Former gay conversion therapist warns of suicide risk
Former gay conversion therapist John Smid has joined the fight to prohibit the controversial religious practice after coming out as gay himself.
For 22 years, Mr Smid helped run Love In Action, one of the largest Christian gay conversion organisations in America.
In an interview with 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo, Mr Smid said the "treatment" he provided was based on the ideology that members of the LGBTQ community are "broken" and "need to be fixed".
To watch 'Preaching to the Converted' in full, visit the 60 Minutesofficial site.
The church believed they were able to convert an individual's homosexuality by "praying the gay away".
"As Christian leaders we believed that we had the authority of the bible," Mr Smid told Abo.
"We did not admit or come to grips with how deeply harmful it is when you start working with someone's psyche."
Mr Smid continued to outwardly encourage hundreds of young gay Christians to change their sexuality until seven years ago, when he left the organisation and revealed he was homosexual.
"I had to suppress my gay feelings," he explained to Abo.
"It was very much like an alcoholic staying away from a bar."
Mr Smid has since married his now-husband Larry McQueen, joining a long list of former gay conversion therapists who are now leading openly gay lifestyles.
His involvement in gay conversion therapy at Love in Action was turned into Hollywood movie, "Boy Erased", starring Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, Joel Edgerton and Troye Sivan.
Ashamed of the damage he caused to hundreds of young people, Mr Smid told 60 Minutes he is now determined to expose gay conversion therapy and the long-term psychological harm it causes
Mr Smid is now in contact with hundreds of former victims of Love in Action, as part of an online support group.
"I would say every single one that I have had contact with has struggled terribly through the years with depression, with deep levels of anxiety," he said.
"The people I've talked with had a lot of anger and resentment.
"There have been people that have even committed suicide as a result of that despair."
Mr Smid's interview was part of a 60 Minutes investigation, which went undercover to expose the current face of gay conversion therapy in Australia.
Victoria is the first state in Australia which has proposed to make it illegal to offer the practice, following a report from the Victorian Healthcare Complaints Commission that found the therapy causes severe mental trauma.
Many now believe the therapy should be banned nationwide
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