Conversion therapy survivor explains how ‘insidious’ counsellor lured her in with kindness
A trans woman has shared her heartbreaking experience of conversion therapy to warn how the barbaric practice can at first come across like “kindness”.
Warning: Discusses mental health, suicidal thoughts, sexual assault and conversion therapy.
In a Twitter thread that has gone viral, Meghan explained that she attended Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute between 2009 and 2012.
While there, she claimed, she underwent horrific conversion therapy.
Megan said that she knew that she was a girl from the age of four.
“When I first learned about trans people I asked a parent about them,” she wrote.
“They told me, ‘Transsexuals are deeply unhappy people who become prostitutes, get AIDS, and die homeless.’ Those words became the root of my closet.”
Negative depictions of trans people in the media forced Meghan even further into the closet, which severely affected her mental health, and saw her try to take her own life at the ages of eight and 15.
She “fell into Evangelical purity culture”, which she was attracted to because of “the constant references to healing, regeneration, renewal, and rebirth”.
“In short, I knew that I wanted to be a woman, society told me that was a bad thing, so I wanted a way out of wanting to be a woman,” Meghan said. “Evangelical purity culture promised me a way out, and I grasped onto it.”
While she prayed “fervently”, she still struggled with dysphoria, and entries from her prayer journals at the time show that she had become desperate for God to “heal” her.
In one entry, Meghan wrote: “I don’t even want to be happy anymore. I’ll make [do] with content. You want to work a work in me? Do it. Do it and get it over with.
“I can’t wait anymore. I hate this. I hate existing.”
In another, she wrote: “I just want to give up. I’ve been praying for a decade. For a decade you haven’t healed me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll finally have the courage and walk out the window.”
Enrolling at Moody Bible Institute, a private Evangelical Christian Bible college founded in Chicago, Illinois, became the next step in her “plan to be healed of [her] gender issues”.
According to the college’s doctrinal statement: “Non-marital sex, homosexual sex, same-sex romantic relationships, and gender identification incongruent with one’s birth-sex all violate God’s generous intention for human relationships.
“Such practices misrepresent the nature of God Himself, and therefore are sinful under any circumstance.”
Meghan claims she was threatened with academic probation if she refused to attend what would soon become conversion therapy
Meghan’s mental health continued to suffer, and while a student at Moody Bible Institute, she suffered a “nervous breakdown” following a bad bout of insomnia.
“I was referred to resident life supervisors who required me to attend therapy with a Moody therapist or else face probation,” she said.
“I want to add that what I now recognise as a threat wasn’t presented as a threat, it was presented in the nicest, most sincere way possible.
“They were incredibly gentle with me at this stage, even though they were holding real academic consequences over my head.”
The therapist Meghan saw practiced nouthetic counseling, “an Evangelical model of therapy that rejects psychiatry and psychology, relying on Biblical principles in order to help their clients”.
In an effort to figure out which “unconfessed sin” had “caused” her mental health problems, Meghan finally admitted that she “hated being a man”.
Her therapist was “extremely kind”, and Meghan was “convinced through his words and deeds that he had my best interests at heart”.
He told her: “Many men struggle with feeling like they should have been women, and we have a way to treat this problem.”
“I was ECSTATIC,” recalled Meghan.
“I left that session thinking that I wished I had confessed those feelings decades ago. He promised me the healing I had been praying for for years. I began to think that this was God’s providence, the fulfillment of my purpose at Moody.”
The trauma of being sexually assaulted as a child became an integral part of Meghan’s ‘therapy’
Meghan said her therapist told her that “abuse, either physical, emotional, or sexual, was the primary cause” of people being transgender.
She disclosed that she “had been sexually assaulted while in the hospital after one of [her] suicide attempts, and that it was extremely difficult to talk about”.
But her therapist, she wrote, told her that the experience had caused “gender identity disorder”.
“Both of us conveniently ignored that the assault occurred over a decade after my first reported experience of gender incongruence,” she wrote.
He reportedly instructed that whenever she felt gender dysphoria she should try to relive the assault under she was hyperventilating and in tears, as “cognitive aversion therapy”.
She said that she continued this “therapy” for a year, while having weekly meetings with “Christopher Yuan, an adjunct faculty member at Moody who was a prominent member of the ex-gay community“.
In an article, still live on the Moody Bible Institute blog, the college describes Yuan’s “ex-gay” journey, stating: “While studying the Bible, Christopher slowly realised he had put his identity in the wrong thing, his sexuality.
“But, God called him to put his main identity in Jesus Christ alone. This new identity in Christ compelled him to live in obedience to God whether regardless of what his sexual desires were. This obedience led to a radically changed life.”
Meghan wrote that her therapist told her “marriage signalled the final end of feelings of ‘same-sex attraction’ and gender identity disorder”, and so she “courted a woman and got married”.
While she told her wife about her experiences, she insisted she was “healed”, until she began to experience a faith crisis “precipitated largely by the rise of racism, xenophobia, and the increasing post-truth culture of the Evangelical Church”.
She said: “It took years for me to finally come out to my ex-wife. I held on for so long because I thought I could just tough it out for the last fifty years of my life.
“But there came a point where, I knew that doing so would kill me in the end.”
Now, Meghan is working “with a therapist to undo the damage done”, but explained that she was telling her story to warn others that conversion therapy can often seem harmless at first.
She wrote: “I suppose the thing I want people to learn from my experience is how NICE and KIND and WELL-INTENTIONED the people involved in my therapy were.
“That kindness reads insidious to me now, like a smile on the face of an abuser.”
Her Twitter thread soon went viral, and has to date been liked almost 8,000 times.
PinkNews has approached Moody Bible Institute for comment.
Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk).
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255, or The Trevor Project which provides 24/7 crisis support, 365 days a year. Text START to 678-678, or call: (866) 488-7386.