Two local men recall their experience as young boys whose parents subjected them to Conversion Therapy as the 2023 Palm Springs LGBTQ+ Film Festival hosts a discussion. Scott Cruz is a part of the LGBTQ community and shares his experience on his social media platform with hopes of healing people from their traumas. Curtis Galloway is the founder and president of the Conversion Therapy Dropout Network, which fights to end the practice while providing resources and support to survivors.
While the Palm Springs Film Festival is happening in the valley, very sensitive topics are being discussed, like Conversion Therapy.
"We try to find a hopefully an imperative issue finds us," says the director of UNFIX, Graham Streeter. "In the case of this film, it's about conversion therapy. We took a really interesting way to tell the story with the hopes that people understand that conversion therapy. However, in the state of California, there's lots of ways to make it illegal to do conversion therapy, per se, by the books. It still happens today. And in fact, it happens across the country. And as it's happening and continuing to grow. There are legislation is being passed systematically across the country to take rights away to protect minors from being held, you know, safe away from the harms of conversion therapy. So it's really important that people know that it's not a done deal."
Two men who now live in Palm Springs shared their stories of wanting to harm themselves and not loving who they were based on manipulation tactics. "I tried to take my life twice," says Scott Cruz, who underwent Conversion therapy for three years at 15. "I figured if I'm going to hell, I go now, you know, and I dedicated myself to changing so some, what I would say, brainwashed into that cult like religion, to believe that I was in sin. The interesting thing for me was that I was always focused on being successful and being creative. And they were always focused on who I was sleeping with."
Another local man, Curtis Galloway, was in Kentucky when he was taken to a licensed therapist at 15. "My parents would also go to it, and he would feed into them; this was your fault," says Galloway. "You know, it's your fault that your son's gay, you are absent you, you know, you let the devil into your house. And then he would then go and, you know, mentally and emotionally manipulate me so that by the time we got home, we were all in just this state of uncertainty, not knowing what to do. And so then we would just continue emotionally and mentally abusing each other while we were there. I always say that the worst part of my experience was when I got home, not in the actual office of my conversion therapist."
A film screening will be shown on Sunday, September 24, at 4 p.m. at the Palm Springs Cultural Center called UNFIX. The movie highlights a boy named Ari. At eleven, Ari was forced into conversion therapy following a brief encounter with another boy. Ari is thirty-five years old and "fixed," but the methods endured left an indelible mark.
A panel discussion on Conversion Therapy will follow the screening. Film officials say the discussion will start around 5:50 p.m.
Cruz will share his story of undergoing conversion therapy and how the word "fixed" can be triggering for some people.
In 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1172 (SB 1172) into law, making California the first state in the nation to ban the practice of conversion therapy. The bill prohibits mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts (SOCEs) with a minor patient.
According to the 2023 Trevor Project National Survey, 15% of LGBTQ youth reported being threatened with or subjected to conversion therapy, including nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people and almost 1 in 10 cisgender young people. This is an increase from previous years. And for LGBTQ young people who attempted suicide in the past year, 28% were threatened with Conversion Therapy, and 28% were subjected to Conversion Therapy.