The founder of one of the nation’s largest “conversion therapy” groups has come out as gay and is apologizing for his role in popularizing the practice.
So-called “conversion therapy,” which has been condemned by organizations like the American Medical Association and American Psychological Association, attempts to “cure” people of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
McKrae Game — founder of South Carolina’s Hope for Wholeness — is disavowing the “ex-gay” ministry that promoted the practice through social media and an interview last week with the Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston.
“It’s all in my past,” Game said in a Facebook post last weekend. “But many, way TOO MANY continue believing that there is something wrong with themselves and wrong with people that choose to live their lives honestly and open as gay, lesbian, trans, etc.,”
“Learn to love yourself and others,” he said.
Game, who spent more than 20 years promoting conversion therapy through religious ministry, said he’d like to see all such program end.
“I created it all,” told the Post and Courtier of Hope for Wholeness. “We have harmed generations of people.”
In 2017 the organization’s board of directors abruptly fired Game. In June of this year Game cut his ties with the organization and came out as gay.
“When the reporter asked me if I’d like to see Hope for Wholeness shut down, I said I’d like all exgay ministry and conversion therapy counselors and organizations shut down,” Game said in his Facebook post.
Hope for Wholeness, based in South Carolina, became one of the nation’s largest conversion ministries. Through programs of its type, nearly 700,000 LGBT-identifying adults have undergone some form of conversion therapy as of 2018, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute.
Last month, Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order prohibiting North Carolina taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for conversion therapy.
The order “directs the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to take the appropriate steps to make sure that no taxpayer dollars are used for conversion therapy for minors,” according to Cooper’s office.
It prohibits any medical or mental health provider receiving state or federal funds allocated to the North Carolina DHHS to use those funds for conversion therapy for patients under eighteen years of age.
“State taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for a practice on children that major medical associations agree is harmful and ineffective,”Cooper said in a prepared statement. “Conversion therapy has been shown to pose serious health risks, and we should be protecting all of our children, including those who identify as LGBTQ, instead of subjecting them to a dangerous practice. I’m proud to sign this order and I will continue working to build an inclusive North Carolina that is welcoming and safe.”
A bill to prohibit the practice among minors entirely, the Mental Health Protection Act, was filed in the North Carolina House in March.
Despite polls showing overwhelming bipartisan support for the ban, it faced stiff opposition from religious groups and conservative Republicans and has not received a hearing in this legislative session. No such bill has yet been passed in any state in the Southeast.
The Trevor Project’s 50 States 50 Bills initiative is working to pass bills protecting minors from conversion therapy across the country. So far, eighteen states have laws or regulations preventing the practice for those under 18.
The Trevor Project recently released the results of its inaugural 2019 National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health, including insights around conversion therapy. The cross-sectional national survey of LGBTQ youth across the United States found :
- 2 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.
- 42 percent of LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the past year.
- 57 percent of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year.