How Gay Conversion Camps Are Torturing Kids

We should be ashamed that they exist at all in 2017.

Gay conversion camps, or conversion therapy, is alive and well. And it’s coming back in a big way.

Despite Russia’s claims that there are no gay people in Chechnya and therefore they can’t possibly have any gay torture camps, evidence has repeatedly proven their existence. The reports are haunting. Amnesty International has announced that police are kidnapping and imprisoning gay men simply for being gay. They’re tortured and killed.

While the United States is denying these men refuse when they escape or are released, some hope comes from five countries who are offering them asylum.

It’s hard to imagine that these kinds of camps exist in the world today given our familiarity with historically similar and atrocious genocides.

It might be even harder to imagine that similar camps exist in the United States today, and have for decades.

Gay conversion camps are a lot quieter today than they were decades ago, largely because they’ve fallen out of political favor. We’ve long since established that being homosexual is not a mental disorder: it’s just as natural as heterosexuality. Sadly there are some groups, almost exclusively religious, that are determined to believe otherwise.

I grew up in an area where these camps existed. My friends came out to their parents were sent away for weeks or months. There they were bombarded with sketchy studies and bad science that forced the idea of homosexuality as not only unnatural but wrong. The approaches differed. Some would be sent into plural group therapy sessions where several queer people would discuss past traumas and explain that this is why they sought deviant behavior. Others were strapped to chairs and electrocuted in an archaic attempt at curing them from their “unnatural impulses.” When religion is a factor they’d also be told that this was a trial given to them by God, that like pedophiles they had to work hard to overcome their sinful dispositions.

I know a lot of people who faked their recovery just to get out of those camps.

None of these “therapy sessions” compare to the level of torture and murder currently happening to gay men in Chechnya. But they are connected. The fact that these camps exist at all builds up the authenticity of the camps in Chechnya. We still have pockets of people in our world with power who believe LGBT people should just be dead. Gay conversion camps shows us the level of bigotry and hatred towards the LGBT community still suffers from in our own back yards.

I’ve had friends ask me what we can do to help LGBT Chechnyans. My answer is simple: help at home. Help eliminate homophobia where you live. Have arguments with relatives when they say bigoted things instead of keeping your mouth shut until the subject changes. This is especially important when it comes to elections. Here in the United States our own Vice President Mike Pence supports these camps, and if Trump’s impeached he’ll be leading our country.

Don’t let camps or therapeutic offices hide. If you find out about them, talk about them. Comment on their Yelp pages. Share them on social media. The only way to kill practices like these is to expose them for the torturers they are. Let’s eradicate gay torture camps.

Do you have any stories about gay conversion therapy?