Boy Erased: A Memoir

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Boy Erased: A Memoir
Boy Erased- A Memoir.jpg
AuthorGarrard Conley
CountryUnited States
SubjectConversion therapy
PublisherRiverhead Books
Publication date
May 10, 2016
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages352 pp (hardback)

Boy Erased: A Memoir is a 2016 memoir by Garrard Conley recounting his childhood in a fundamentalist Arkansas family that enrolled him in conversion therapy. The Week stated it aims to bridge the cultural divide – "one that makes gay conversion therapy seem a natural choice in some places and unfathomable in others".[1]


The only child of a car salesman and soon-to-be Baptist pastor, Conley was "terrified and conflicted about his sexuality".[2] At nineteen, while in college, he was outed as gay to his parents and given the choice of being disowned or being subjected to gay conversion therapy that promised to cure his homosexuality.[2] The timing came as his father was about to be ordained as a Baptist minister.[3] Conley was enrolled in a Love in Action ex-gay program, and recounts the harm he was subjected to there in the name of curing his sexuality.[4] The Bay Area Reporter noted, "Conley's memoir oscillates between his revelations, good and bad, during time spent in the fold of the ex-gay ministry during his two-week stint in the 'Source' trial program, and his personal and familial history [that led up to] induction in the program."[5] He recounts the months of counseling he underwent followed by a two-week intensive intervention.[6] He also includes other participants' accounts and a "Timeline of the Ex-Gay Movement".[7] Conley's hope is that his story will expose ex-gay groups and gay conversion therapy programs as lacking in compassion and more likely to cause harm than cure anything, especially when participants are told, as he was, that they are "unfixable and disgusting over and over again".[4]


Conley's writings have appeared in The Common, The Madison Review, and The Virginia Quarterly Review.[8] He now teaches English literature and works in advancing LGBTQ equality in Sofia, Bulgaria.[8]

Gay conversion therapy has grown increasingly controversial since the late 20th century as mainstream health and medical groups have rejected the underlying assumptions that LGBTQ people need to or can change their sexuality. Medical, scientific, and government organizations in the United States and Britain have expressed concern over conversion therapy and consider it potentially harmful.[9][10][11][12][13][14] As of the publishing of Boy Erased: A Memoir in May 2016, use of conversion therapy on minors is banned in "only a small handful of states"[5]California,[15] Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois,[16][17]Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire New Jersey,[18][19]New Mexico, Oregon,[20][21] Rhode Island,Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.[22][23]


  • Edge Media Network noted "Testimonies like 'Boy Erased' are a necessary part of getting rid of ex-gay ministries or, really, any kind of program in which the explicit aim is to change the identity (in this case, the sexuality) of the subjects."[4]
  • The Washington Post reviewer wrote: "It's a powerful convergence of events that Conley portrays eloquently, if a bit earnestly. Conley was full of confusing contradictions – as deeply embedded in the teachings of the Bible as he was in the prose of great literature."[3]
  • Michigan Quarterly Review states, "It's in part Conley's deft hand with prose, in part his ability to transcend trauma to render an honest, visceral picture of himself."[24]
  • GLBT Reviews noted, "Conley had much to confront as he inwardly acknowledged his homosexuality, including layers upon layers of family complexity, but as he unspools his eventful journey, he brings readers deep into his mind and soul for a satisfying ride."[7]
  • Kirkus Reviews wrote, "Readers follow Conley through a very difficult process of self-identification that sheds light on the degrees of intolerance that are still present in today's world. At times, the text feels a bit passive; some readers may expect more blatant outrage. Nevertheless, Conley has chosen to expose ex-gay therapy as abusive, and that is important."[25]
  • GLBT Publisher's Weekly stated, "This timely addition to the debate on conversion therapy will build sympathy for both children and parents who avail themselves of it while still showing how damaging it can be."[26]
  • Out Smart Magazine stated, "Boy Erased digs deep into a life lived in shadow, the story of a survivor and not of the establishment (which have largely been the voices heard speaking out about ex-gay therapy)."[27]
  • The Bay Area Reporter reviewer called it "[w]ell-written, compelling, disturbing, and ultimately quite bracing, ... an important, refreshingly unsentimental perspective on the dangers and abuses of ex-gay therapy ministries, an atrocious, damaging, hypocritical network that still operates today".[5]

Film adaptation[edit]

Garrard Conley and Joel Edgerton at Telluride Film Festival.

In 2018 Joel Edgerton wrote and directed a film adaptation of the memoir, titled Boy Erased. Lucas Hedges stars as a character based on Conley, with Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in the supporting roles of his conservative parents.[28]


  1. ^ "Author of the Week". The Week (June 10, 2016). The Week. June 10, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Boy Erased: A Memoir". Goodreads. Goodreads. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Brickhouse, Jamie (May 10, 2016). "'Boy Erased': A minister's son trapped between religion and his sexual identity". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Kamelemela, Noe (May 11, 2016). "Boy Erased". Edge Media Network. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Piechota, Jim. "Holy homophobia!". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  6. ^ Steelman, Ben (May 29, 2016). "'Boy Erased': Former UNCW student pens memoir of gay conversion therapy". Star News Online. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Ritchie, Cathy. "Book review: Boy Erased: a Memoir, by Garrard Conley". GLBT Reviews. ALA Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Round Table. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "About the Author". Penguin Random House. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  9. ^ Position Statement on Therapies Focused on Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation (Reparative or Conversion Therapies), American Psychiatric Association, May 2000, archived from the original (PDF) on January 10, 2011, retrieved August 28, 2007 archived from the original Archived September 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators and School Personnel (PDF), Just the Facts Coalition, 1999, retrieved May 14, 2010
  11. ^ Glassgold, JM; et al. (August 1, 2009), Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation (PDF), American Psychological Association, retrieved September 24, 2009
  12. ^ Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK (PDF), January 2015, archived from the original (PDF) on January 23, 2015, retrieved January 19, 2015
  13. ^ General Medical Council supports Memorandum on conversion therapy in the UK, January 2015, archived from the original on September 23, 2017, retrieved January 19, 2015
  14. ^ Professional Standards Authority supports action by Accredited Registers on Conversion Therapy, January 2015, archived from the original on May 5, 2015, retrieved January 19, 2015
  15. ^ Lieu, Ma. "SB-1172 Sexual orientation change efforts.(2011-2012)". State of California, Legislative Counsel. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  16. ^ Illinois enacts gay conversion therapy ban for young people LGBTQ Nation.
  17. ^ Republican governor signs two more pro-equality bills LGBTQ Nation.
  18. ^ Pappas, Stepjanie (August 19, 2013). "Gay Conversion Therapy: What You Should Know". Gay Conversion Therapy: What You Should Know. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  19. ^ "P.L. 2013, c.150 (A3371)". New Jersey Legislature. Retrieved June 10, 2015.
  20. ^ "Bill to ban conversion therapy for LGBT youth sent to Kate Brown's desk". Oregon Live. May 7, 2015.
  21. ^ HB2307, Oregon Legislature
  22. ^ "D.C. Act 20-530: Conversion Therapy for Minors Prohibition Act of 2014". Council of the District of Columbia. December 22, 2014. Archived from the original on January 15, 2015.
  23. ^ "Movement Advancement Project | Conversion Therapy Laws". Retrieved 2018-11-09.
  24. ^ Prastien, Lauren (15 February 2016). ""Boy Erased": An interview with Garrard Conley". Michigan Quarterly Review. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  25. ^ "Boy Erased Kirkus Review". Kirkus Reviews. 9 February 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  26. ^ "Boy Erased (review)". Publisher's Weekly. May 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  27. ^ Carrington, Troy (1 June 2016). "Boy Erased by Garrard Conley". Out Smart Magazine. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  28. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (June 8, 2017). "Joel Edgerton To Direct, Lucas Hedges To Star In Gay Deprogram Drama 'Boy Erased'". Deadline Hollywood.