David Matheson had made a name for himself as a gay conversion therapist in the Mormon Church. Based in Utah, he dedicated himself to offering therapy to gay men that would “turn them straight.” Except now he’s officially ceased his work as a gay conversion therapist, has said he can no longer stay married to his wife of 34 years and has affirmed that he is, indeed, a gay man.
Oh, and he’s sorry.
As a gay conversion therapist, Matheson created a program titled “Journey Into Manhood” and was director of The Center for Gender Wholeness. He even wrote a book, Becoming a Whole Man. (He should probably take a gander at this recently released study that found “traditional masculinity” does serious harm to boys and men.)
According to Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-gay misinformation and the idea of gay conversion therapy, David Matheson was long considered the “intellectual godfather” of the ex-gay movement, which makes the fact that he’s now coming out as gay … well, a big deal.
After a fellow gay conversion therapist wrote a Facebook post saying David Matheson was no longer a part of the ex-gay movement, Matheson confirmed as much in a Facebook post of his own, saying, “A year ago I realized I had to make substantial changes in my life. I realized I couldn’t stay in my marriage any longer. And I realized that it was time for me to affirm myself as gay.” (He’s now divorced.) He also criticized the “shame-based, homophobic-based system” the Mormon Church employs among young men and women.
“I unequivocally apologize,” he says to those who feel harmed by his years of promoting a “gay cure.”
David Matheson isn’t fully apologetic, though, refusing to renounce all of his work as a gay conversion therapist. He still feels he helped some of the men who came to him for help.
“I know there are people who won’t be satisfied by anything less than a complete and unequivocal renunciation of everything,” he says. “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.”
As of 2019, 15 states in the United States have banned the practice of gay conversion therapy on minors. Just this month, New York state was the latest to join that group. It’s estimated that as many as 700,000 LGBTQ people in the United States alone have undergone treatment by a so-called gay conversion therapist.