Boy Erased

by Garrard Conley

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In his memoir, Conley brings up themes of sexuality, religion, acceptance, and control.


We can question to what extent Conley is in control of his own life. Conley is "outed" to his parents; that is, others tell his parents that he is gay before he decides to let them know. Conley is not able to be in control of this situation. He is given the choice to go to conversion therapy or be shunned by the family. This seems less like a choice and more like an ultimatum.

Sexuality, Religion, and Acceptance

The society Conley grows up in does not accept homosexuality. Conley's parents struggle with acceptance, and he even struggles to accept himself. Accepting his sexuality means accepting his identity. This is difficult, given that religion is a part of his identity. Conley believes in God, but his beliefs differ from others in the community. Eventually, he is able to accept himself, but at first it seems like his beliefs and sexuality are at odds with one another. We are left thinking: What defines religion? How can beliefs, even from the same religious practice, be different from person to person?


The conversion therapy is an attempt to make him straight, but it is really harmful to LGBT+ children. Conley's memoir is therefore a form of advocacy.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

A memoir by Garrard Conley, Boy Erased mostly centers around themes of religion, identity, conformity, and acceptance. Having grown up knowing he was different, Conley recounts the internal struggle he faced between his religious upbringing and his early understanding that he was gay. This conflict resulted in Conley questioning his own morals and beliefs, and his memoir describes the years it took for him to accept himself. Conley also describes his local community's rejection of his sexuality and their attempts to "fix" him through conversion therapy. This attempt to force conformity is a major theme in Boy Erased, and Conley focuses on the horrors of conversion therapy and the lasting, scarring impact it can have on young LGBTQ individuals. His memoir attempts to raise awareness for the importance of LGBTQ rights and to emphasize how harmful it can be to reject one's own identity.

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