Mother blames secret conversion therapy for daughter’s death


alana chen secret conversion therapy
Image: Alana Faith Chen Foundation Facebook

The mother of Alana Chen who died by suicide in 2019, says secret conversion therapy led to her daughter’s death. Joyce Calvo writes in the National Catholic Reporter that despite their denials, Alana’s diaries reveal that priests and nuns encouraged her to conceal and suppress her sexual orientation without her parent’s knowledge.

“I am still in disbelief that my precious girl is never coming back… I weep at how her soul was tortured in the name of God.”

Joyce Calvo wrote that she wanted to make parents aware of the potentially devastating impact of the church on LGBTQ+ children. She also hoped to persuade religious officials “to abandon misguided and dangerous attempts to alter what God has made.”

Alana Chen

Joyce says her daughter’s problems began at age 13 when she met Father David Nix at a summer camp. Unknown to Joyce or her husband, the priest ‘began to take an intense interest in our daughter’.

At 14, Alana confided to Nix her attraction to other girls. The priest told her she could change her orientation and that she should not tell anyone, especially her parents. Alana documented the secret conversion therapy in her diary and eventually confided in her mother.

When Joyce contacted Nix to question why he would counsel a teenager behind closed doors without her parent’s knowledge or permission, the priest denied it. When Nix later moved away, the Sisters of Life took over guiding Alana’s ‘spiritual direction’. The nuns wanted to send Alana to a particular conversion therapist but needed Joyce’s permission. She refused.

“But by that time, years of damage had been done.”

Secret conversion therapy

Joyce wrote that years of secret conversion therapy left her daughter suffering from acute post-traumatic stress and depression.

Following a self-harm incident, Alana’s family took her to reputable therapists hoping to undo the damage. But nuns and priests continued to call, and interfere with the treatment.

Alana died by suicide in 2019.

“Alana could not heal from the shame, abandonment and rumors that were told that hurt her so deeply. We must stop rejecting LGBTQ+ children…

“The Catholic Church must have an honest reckoning about conversion therapy and its deadly impact on LGBTQ+ youth, as well as about the priests and nuns who are abusing their spiritual authority to promote it.”

Read more: Queensland bans conversion therapy.

Tasmanian church conducted conversion therapy.

West Australian conversion therapy event.

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