Boy Erased Book Summary - Boy Erased Book explained in key points
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Boy Erased summary

Garrard Conley

A Memoir of Identity, Faith, and Family

4.3 (28 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley is a memoir about his experience growing up in a religious community and being sent to conversion therapy. It provides a firsthand account of the damaging effects of these practices and inspires empathy and understanding for those who have been through similar struggles.

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    Boy Erased
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    The ex-gay movement taught that homosexuality was a sinful yet curable addiction, just like alcoholism.

    For many of us, young adulthood is a time of freedom and experimentation. But it’s not like that for everyone. In fact, at the tender age of just 19, the author Garrard Conley was engaging in the very opposite of self-discovery. Instead, he was learning how to erase an important part of his identity.

    This erasure began in 2004 when he attended an intensive two-week program that promised to cure him of his “addiction.” The program providers were a fundamentalist Christian organization called Love in Action. The “addiction” the program would treat was Conley’s sexuality – his attraction to other men.

    Love in Action was part of a wider umbrella organization known as Exodus International. With an international reach and operating in countries as far-flung as Brazil, Australia, the Netherlands and the Philippines, Exodus International was the world’s largest ex-gay organization.

    The ex-gay movement’s mission was to propagate the idea that homosexuality was an unnatural perversion created by the devil. The movement believed that people could be “cured” of their sexual orientation and made straight – just as God intended – by participating in intensive programs such as the one Conley attended.

    The Love in Action course consisted of a 12-step program for participants to follow on their journey to “recovery.” These 12 steps revolved around the principle that homosexuality was a sin akin to pedophilia and bestiality. For instance, when Conley browsed Love in Action’s website before joining up, he was shocked to read that homosexuals were individuals with no self-control, whose proclivities would eventually lead them to have sex with animals if they did not cure themselves.

    Moreover, Love in Action equated homosexuality to damaging addictions such as gambling and alcoholism. In other words, the program presented itself as a sort of Alcoholics Anonymous for individuals who wanted a way out of their homosexuality. When Conley first arrived at the program center, he was told that he was using the sin of homosexuality to fill a void in his life, just as other people used drugs and alcohol to curb feelings of emptiness. What he needed to do, the program leader told him, was to renounce homosexuality and fill the void with God instead.

    Though his time in the ex-gay movement was relatively brief, Conley’s experiences with Love in Action would haunt him for the next decade of his life.

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    What is Boy Erased about?

    Boy Erased (2016) explores the author’s experiences within the ex-gay movement: a community that seeks to “cure” homosexuality. Detailing the cruel methodology of conversion therapy and examining the author’s relationship with his devout parents, the blinks investigate the impact of fundamentalist Christian ideology on LGBT people and their families.

    Best quote from Boy Erased

    The program dictated that there could be no physical contact or hugging between program participants, and allowed for quick handshakes only.

    —Garrard Conley
    example alt text

    Who should read Boy Erased?

    • Anyone interested in challenging true-life stories
    • Those looking for an insight into Christian fundamentalism
    • People interested in learning more about bigotry toward the LGBT community

    About the Author

    Conley is a survivor of conversion therapy and a speaker and activist campaigning to end the practice. Boy Erased was a New York Times bestseller.

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