When Garrard Conley comes to the realization that he’s gay–he’s known since junior high–he does his best to keep it hidden, balling the truth up inside himself. He has a lot at stake: his parents are conservative, under the impression that homosexuality is a sin. His father, once Garrard is outed by the guy who sexually assaults him, threatens to stop paying for college if he acts on his impulses.
So begins Garrard’s rough entry into a world where he believes he won’t get a job, or have a good life, because he’s gay. So begins his entry into Love in Action, a conversion “therapy” group that tries to beat the gay or lesbian person into becoming straight. I say beat metaphorically, although the mental anguish that these kids and adults go through sickens me. It angers me greatly that someone should have to feel shame–or be taught to feel shame–about who they are. That’s wrong and disgusting in my book.
In the end, Garrard does come out on the other side. He does become the man he has always wanted to be. I’m very proud of him, especially for leaving Love in Action when he could, for leaving such a horrible place.
While I respect and feel for Garrard, I feel like his overall memoir could have been a little stronger. I wish that the book had more information about Love in Action, and more information regarding how they tried to convert people into becoming straight. The examples he gives are good, but I wanted just a little more from Garrard, just a little more history, just a little more about what LIA made him undergo.
Again, I feel for Garrard, because no one should have to be put to the sword like that. I also feel for other men and women who were in Love in Action. I can only hope that they are doing better now, that they too can come out on the other side. (I know that I have no way of knowing the horrors they went through, but what I can do is offer my sympathy and support.)
But, I do feel like his memoir could’ve had a little more to it. I don’t mean this in a hurtful way, but in a critiquing way. I’ve read several reviews on Goodreads, and lots of people are of the same mind. That said, I really want to see the film, because it looks like it covers a bit more than the memoir.
This is a good entry level book into the horrors that kids and adults undergo when people are not accepting or understanding. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t heard of conversion therapy, because it’s a good example of some of the terrible things that go on in such “organizations.” It’s a memoir that will challenge the way you think, if you think differently than me. It’s a book that can hopefully teach tolerance, not intolerance.