I had to undergo conversion therapy as a child

Ty Autry was forced into conversion therapy when he was young.
Ty Autry and Mike Glatzer

  • Ty Autry is forced into conversion therapy when his parents learn he is flirting with a boy.
  • Autry pretended to be straight several times as a teenager to please his parents and church.
  • At 17, he came out as gay and wrote a one-man play about his experience.

This article is reportedly based on a conversation with 30-year-old Ty Autry. Edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in South Georgia in a very conservative, religious family. I was the eldest of four brothers.

In our family, there was a strict study of the Bible every day, and I was initially taught at home. But everything changed when I finished homeschooling at the age of 14 and started going to a private school.

A boy at school started giving me butterflies

I was in a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and I started to have feelings for the boy who plays Joseph. One day he texted me and asked if I was gay. It was the first time I had heard the vocabulary describe these emerging feelings. We started texting each other a lot. He gave me butterflies.

One day, my increasingly suspicious mom asked to see my phone. She resisted at first but she insisted, so I offered it to her. She saw all of our flirty texts.

My parents initially tried to stop me from performing in the show, but I pleaded to stay. The agreement was that my father would watch every rehearsal to make sure that my connection with the boy playing Joseph was appropriate. Friends thought it was weird.

One day I woke up shortly thereafter to my father nailing my bedroom window shut so I wouldn’t escape through it. I had no intention of doing that – I was an obedient child. This boy and I kept texting.

I had to start conversion therapy

After a few weeks in the church, the pastor and my father pulled me aside. My phone was taken from me and my Facebook account was closed. I was told to clean out my school locker. My family made me write a letter to the boy who played Joseph, telling him he was living in sin and that I had changed my mind about him. I had to hand the letter to him. I remember trying to find some way to tell him a secret that I didn’t believe. I was sad.

Then my dad took me for four hours to see a therapist. That was when I started my gay conversion therapy. It ran for 3 and a half years. At one point, my dad even asked if we could try an exorcism, thinking I was possessed by a demon. At other points, she learned how to sit appropriately and speak the right way to a boy.

During my later teen years, I went back to the closet and tried to be straight 3 separate times

Every time I pretended to be straight, my gay leanings increased, leading to my shame. So I will try again to be straight. I had a girlfriend at one point, even though I knew that wasn’t for me.

My parents decided to move and put me in a new school because there were rumors that I was gay, and they felt insulted.

Just before turning 16, I tried to live a straight life with a secret double life as a gay boy. I told my conversion therapist, parents, and pastor all the lies they wanted to hear: It was just a phase; I was coming to my senses. I don’t know what I was thinking.

Then my church was excommunicated from my church

When I was 16, my dad caught me — in a moment of madness — kissing a boy in my driveway.

This time the retreat was more violent. My parents confiscated my cell phone. I wasn’t allowed on social media. I was only allowed to see friends from church. Conversion therapy sessions have been intensified.

Then my church tried to excommunicate me. I was angry. My Christianity was very important to me.

I remember asking God: Why me? I was struggling to understand why I was being punished for being myself. I wondered why the church I loved and supported was against me.

Eventually, I learned to recover from the trauma

When I turned 17, I finally said to myself, “No more conversion therapy. This is who I am.”

To help me heal, I wrote the play “Southern Tale.” Based on my experience. I’ve been touring and performing all over the world for five years.

My mom has seen the show twice. The first time she was upset. She felt it was an attack on her parenting. But we healed our traumas together. Over time, she made adjustments to the show based on her observations, reflecting that parents can love their children very much but sometimes that love can inadvertently hurt. The second time she saw it, she apologized to me.

My dad has never seen the show. I love him and he loves me. But he is not my friend. He never apologized.

At 30, I now live openly as a gay man and have a good relationship with my mom who divorced my dad. My life as a gay man is now wonderfully beautiful.

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