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'The Spiritual Warfare Of ... Purging My Homosexuality': Wisconsin 'Conversion Therapy' Survivor Shares His Story

Psychologist making notes during therapy session.
Ievgen Chabanov/motortion
Adobe Stock
Psychologist making notes during therapy session.

In Wisconsin, there isn't a statewide law banning the use of so-called gay conversion therapy on minors. This scientifically discredited therapy is generally counseling that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. For kids and teens who endure it, the impact can be devastating.

Logan grew up in a religious family in a small town in southeastern Wisconsin. He says he didn't learn much about homosexuality except that it was against the will of God. As a young teen, Logan started to experiment with other boys around his age, rumors spread and "conversion therapy" began. From that moment on, everything in his life was fundamentally changed. Logan is his middle name, he asked that we do not use his full name given the nature of his experiences.

"The gravity of acknowledging to myself that I was engaging in sexual behavior — let alone homosexual behavior; thinking that I was heterosexual and saving myself for marriage by God's design. [It was] shattering," he explains.

After admitting to his family that he'd been experimenting with other boys, Logan's parents drove him to his pastor's home where they performed an exorcism.

Logan says, "It wasn't like the movies. It wasn't dramatic, there wasn't yelling, I wasn't screaming or anything like that. It was simply commanding through the blood of Christ that the demons within me leave, repeatedly, for a few hours."

He was asked to confess anything he'd lied about in the past. Then, Logan was sent to a Bible-based therapist with the hope that it would change his sexual orientation. Logan explains, "This gentleman would help counsel me through, as they refer to it, the spiritual warfare of more-or-less purging my homosexuality from myself."

Logan continues, "I was scared and frustrated, but grateful because I wanted to be right with God. I wanted to do what was right and be who God wanted me and I fully believed that that meant me getting rid of these inclinations and propensities."

His parents would check in on how he was doing with the therapy. His father would ask invasive questions about his "spiritual battles," and Logan would be expected to talk to him about his sexual thoughts or masturbation. The questions and therapy led to an emotional cycle of lying, feeling racked with guilt and confessing.

Logan says, "At first it was easy and then like any course of nature, it was not. But I would lie because I was tired of making my parents cry. And then eventually the weight of the lie would grow to be too much that I would confess. ... And it's one of the biggest reasons why I don't have that much of a relationship with my family anymore is because of all the lying that I did. But, who would feel comfortable telling the truth?"

His opinions on his sexuality didn't change until he left his family's home, he says. Logan says he was forced to reckon with the fact that the religious beliefs he was raised with and his sexuality couldn't coexist.

"I was really analyzing my faith and trying to reconcile I’ve done everything I can to be straight and it is not working. And the more I try to continue to be straight, the more I end up hurting people I love. I don't think God wants me to keep hurting people, so I just need to embrace this," he says.

Logan's relationship with his family remains damaged.

Although some municipalities like Milwaukee have banned "conversion therapy" for minors, the only statewide ban comes from an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers that bans the use of state or federal funds for the therapy. But last year, Wisconsin Republicans blocked a bill that would have banned "conversion therapy" for minors and in March of this year, they sought to protect this practice from any bans.

Joy Powers is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
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