Boy Erased

by Garrard Conley

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Boy Erased is a autobiographical novel about Garrard Conley's experience going through gay conversion therapy at Love in Action in Arkansas. Conley provides the reader with an intimate view of not only what happens at a conversion center but also what his personal feelings and experiences were during his stay at the center.

Early on in the memoir, Conley reveals his frustration with not knowing why he is gay:

Questions only prolonged the pain of these moments, and they always almost went unanswered. I was done with asking questions about how I had ended up in this situation, with searching for other answers, other realities, other families or bodies I could have been born into. Every time that I realized there weren't any other alternatives, I felt worse for asking. I was ready to take things as they came now.

Conley, who has tried to deny his homosexuality for as long as he can recall, was forced to go gay conversion therapy by his father. Concerned that his son could prevent him from being ordained as a minister and of his own reputation in general, Conley's father gave him the ultimatum to go to therapy or to be disowned, saying "You'll never step foot in this house again if you act on your feelings." Conley chooses conversation therapy so that he can stay close to his family and to be able to continue to go to college.

Conley eventually has an emotional and mental breakdown near the end of his conversion therapy and chooses to leave.

I came to therapy thinking that my sexuality didn’t matter, but it turned out that every part of my personality was intimately connected. Cutting one piece damaged the rest.

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