Gay ‘cure’ therapy survivor opens up about horrific experiences in conversion camp

A survivor of gay ‘cure’ therapy has opened up about her horrific experience.

Alex Cooper, who grew up in a Mormon family, opened up in a video for the Human Rights Campaign.

She recalled: “I came out to my parents when I was 15, a couple weeks later they kicked me out of the house and told me I was going to go stay with my grandparents for a few weeks.

“Instead they dropped me off at a conversion therapy camp where they signed over their parental rights and guardianship to this family who promised to make me straight.”

She added: “Conversion therapy is the idea you can use physical and emotional pain to make somebody change their sexual orientation.

“For me, a lot of the therapy was wearing a backpack full of rocks to face the physical burden of being gay.

“They made me face a wall for up to 18 hours. When I kept fighting they would add more and more rocks. It got up to be 40 pounds, and they didn’t stop taking rocks out until I decided to give up on fighting and start playing along.

“There were two boys there when I first got there that both identified as gay. They had to fight each other to be more manly and if they weren’t hitting each other hard enough, then the man who helped run the camp would step in and do the punching for them.

“It was in their best interest to hit each other as hard as they could.

“I felt like they got some weird joy out of torturing children.”

She added: “I went to the same church as my grandparents every single Sunday, but they were told that in order for this therapy to work they couldn’t look at me or speak to me.

“It made me feel like God was punishing me. I felt like I couldn’t change being a lesbian, but I could just conceal it.

“I was finally allowed to go to school after 8 months, but I wasn’t going to tell anybody what was going on because every time I reached out for help it backfired.

“But one day they got a call saying I had been late to my classes, so they told me I couldn’t go to school anymore, and I had to put the backpack on and face the wall. I stood there for about seven hours.”

Cooper eventually escaped.

She added: “I just left, I didn’t take anything. It was three in the morning and I hid in some bushes until the buses started running, and when I got to the high school, I immediately went to my English teacher and we called the police.”

Cooper now lives with her girlfriend in Portland, Oregon, and works on behalf of a children’s charity.

She also serves as an HRC Youth Ambassador, helping to campaign to ban the practise of gay cure therapy across the US.

Olivia Dalton, HRC Senior Vice President for Communications and Marketing, said: “No child should be subjected to this practice that amounts to nothing less than child abuse.

“We’re thankful for Alex Cooper’s willingness to boldly share her story.

“It is our hope that this powerful new video will help fuel the momentum we are seeing across the nation as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle work with us to pass legislation protecting LGBTQ youth from this dangerous and discredited practice.”

Experts overwhelmingly agree that attempts to cure sexuality are futile, misguided, and often extremely harmful. Attempts to force teens to repress their sexuality has been linked to depression, self-harm and even suicide.

Performing gay ‘cure’ therapy on minors is already is illegal in 11 US states and counting, as well as Switzerland, Malta, Taiwan, two Canadian provinces, and the Australian state of Victoria.

The European Parliament voted in March to condemn gay ‘cure’ therapy and urged member countries to ban the harmful practice.

The UK government has resisted calls to act, however, insisting that a legal ban could have “unforeseen consequences.”