The request to join a new group came through my Facebook page. The group was called “Friends of Bryce“, which could have been anything, but had a note attached that said “Please Help.”
When I clicked over to the group, an all too familiar tale unfolded. Bryce Faulkner, a young gay man from Arkansas, had gone missing after his parents had discovered he was gay. They had gotten into their college-aged son's email account and discovered messages between Bryce and his boyfriend.
The parents then gave Bryce an ultimatum- enter an extensive and severe “therapy” program or lose all their support for college and living expenses. For a young man from a conservative small town whose entire life, including his job, was tied to his parents, who had nowhere to go and no one to turn to, there really was no choice.
Bryce was sent to 14 week long conversion therapy camp and has not been heard from again.The most likely place that Bryce has been sent to is Exodus International, the “ex-gay” organization that claims to pray away the gay by using damaging “conversion therapy”, or one of their many subsidiaries. They have been universally condemned by every major mental health organization in the world.
Even more sad is that Bryce was planning on coming out and moving to be closer to his boyfriend before his parents discovered his emails and threatened to cut him off, which would leave him homeless and unable to provide for himself.
This tale of forced conversion is all too common still. But it seems that the internet is now helping give tools to the loved ones of those that disappear.
The family of Bryce's boyfriend has set up a webpage and Facebook group asking for help in finding Bryce. They are doing their best to find a way to contact him and give him the support he needs to get away from the horrors of Exodus.
They are trying to give him the option of deciding for himself and not being forced into this damaging faux therapy.
This type of exposure of the Ex-Gay Movement from all sides, whether it be the amazing work of sites like the Box Turtle Bulletin or Beyond Ex-Gay or user generated content like the “gay exorcism” video that went viral online, is helping expose the dangerous reality of conversion therapy.
Let's hope that these tools can help broaden the reach of those trying to help victims of forced conversion. Young minds like Bryce need to know there is a support system and a community that loves them.
Being forced into these horrible programs will have lasting damage on people like Bryce. We need to do everything in our power to continue to fight against these “ex-gay” groups and make sure we bring their damage to an end.
Note: I'll be doing a lot more digging on this and other conversion therapy stories, so feel free to send me any information or tips you may have.