The incidents portrayed in this story are inspired by real stories, but all names and other identifying details have been changed.
‘My parents sent me to an overseas live-in program to try to ‘cure’ me from being gay and non-binary.’
‘I always knew I was queer, even from a young age.
I didn’t have a name for it until I was bullied at school.
I went to a private Christian school, where anyone who was different from the norm was targeted with bullying.
At school, I was led to believe that who I was inside was broken. I was not like everyone else and I needed to change.
My earliest childhood memories are grounded in fear. From my parents and the church, I learnt that if you haven’t accepted Jesus into your heart when you die, you’ll be separated from family and friends forever.
My parents found me looking up gay dating websites. My Dad told me if I didn’t follow a cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) ‘normal’ lifestyle, I would be separated from them for eternity.
He told me I was going to die alone and that I was worthless if I didn’t follow that path.
I struggle to get his words out of my head.
My parents took me to an exorcist who was part of the church and then to the USA to participate in a live-in program which included bible studies and therapy sessions, with the aim to ‘cure’ me from being gay and non-binary.
I spent over a year there where I had to journal every night, writing about my blasphemous thoughts.
A lot of the self-hate and shame that I held comes from the ideology that who I am at my core is wrong. It left me feeling suicidal.
I came back and tried to assimilate, but I knew I hadn’t changed.
I now own who I am and am proud of that. I’ve found my second family – my close friends who support me and who I am.’
How does the law apply to Sam’s situation?
Under the Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act 2021, it’s against the law to try to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
This means that Sam’s parents have engaged in a change or suppression practice by sending Sam to an exorcist and overseas conversion camp, for the purpose of changing Sam’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Sam’s parents may also have committed the criminal offence of taking a person from Victoria for a change or suppression practice.
Sam’s dad may have engaged in a change or suppression practice by telling Sam that if they didn’t live the cishet lifestyle they’d be separated for eternity – if this was said to try to change or suppress Sam’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The exorcist who was part of the church has also engaged in a change or suppression practice by delivering a program based on their own beliefs, for the purpose of trying to change Sam’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The church could be held vicariously liable if they cannot show that they have taken reasonable precautions to prevent the exorcist engaging in the change or suppression practice.
Are you in a similar situation?
You can make a report to identify a person or an organisation who has tried to change or suppress your sexual orientation or gender identity.
A report is made with the intent to:
- show the harm of these practices
- have your story heard
- seek an outcome (facilitation, education or investigation)
- stop these practices from happening.
Read more about how you can make a report.
Reading this story may have caused distress. These services can help:
Rainbow Door is a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their family, and friends.
Contact: 1800 729 367 or 0480 017 246 (SMS) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond Blue provides 24-hour information, advice and support for people affected by anxiety, depression, and suicide.
Contact: 1300 224 636
A full list of affirming faith organisations, LGBTIQ support organisations and crisis and mental health services can be found on our ‘Have you experienced a change or suppression practice?’ page