When I came out it meant that I was risking everything. He tried so hard to be what he thought a Christian should be, and that was not gay. We didn’t know how prevalent gay conversion therapy was in Australia when we started this research. I think it’s endemic. I felt like I’d been fed a lie. I’m Chris and I’m 32 years old. The first time I had a suspicion that I was attracted to boys was when I was quite young, I was ten. I remember thinking this is strange, that I really shouldn’t feel like this about a boy. But then I tried to make myself feel better about it by convincing myself that no, I just wanted to be really good friends with him I was quite frightened at what this meant for my life. If you were gay, you were disgusting; you were a faggot or a poof. He was always a really happy child. Mischievous. Loved anything arty. We used to buy cars and we used to buy boy stuff for him and he’d play with it for a little while but he really wasn’t interested. He always gravitated towards the girls’. We did have a suspicion that he might be gay. And we hoped that he wouldn’t grow up to be gay. Yep. Yes, basically. I’d even dated a couple of girls but it was so fake and it was so tiring constantly having to pretend to be someone else. One morning he just said, “Oh. I’m gay.” And quickly got out of the car and ran up the steps. And that was it, that was the coming out. At that moment the main thing I felt was relief, and I think after that certainly there was grief there. I knew that they would be upset and I knew that they would be really concerned for me and my soul. I had hoped that up until the last moment we were wrong. Yep. It was kind of like a black mark over you, if you’d like, and you didn’t want to admit that your child was gay. I started to try and pray away the gay, I guess, when I was very young. You’re talking about an 11 year old who thinks he has demons in him, because of who he is. It was scary. Watching him go through the process of trying to come to terms with it was heartbreaking. I remember him saying, “Why is he doing this to me? Why did he do this?” Chris used to say, “Well God can do anything, why doesn’t he heal me?” My church introduced me to Living Waters they told me it was an ex-gay course to help you to find healing from homosexuality. It consisted of basically weekly meetings where we would go through a big textbook and we’d go through a chapter every week where we would talk about the sins that we’d committed that week. I never had anything to say because I was so strict on myself. I was celibate until 24. It was a pretty lonely way to live, really, but that’s what I felt like I had to do. Living Waters is one of the classic ex-gay organisations like many of those that were set up in the 1970’s dedicated to helping people become straight. It’s modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous. My name is Dr Timothy Jones. I’ve just finished the first research into gay conversion therapy and the ex-gay movement in Australia. It’s far more prevalent than we thought. Gay conversion therapy was actually mainstream medical practice in the middle of the 20th century. The practices that Jewish groups, Muslim groups, Buddhist groups, Hindu groups engaged in all were very similar. We found that many of the organisations have actually just gone underground. They’ve changed their names, they don’t identify as doing conversion therapy. Far from going away it’s actually expanding. At the end of the course I felt incredibly disappointed. Because I had been doing this since I was 17 and nothing had changed You know, I’m still as gay as I was before. I had been telling people that God was healing me and he wasn’t. I felt really depressed. I remember praying to God, “Heal me, or kill me.” He desperately wanted to be straight. He was just guilt-ridden, especially through those years. I even think that Michael and I came to the fact that he was gay and Christian before Christopher did. Christopher struggled for so long, didn’t he? It was obvious to us that it wasn’t a matter of choice. He didn’t choose to be like that. We also tried to help him see that being gay, even if it’s not what God wants, isn’t the end of the Earth. That hit me like a bus. I was like ‘What?” And I sort of started saying, ‘But the bible says-‘ And she said maybe you need to consider that God hasn’t healed you because there’s actually nothing wrong with you. That was said to me at a good time, because it was probably what I needed to hear at the time. There is no evidence that gay conversion therapy works. We really want religious groups to recognize that these practices that they’re doing in a well-meaning way, are actually harming themselves, their own people. Well, family life for us now has changed out of sight. Much better. We have an amazing son, he is caring, he’s loving, he’s got his sense of humour back He’s a beautiful man. It’s wonderful. Isn’t it, darl? Yeah. Yep. It’s really great. We’ve met all his boyfriends. We liked all of them didn’t we? I reckon if I went back in time and God asked me, ‘Do you want to go down as gay or straight?’ I’d probably say gay. It was the church that betrayed me, not God. God isn’t the one that said to me that you’re not okay the way you are, it was the church. Where I see myself in five or ten years is hopefully, fingers-crossed, married – legally – in Australia. I never thought I could be comfortable as a gay guy, but I am. And I’m quite proud to be gay.