Never Scared Straight (Newsweek, May 1, 2014)

ImageNo one forced Mathew Shurka to do it, but he was too afraid to say no. In front of him was an opportunity to change his sexuality forever. At least, that’s what he was told.

Just a month before, Shurka, who was 16 at the time and living in Great Neck, N.Y., had revealed to his father, through tears filled with dread, that he was gay. When Shurka’s father embraced him and said he’d love him no matter what, a weight was lifted. However, in the weeks that followed, Shurka’s father began to worry that his gay son would not flourish in a world that often oppresses people who are different. So he did some research and found someone who offered therapy that would change his son’s sexual orientation.

Shurka, now 25, tells Newsweek that at the time he was afraid of coming out to his conservative Jewish community and losing his friends. “It was a horrifying nightmare to think that anyone knew I was gay,” he recalls. So when his father offered the prospect of conversion therapy, Shurka decided “if I can really change this, let’s do it.” He thought suppressing his feelings would make his life easier. But it didn’t work that way. Instead, the path he was led down resulted in years of confusion about his identity, emotional scarring and more mental health problems than he knew what to do with.

Teens like Shurka—not quite old enough to make informed decisions for themselves, yet old enough to know what peer and parental pressure feels like—are in the middle of a growing movement in both the U.S. and abroad. Where bunk psychology is failing children, legislatures are swooping in to protect them.

With Chris Weller

Read more at Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/2014/05/09/never-scared-straight-249233.html

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