A Scottish man has said he “hated everything” about himself after enduring six years of conversion therapy and “exorcisms” to make him straight.
Justin Beck, 36, told STV that he grew up in a religious family but moved church aged 17 because he wanted to make himself straight.
In his new church, he was put through traumatising conversion therapy that lasted six years, before he finally realised that it was not working when he was 23.
“I would put myself forward for healing every Sunday, then that would ramp up to things like exorcisms to have demons cast out of me and being anointed with oil, so from 17 to 23 that was like six years of just constantly going through that,” Beck said.
He said he was told constantly by church leaders that he had to “have faith” in order for the pseudoscientific practice to work.
“The line that I was given all the time was you just have to have faith, you just have to have faith. So then from 17 to 23 and then at 23 realising this is not working, and then to be told you just don’t have enough faith, was a massive slap in the face,” he said.
Beck’s life was torn apart by conversion therapy, and he was left hating everything about himself, his self-esteem in shreds.
“By the time I was 23 I had absolutely zero self-esteem, I hated myself, I hated everything about myself, I would walk with my head down, I wouldn’t look in mirrors or windows, I hated everything about myself.
“It was a lot to then try and pull myself back together and rebuild my life.”
Religious leaders have called for conversion therapy to be banned.
Beck shared his experience as hundreds of the world’s leading religious figures called for conversion therapy to be banned.
More than 370 religious leaders from 35 countries, including Desmond Tutu, signed a pledge as part of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT+ lives calling for the dangerous practice to be outlawed.
The powerful declaration declared that LGBT+ people are “a precious part of creation and are part of the natural order” and said queer people should be “treated equally under the law”.
Conversion therapy is widely considered to be a dangerous and harmful form of pseudoscience largely propagated be religious extremists.
The practice has been condemned by various health and psychiatry bodies across the world, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Physicians, and the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry.
A survey conducted by the Ozanne Foundation in 2019 found that one in five survivors of conversion therapy in the UK later attempted suicide, while two in five said they had suicidal thoughts after undergoing the harmful practice.
Meanwhile, less than a third of those surveyed said they went on to “lead a happy and fulfilled life”.
Despite this, conversion therapy continues to be popular among conservative Christian groups across the world, with many pushing the false narrative on LGBT+ youth that their identities are wrong and can be changed.
Conversion therapy has been banned in some parts of the world, but remains legal in the UK – despite the Conservative party’s repeated pledges to outlaw the practice.