McKrae Game, ex-leader of Hope for Wholeness, a faith-based conversion therapy program in South Carolina, came out last week as gay. According to The Post and Courier, Game has known he was gay for decades but couldn’t deal with the incongruence of being Christian and being gay. So instead of coming to terms with his sexual identity, he went on to make one of the largest conversion therapy organizations across 15 states, Hope for Wholeness. How ironic that one of the leaders of a prominent conversion therapy group in the United States has come out as gay. Does he realize that he’s profited at the trauma of the messages he preached at LGBTQ+ youths about how repression of their sexuality will lead them to greater happiness and salvation? Clearly suppression didn’t work for him.
Nearly 700,000 LGBTQ+ individuals have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, and about 350,000 of them received treatment as minors. An additional 57,000 individuals will be subjected to conversion therapy from religious advisers or programs like Game’s company Hope for Wholeness. Conversion therapy is refuted by every reputable scientific or psychological agency and is currently banned in 18 states for minors. But in South Carolina, where Hope for Wholeness operates, there is no ban in place and nothing prevents a religious organization from offering these “re-education” programs.
Since coming out early this summer, Game set on making amends and reaching out to members of the LGBTQ+ community who’ve been subjected to conversion therapy programs like the ones his organization ran. “People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?,” Game said in the Post and Courier. He’s set on making things right for the individuals whose lives have been ruined by programs like his, but aren’t they also complicit in the deaths of LGBTQ+ individuals who sought out Hope for Wholeness and other conversion programs? Shouldn’t they be held to a level of accountability for the amount of damage they’ve inflicted?
Common “therapy” tactics use a variety of cognitive and behavioral methods that are supposed to re-educate and deter homosexual thoughts and behaviors through extreme measures like an electric shock, aversion conditioning, shame conditioning, retraining in stereotypical masculine and feminine behaviors, and group therapy to name a few. According to an analysis from the American Psychological Association, individuals who were subjected to the therapy experienced anxiety, confusion, depression, poor self-image, social isolation, intimacy difficulties, suicidal ideation, self-hatred, and sexual dysfunction. Individuals who’ve gone through conversion therapy programs are eight times more likely to have attempted suicide, six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and three times more likely to turn to illegal drugs to combat their feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.
LGBTQ+ individuals aren’t the ones who have a “mental disease” and labeled as sinners, the ones who deserve those labels are these so-called therapists and ministers who are purposefully causing emotional and psychological damage on our youths out of a fear of homosexuality. Confusion about your sexual orientation isn’t wrong, wanting to explore your sexual orientation is not a sign of illness or mental disorder, nor does it signify that you are an abomination in the eyes of God. Conversion therapy programs and the people who run them -or ex-leaders like Game- need to be held accountable for the trauma, psychological damage, and the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals they’ve ruined under the guise of “being able to suppress homosexual desires,” to “pray the gay away,” and “fix” them through behavior modification. Game might’ve denounced his own programs in light of his revelation, but the damage is still being inflicted on innocent individuals enrolled in Hope for Wholeness and other organizations. So sorry if I can’t say I’m proud of you coming out when you’ve profited on the pain and suffering of members of the community you now wish to join into.