner of a survivor, or ally of a survivor in Connecticut. They won’t have to speak in public but I need to connect them to our amazing support team to help me pass the bill ending conversion therapy in Connecticut.

    My friends, the horror I experienced as a child is still legal in over 40 states. That needs to stop. Help me stop it.

    Just help me find my Connecticut brothers and sisters who’ve survived the horror of conversion therapy and want to make sure none has to go through it again.

    Thank you.

  8. nathanieljblack7 says:

    Reading this put fear and terror in my heart. I’m so, so sorry for your experience. As an openly gay male, something like this has always been one of my worst fears. I can’t imagine the pain you must have gone through.

  9. AlliAnonymous3 says:

    Hey ECH. I hope I’m not too late to the party, I admittedly hadn’t checked this forum in awhile. I would LOVE to speak with you and/or the other Connecticut survivor. Like you, I want to see our legislators to put an end to conversion therapy, and if you think I can be of assistance in reaching that goal then I’m all in. I’ll send you an email from my personal account.
    For some reason certain parts of your posts aren’t loading (probably because I’m on mobile), so I can’t tell if you yourself went through conversion therapy, or only your acquaintance. Either way, I’m so sorry that another person experienced this. I think many conversion therapy “alumni” end up feeling very isolated, and connecting these individuals is crucial, if not requisite, for healing to occur. So please feel free to pass along my information to anyone who you think would benefit.

  10. I think it is incredibly brave to share your story with such a powerful and confident voice!! I am currently composing a paper in the subject and would love to talk to you if you would be willing I will leave my email and Instagram handle!! Thank you so much for expressing yourself!!

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