My name is Jory. I am the son of third-generation North Dakota farmers. I had a beautiful childhood filled with love and compassion. However, when I was 15, in 2009, everything changed when my parents found photos of male models in my room.
A friend of a friend referred my parents to a pastor in a First Presbyterian church who claimed he could “cure” me. Every Tuesday for a year, I was sent to talk to this pastor, who also has a doctorate in psychology, about what they told me was a “porn addiction.” The pastor administered a modified version of Exodus International “therapy,” a form of conversion therapy, to attempt to cure my same sex attraction, or “SSA.”
This fraudulent practice was mental torture. The pastor constantly probed for sexual trauma (I have never been abused). He disclosed inappropriate details about himself in an attempt to relate to a porn addiction that I did not have. I was constantly manipulated into believing I had the power to change my sexuality, which he saw as “perversions.” He believed that my sexuality was an illness.
I felt intense shame and guilt. For a while, I tried to convince myself to believe in these so-called “treatments.” I convinced myself that if I did not do everything I could to fix myself, no one around me would love me and I would completely fail my family.
When the tools I was given to fix my “sinful” thoughts and behavior failed to cure me, I turned towards self-harm to fix what I was told was wrong with me. I would stare at the men’s section of a JC Penney catalog and grab an electric fence, praying I could hurt the thoughts out of my head.
The practices implemented on me were a complete fraud with only negative outcomes. I had suicidal ideation during the Exodus International-based sessions and for years afterward. Conversion therapy has had harmful and long-term effects on my mental health, personal relationships, and journey to self-love.
There is no scientific evidence that conversion therapy works, and it has been denounced by every mainstream medical and mental health association, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Today, I do not hate my parents. Like many others, they were tricked by the church and the culture of rural America to believe that it was possible to cure their child of homosexuality and avoid the struggles and embarrassment that my identity would bring.
My greatest hope is that no other children will be forced to endure this mental abuse and feel as hopeless as I did. Conversion therapy does not work, and we must end this terrible abuse.
Many other states have worked across the aisle to protect LGBTQ youth from the harm of conversion therapy. It is time we do the same in Minnesota and North Dakota. That’s why I am advocating alongside OutFront Minnesota for The Mental Health Protections Act (H.F. 12). I hope you will join me.