QNews talks to LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy survivor Glen Worrell


Glen Worrell conversion therapy survivor australia
Glen is now living his life as a 'rainbow Christian'. Image: Supplied

Sarah Davison talks to conversion therapy survivor Glen Worrell about his experience and response to a recent report on the practice.

For members of Tasmania’s LGBTQIA+ community, the recent report by the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute on conversion therapy practices was a watershed moment.

However, conversion therapy survivor Glen Worrell said the report was a sobering reminder of the prevalence of the practice and the dire need for legislative change.

“It was heartbreaking to hear just how many other Tasmanians have experienced these practices.”

Glenn said hearing statistics of the many people who took their own lives affected him deeply.

His personal experience of conversion therapy practices began as a young man. He recognised his attraction to men while attending boarding school.

Glen grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household. So, he approached the assistant pastor of his church. The man offered the worried child hope.

“Things can be done.”

glen worrell conversion therapy survivor
Glen and a friend in the 1990s. Image: Supplied

Exodus International

Glen began to attend conferences and retreats based on teaching from Exodus International – a now-defunct conversion ministry.

“Its psychological perspective is that a person has had a poor relationship with the same-sex parent and as you work these issues, heterosexuality will naturally emerge.”

Unable to afford the courses on offer, Glen says an anonymous source funded his attendance.

“It’s like a business. They had retreats and conferences that would cost hundreds of dollars for a weekend.

“And whenever a conference came up, the money appeared. I never knew where the money came from, but it paid for the plane ticket and a ticket to the conference.”

When three exorcisms and a life of celibacy failed to change his sexual orientation, a breakdown led Glen to walk away after 21 years of conversion practices.

Now on the road to recovery and living life as a “rainbow Christian”, he said he still felt a deep sense of regret.

“My biggest regret is that I wasted the best years of my life on such a futile exercise.

“I’ll never get those back.”

Glen said he hoped the report would help Christian communities recognise the damage perpetuated by conversion practices. Victims end up psychologically damaged by prayer despite church leaders perceiving praying as therapeutic.

“But I think they [church leaders] lose touch with the imbalance of power, and in that context just how easily things can get carried away.”

Exorcism

“I’ve experienced an exorcism and it was petrifying, I was terrified.”

Glen said he found himself in a room with four other people.

“All I wanted to do was run but felt completely helpless. Where was I meant to go?”

Glen summed up the situation with conversion therapy as “an enormous gulf of ignorance”. He indicated a clear need for conversations between church leaders, members of faith and the LGBTQIA+ community.

He said he chose to share his story to warn others about the dangers of conversion practices, but also as a message of hope for other survivors.

“I have no regrets; I would not go back to the black and white world I was living in.”

“I’m finally finding out who I am.”

If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

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