David Matheson, the creator of courses seeking to change a person’s sexuality, revealed he could no longer stay in his marriage of 34 years and said it was "time for me to affirm myself as gay”.
Mr Matheson said he was not renouncing his religious faith, or the entirety of his work as a conversion therapist, despite dating men. But he did criticise the “shame-based, homophobic-based system” of his upbringing in the Mormon church.
Fifteen US states have banned mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. The New York state legislature became the latest to prohibit licensed professionals from using the pseudoscientific therapy on children earlier this month, finding that efforts to change sexual orientation could do “serious harms”.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr Matheson acknowledged the hurt he may have caused through the practice.
“I know there are people who won’t be satisfied by anything less than a complete and unequivocal renunciation of everything,” he said.
“That’s hard, because I want people to feel the genuineness of my change of heart, but people need to understand that there is more than one reality in the world.”
To the LGBTQ individuals who felt damaged by his conversion courses, he said: “I unequivocally apologise.”
Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen said many people in the “conversion therapy” or “ex-gay” movement looked to Mr Matheson as an “intellectual godfather".
He created the Journey Into Manhood programme, was a director at the Centre for Gender Wholeness, and the author of a book entitled Becoming a Whole Man.
Chaim Levin, a plaintiff in a successful lawsuit that led to the shutting down of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), said he hoped Mr Matheson would “do whatever he can to rectify the harm that he’s inflicted” on people in the LGBTQ community.
“While I am pleased for Mr Matheson that he has found a path forward for his life, I can’t help but think of the hundreds if not thousands of people who are still stuck in the closet, a closet that was created in part by Mr Matheson himself,” he said.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates as many as 700,000 LGBTQ adults in the US have undergone some kind of “therapy” in an effort to change their sexuality.
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