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The true story behind Nicole Kidman's new film 'Boy Erased'

The true story behind Nicole Kidman's new film 'Boy Erased'

Garrard Conley was 19 when he was outed as gay and forced by his parents to either leave their care or undergo conversion therapy.

The Conleys were Christian fundamentalists, and Garrard’s father was preparing to be ordained as a Baptist minister in their hometown in Arkansas, US.

Garrard attended a gay-to-straight conversion program called Love in Action, run by an organisation that considered homosexuality ‘sexual deviance’ and equated same-sex love with mental disorders.

This occurred in 2004, and Gerrard recounted his experiences with conversion therapy in his 2016 memoir, Boy Erased.

The author told Men’s Health, ‘We were placed with people who were dealing with bestiality, pedophilia, and marriage issues. We were all grouped together under the assumption we were "addicted" to something.’

You might think Gerrard had recorded one of the last gay conversion programs in operation in the US, but the harmful practice still occurs widely throughout America and in Australia.

Last month a report released by the Human Rights Commission found that at least 10 gay conversion programs are still running across Australia and New Zealand, and estimates that one in every ten LGBTQI+ Australians are exposed to conversion therapy.

The conversation surrounding the issue continues as a movie adaption of Garrard’s memoir hit cinemas last week, starring Nicole Kidman, Troye Sivan and Lucas Hedges.

Russell Crowe plays Garrard’s preacher father. The actor travelled to the author’s hometown and sat in the audience of the real father’s church service as research for the role – apparently the preacher was so shocked he halted the service for two minutes.

Currently gay conversion therapy is still legal in all Australian states and territories bar Victoria. The practice is not supported by any evidence from medical research or psychological disciplines and is condemned by the Australian Medical Association.

Activists and experts say young people are particularly at risk of gay conversion programs and practices.

When confronted by the results of the AHRC report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to denounce the practice and said, ‘It’s not an issue for me’.

A new film tie-in edition of Boy Erased was published last month. Read our review of the book.