My name is Victoria. When I was seventeen, a “friend” outed me as bisexual to my conservative Christian parents. From the very start, my personhood was violated. My so-called friend had saved very private text messages about my relationship with my best friend, which had progressed into more than friendship one summer when we were together. She sent them to my parents who then interrogated me.
Under threat of my best friend getting sent to jail for having broken consent laws, which I later found out was not the case in the slightest, my parents forced me to tell every detail of what we had done together. It wasn’t much, I was pretty young and inexperienced at that point, but it was still horribly humiliating. My parents said if I slipped up and told the counselor they were about to send me to something different, she would report it. So to save my friend, I humiliated myself.
In the next couple of days, I began my sessions at Grace Clinic in Winter Park, Florida, with therapist Monica Taffinder. There are sister offices in Ocala Florida, and Oregon as well, but I only went to the Winter Park office. They have a website and look like a respectable organization that hides under the label of “Christian counseling for gender and sexuality” among a host of other things. But if you call them and ask if they will help get rid of same-sex attraction, they will say yes. Hence me being sent there.
Over the course of our time together, my therapist told me my being queer, or as she called it my “same-sex attraction,” was a result of me basically being too entitled and greedy when it came to relationships. That I wasn’t really attracted to girls, I just wanted to bind them closer to me with illicit activities and that I needed to stop controlling everything. This last point was particularly ridiculous given that I was totally out of control in that situation and any effort at resistance that was made was self-preservation at its most desperate.
She also diminished my value by telling me that I needed to be content with less loyalty in friendships. This has affected me profoundly to the point that I have just recently stopped thinking of people as heroes for loving me.
She also used a homophobic slur to describe lesbian or masculine women and asked invasive questions about whether certain things made me feel aroused. At first, she tried to portray herself as the good guy, but then she started to gaslight me about my family dynamic. I should have seen it coming, as she was on board with my parents isolation techniques (no cellphone, no laptop, only Christian music on my iPod etc).
Whenever I would tell her about something hurtful one of my parents had said or done she would say things like,
“Well, that’s your perception.” And in that way, she taught me to doubt myself. She ended by jumping on the emotional abuse bandwagon and pressuring me about my feelings towards men, at one point going so far as to bark, “Well then you’re a mean person!” when I expressed disgust for the immature communication skills I’d seen from most of the men around me at the time.
She completely tore me down. By the time I turned eighteen and decided to stop seeing her, a genetic disorder triggered by stress had kicked in, sending me to the ER and making it doubtful that I would live. I sincerely believe I would have died had it not been for getting my laptop back and finally being able to connect with other LGBT folk and research my sexuality for myself. Even so, it was a long road back to recovery, and I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and an atypical eating disorder. I also experienced parasomnia during and after conversion therapy, the worst of this being the night terrors that woke me screaming.
I’m doing much better now, but I do not know if I will ever be completely healed, and I want it known that conversion therapy is alive and thriving in the most unexpected places. I hope this helps other people avoid such an experience.