A leading exponent of “gay conversion therapy” has announced he has divorced his wife and is seeking to date men.
David Matheson, from Utah, “was the creator of widely maligned and discredited courses that claimed to be capable of changing the sexuality of those who studied them”, reports Sky News.
But over the weekend the LGBTQ nonprofit Truth Wins Out obtained a private Facebook post made by “conversion therapy” advocate Rich Wyler, which stated that Matheson “says that living a single, celibate life ‘just isn’t feasible for him,’ so he’s seeking a male partner.”
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Matheson then confirmed Wyler’s assertions this week on a Facebook post of his own. “A year ago I realized I had to make substantial changes in my life. I realised I couldn’t stay in my marriage any longer. And I realised that it was time for me to affirm myself as gay,” he wrote.
Matheson, who was married to a woman for 34 years and is now divorced, also confirmed in an interview with NBC News that he is now dating men.
In that interview he acknowledged his work had hurt some people, but he would not fully renounce “conversion therapy”. Instead, he blamed what he referred to as the “shame-based, homophobic-based system” of the Mormon church in which he was raised.
“I know there are people who won’t be satisfied by anything less than a complete and unequivocal renunciation of everything,” Matheson said. “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.”
To those who feel harmed by his past work, Matheson relayed a message: “I unequivocally apologise.”
Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen, a longtime anti-conversion-therapy activist and former investigative journalist, referred to Matheson as a figure who many in the “conversion therapy” movement looked to as “the intellectual godfather.”
“When they wanted an expert, they would go to him,” Besen said, “and when your expert is now coming out of the closet and dating men, I think that speaks volumes about how reparative therapy is damaging and ineffective.”
“Conversion therapy employs guilt and shame to browbeat desperate and vulnerable people into renouncing their humanity. This is the latest evidence that conversion therapy is consumer fraud and ought to be outlawed in all 50 states,” he added.
Earlier this month, the state of New York “became the fifteenth state in the US to pass bills banning gay conversion therapy”, reports the London Evening Standard.
In July of last year, Theresa May announced that the practice would also be outlawed in the UK as part of a plan to “improve the response to hate crime and to improve diversity in education institutions”.
A national survey of 108,000 members of the LGBT community in the UK suggested 2% have undergone the discredited therapy with another 5% having been offered it.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.