Samuel Brinton, a nuclear engineer and LGBTQ+ rights advocate, has spent many years of their life trying to get the conversion shock therapy banned in the United States. Brinton is not only an advocate, but also a survivor of conversion therapy. At the Equality Federation's 20th Annual Leadership Conference, they shared their story about why conversion therapy doesn't work and how it affected them as an LGBTQ+ child.
During the talk, Brinton, who is non-binary and prefers gender-neutral pronouns, talked about their religious upbringing in a Baptist family and how they came out to their father, since they believed they shared an honest, open relationship.
I remember my father's face falling and I remember him coming toward me. And I remember waking up in the emergency room. My father had punched me so hard that I had gone unconscious immediately.
Brinton was taken to a missionary emergency room and later, their parents took them to a conversion therapist's office. Brinton described the experience:
My hands were bound, placed in ice and pictures of men touching other men, holding hands, were shown. I was supposed to associate the cold I was feeling with the image that I was seeing. When the ice didn't work, heat was applied. Wires were wrapped around my hands. Heat was applied when pictures of men touching men were shown and turned off when pictures of women touching women were shown. When heat didn't work, electricity was applied. Needles were stuck into my fingers. Electricity was shoved through my body as pornographic images — the vey first pornographic images I would basically ever see —were shown to me.
According to the National Center For Lesbian Rights', conversion therapy is a practice that includes the acts listed above that were done to Brinton, but also the following methods:
Inducing nausea, vomiting, or paralysis while showing the patient homoerotic images; providing electric shocks; having the individual snap an elastic band around the wrist when aroused by same-sex erotic images or thoughts; using shame to create aversion to same-sex attractions; orgasmic reconditioning; and satiation therapy. Other techniques include trying to make patients' behavior more stereotypically feminine or masculine, teaching heterosexual dating skills, using hypnosis to try to redirect desires and arousal, and other techniques—all based on the scientifically discredited premise that being LGBT is a defect or disorder.
Not only was Brinton physically hurt, but they were also given a horrifying reason why their mother allowed this to happen. Brinton was told that conversion therapy was needed because the government was "killing gay kids." They were also told that gay kids were being killed because of the myth that "gays brought AIDs into America,"an untrue notion that contributes to the stigmatizing of the entire LGBTQ+ community.
Additionally, Brinton was told that AIDs ravaged the LGBTQ+ community because "God hates them":
To me, [that] was the most debilitating. The one constant in my life was that God loved me and I loved others and if God didn't love me anymore, how was I supposed to love others? How was I supposed to be a person who would make the world a better place?
The physical and emotional abuse Brinton endured is exactly what they want to prevent from happening to other children. Brinton was also the first person to testify to the United Nations about the dangers of conversion therapy in 2014, according to Slice of MIT.
Currently, nine states have banned conversion therapy: New York, Connecticut, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia has also banned conversion therapy. According to Brinton, however, this number may rise. As of July 2017, 12 more states have pending legislation that would ban gay conversion therapy for minors, including Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and Pennsylvania.
"The National Center for Lesbian rights is the very first organization to hire a staffer specifically to work with me to end conversion therapy," Brinton said. "If we work together... Your organizations, Equality Federation, and survivors like me who can talk about our experiences, we are going to make sure that people realize you can't change what we never chose."