When Jared Dixon worked up the courage to come out to his parents it didn’t go well. His father said that being gay was “abnormal.” His mother and father began pressuring Jared to try “ex-gay” conversion therapy. This is a discredited practice that falsely claims to change sexual orientation or gender identity through prayer or pseudo therapy. Former leaders of this movement now denounce it as an ineffective fraud that browbeats participants with unhealthy doses of guilt and shame.
At this time, Jared was also processing the toxic lessons he learned while attending Catholic School in Washington, DC. “Homophobia was embedded in every aspect of our culture,” he recalled. “The church’s anti-gay stance and its impact on me was, I felt I could never be myself.”
Jared’s relationship with his family was strained as they continued trying to coerce him into conversion therapy. Exasperated and worn down from the stress, Jared reluctantly agreed to give “ex-gay” conversion therapy a try. It was a mistake that haunts him to this day.
“I had no idea how insidious and how damaging it was going to be. I felt trapped,” Jared emphatically stated. “I decided to go into the therapy because I was just tired of everybody just walking around the house like somebody had died.”
In 2011, Jared started his “pray away the gay” counseling with infamous therapist Christopher Doyle of the International Healing Foundation, which was founded by the bizarre life coach Richard Cohen. Doyle once admitted that as a young man he had sexually molested children. “I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing,” the counselor confessed in his bio.
Jared recalls Doyle talking in circles and offering empty platitudes with no real plan to create the “change” he promised in his promotional materials. “He really didn’t provide us with any type of concrete, realistic timeframe for that ‘change’ to be realized. These tactics that he used to keep us in his program were absolutely scare tactics. They were designed to engender this fear and this phobia of LGBTQ people, of same-sex couples. What I experienced with Chris Doyle was a lot of trauma, with a capital T.”
The futility of Doyle’s abusive, shame-peddling program caused Jared to become severely depressed. “It was debilitating,” Jared recalled. He decided that taking his own life was the only way out of his conundrum. Having never tried booze, one day he drove to a liquor store and bought an entire bottle of vodka.
“I remember taking a few sips of the vodka and the next thing you know I’m drinking it straight like it’s water and then I blackout completely.” When Jared woke up the next day, he was sad that he was still alive. “I’m still here,” he dejectedly thought.
The alarming incident caused Jared to contemplate leaving conversion therapy. He knew something had to give. “It was the first time I had ever been drunk. It was the first time that I had ever considered taking myself out. And I struggled to realize that that’s what I was trying to do.”
After five months of “utter agony”, Jared left Christopher Doyle’s fraudulent program. He decided that he would love himself and live his truth as a gay man. He eventually found other conversion therapy survivors and they formed a tight bond, vowing to ban conversion practices worldwide. “They’ve become my second family,” Jared said.
“What I would say to Christopher Doyle if he walked into the room right now would be, “I’m still here. You tried to erase who I am. You told me I wouldn’t have a successful relationship, but I’ve been with my fiancé going on nine years. We want a family. We are building a life together. So, you didn’t win. You tried to break me, you almost broke me. But, you didn’t.”
To remember his experience in conversion therapy and to help others, Jared wrote a book, Corrupted: The Truth Shall Be The Nail In Your Coffin.
“I saw myself as a victim until a few years ago,” Jared explained. “Being a survivor means, for me, that I’m not going to allow people like Chris to hinder my ability to lead a prosperous, joyful life.”