Viewing homosexuality as a mental disorder was abolished over 45 years ago, after it was removed from the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic handbook in 1973 and from the World Health Organisation's categorisation of mental illnesses in 1992.
Despite the longstanding classification change, ultraconservative groups in countries all across the world continue to prescribe 'gay conversion' therapy, a highly controversial and harmful practice that aims to ‘cure’ those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
While LGBTQ people are more accepted now than ever before, the cruelty of gay conversion therapy remains prevalent and underreported.
Shining a light on this ugly reality is Boy Erased, a film that follows a teenage boy as he is made to attend a conversion therapy program after his devout religious parents discover he is gay.
The first trailer, based on Garrard Conley’s memoir of the same name, premiered online this week.
Despite being set in America’s Deep South, the film has a predominantly Australian cast. Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe lead as the parents of Jared, played by rising star Lucas Hedges. Writer, director, and producer Joel Edgerton also co-stars as the head of the conversion program, and musician Troye Sivan appears in the film as one of the other teens at the conversion therapy camp.
The trailer opens with a line from Jared’s father.
“Jared, I want you to do well,” he says. “I want you to have a great life. I love you. But we cannot see a way that you can live under this roof if you’re going fundamentally against the grain of our beliefs.”
Forced between choosing to lose his family or attending the conversion therapy, Jared chooses the latter. “I think about men,” he states. “I don’t know why, and I’m so sorry.”
Powerful example of the human condition. Probably gonna need the tissues for this one. Bravo in advance 🎬🤗— Misty Blumenstock (@MistyBlumensto2) July 17, 2018
I actually started tearing up through this... wow... this is gonna be such a powerful and meaningful film and it's gonna touch so many people...— lay🌺 (@marcstracob) July 17, 2018
People are about to know what conversion therapy is across the country. That is such a huge deal, because that means that when survivors start speaking, they will be met with less questions and more support. #BoyErased#CamPostFilm— Adam Trimmer (@Adam_Trimmer89) July 30, 2018
During an interview with 7.1 AMP Radio, Sivan described shooting the film as “dark” and “uncomfortably real”.
“We were given the real source materials that they used to give kids when they would arrive at the camp,” Sivan stated. “I would sit there flicking through all this stuff imagining what it must have been like. It's really heavy.”
Many conversion therapies revolve around counseling and bible study. In more extreme cases, people have been subjected to forced nausea-inducing drugs, electric current therapy, and chemical castration. The treatment made international headlines last month as UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced she intended to ban the practise as part of an action plan to advance LGBTQ rights. Similarly, in 2015 former United States President Barack Obama vowed to protect Americans from the programs “potentially devastating effects.”
Ecuador, Taiwan, Brazil, and Malta are the only countries that have banned the controversial treatment.
LGBTQ people have long been held back by discriminatory laws, negative social attitudes, and inadequate international development initiatives. A 2018 report from the LGBTQ Poverty Collaborative revealed the repercussions from decades of mistreatment mean LGBTQ people worldwide face heighted economic disparity including food insecurity, housing instability, low-wage earning potential, unemployment, and under-employment. As a result, the UN Global Goal of no poverty by 2030 cannot be met until the unequal treatment of LGBTQ people is directly addressed.
There has never been a more vital time for Hollywood to produce true LGBTQ films. Global Citizens can use Boy Erased as a platform to spark critical conversations about the importance of promoting acceptance and tolerance in the face of ill-informed cruelty and inequality.