"I told my parents I was gay and they tried to torture it out of me."

In 2009, at the age of just 15, Alex Cooper came out to her parents as gay.

A frightening experience for any teenager, Cooper had an added weight cautioning her against coming out: She was Mormon.

And so, following the teachings of the Church that homosexuality is immoral, Cooper’s parents sent her away to Utah for “conversion therapy” for eight months, where she suffered torrents of abuse for admitting something that was at the core of who she is.

In her new memoir, Saving Alex, Cooper recounts how she was “exhausted and humiliated” by Mormon couple Tiana and Johnny Siale who promised her parents they could “cure” the young teenager of homosexuality.

“They were total strangers,” Alex said, according to Religion News.

Cooper writes in her new book that she attempted suicide on her 16th birthday to escape the pain. Image via KUTV.

“My parents just signed over custody to them in front of me. And I knew that my parents had never met these people before.”

Now 21, Cooper says that the couple did not have any therapy qualifications and made her carry around a backpack full of rocks for 18 hours a day to symbolise “the burden she was carrying by choosing to be gay.”

Suffering months of torture and physical abuse, Cooper writes in her new book that she attempted suicide on her 16th birthday to escape the pain.


According to the Daily Mail, she also wrote that she was often “punch[ed] in the gut” and repeatedly told that her family did not want her because “God has no place for people like [her] in His plan”.

Talking to KUTV, Cooper told the program the idea of conversion therapy was void of logic, reason and empathy.

“It’s like sending you to therapy to change your eye color,” she told KUTV. “It’s not going to work. What it’s going to do is damage you.”

Eventually, Cooper was allowed to go to school where she met other gay teens, who told her to contact Salt Lake attorney Paul C. Burke.

It was Burke who helped her land a court ruling allowing her to live as an openly gay teen, and allowing Cooper to live with the kind of freedom that her parents, and the Siales, had taken from her.

“No family should feel they have to choose between their faith and their child,” she wrote in an excerpt  cited by the Human Rights Campaign.

She is now battling to get states to outlaw gay conversion therapy in its entirety.

*Feature image via KUTV.

The Mamamia Team on why we need gay marriage in Australia now.

00:00 / ???