A reception Tuesday night honoring the author of a newly released book about his struggle to overcome the negative effects of so-called conversion therapy was part of an ongoing effort by the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. to shed light on the history of the discredited therapy.
Nearly 100 people turned out at the offices of the D.C. law firm McDermott, Will & Emery to listen to gay writer Garrard Conley talk about his autobiographical book “Boy Erased,” which chronicles his struggle to overcome the effects of conversion therapy that his parents forced him to undergo as a 19-year-old college student.
Mattachine Society President Charles Francis said the gathering was part of the group’s ongoing project to obtain archival records documenting how LGBT people have been persecuted beginning in the 1950s and 1960s through various forms of conversion therapy, including electric shock “therapy.”
Lisa Linsky, one of several McDermott, Will & Emery attorneys serving as pro bono counsel for the group, said the project also was part of Mattachine’s effort to carry out archive activism.
“We are going to hunt down historic documents pertaining to the country’s practice of gay conversion therapy,” she said. “We’re going to expose those documents and those stories in an effort to combat proposed legislation and laws so that we can have a voice in challenging those laws.”
She was referring to anti-LGBT “religious freedom” laws surfacing in states across the country that call for allowing individuals and businesses to deny services to LGBT people on grounds that their faith prevents them from “supporting” homosexuality. Linksy noted that many of the proposed laws are supportive of conversion therapy.
Francis said that among the conversion therapy related documents the group has obtained so far is a 1973 printed advertisement promoting a “Visually Keyed Shocker,” a device used to administer electrical shocks to gay people undergoing therapy to “cure” them of their homosexuality.