At 19, Garrard Conley was raped. Then his parents made him attend gay conversion therapy.


Boy Erased is expected to dominate awards season next year.

The movie, which stars Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe, is based on the true story of a teenager named Jared who was put through gay conversion therapy in the early 2000s.

Joel Edgerton wrote the script and stars alongside Kidman and Crowe, who play Jared’s conservative Christian parents, Nancy and Marshall.

The story is based on the memoir of Garrard Conley, an American writer who actually experienced gay conversion therapy as a teenager.

Conley, who is the son of a Baptist minister, hid his homosexuality throughout his teen years and only started to explore his sexuality when he went to university.

Conley had a sheltered, almost cult-like upbringing. He grew up in Arkansas and was taught that Harry Potter was evil and yoga was a sin.

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe star in Boy Erased…

When he was just 19 years old Conley was raped by a male crush, who then turned around and outed him to his conservative, Baptist parents.

“David had trumped me. The knowledge of my homosexuality would seem more shocking than the knowledge of my rape; or, worse, it would seem as though one act had inevitably followed the other, as though I’d had it coming to me,” Conley writes in Boy Erased.


Instead of supporting their son through his sexual assault, his parents gave Conley an ultimatum – either go through gay conversion therapy or never speak to them again.

“I was in free fall from being raped, and having the rapist say he had also raped a 14-year-old boy,” Conley told BBC News.

“And then my dad gave me the ultimatum. I was terrified of losing God. I prayed every night.”

“Jared, I want you to do well,” his father says in the trailer. “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.”

Conley, worried that he had committed a sin, enrolled in the Love in Action conversion therapy program in Tennessee.


For two whole weeks, Conley was repeatedly told his sexuality was wrong. The teenager even had to attend a “mock funeral” for a gay man who had allegedly died of AIDS.

“I had believed there were actual demons possessing me,” Conley told BBC News. “I had lived 18 years of my life in this almost cultish environment. It was cult-lite.”

After he completed the 12-step program, Conley went through six months of private “therapy” sessions which left him feeling suicidal.

Conley would eventually learn to embrace his own sexuality and to live his life on his own terms. He says he doesn’t blame his parents.

“They had no idea what was going on,” Conley told BBC News.

“My mum had started asking questions at the end, and that’s when they’d taken me out of the program. We weren’t meant to talk about what happened in there.

“Yes, my parents made a terrible mistake which could have cost me my life. But they didn’t know what they were doing to me.”

Conley now lives in New York with his husband and he published his bestselling memoir, Boy Erased, in 2016.

Boy Erased will be out in cinemas later this year.