You'll never step foot in this house again...
"When my father said, 'You'll never step foot in this house again if you act on your feelings. You'll never finish your education,' I thought, 'Fair enough," Garrard Conley writes. The year was 2004, and Conley, a college freshman, had just been outed, against his wishes.
A beautiful, raw and compassionate memoir about identity, love and understanding. The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.
When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.
"What my mother didn't yet know about being gay in the South was that you never ran out of material, that being secretly gay your whole life, averting your eyes every time you saw a handsome man, praying on your knees every time a sexual thought entered your mind" meant you could spend every day repenting. Some people stayed in the program for decades. Conley broke free, at the cost of years of strained relations with his parents—especially his preacher dad, who was ostracized for having an openly gay son. The triumph of this harrowing story lies not only in the reclamation of self but also in the survival of one family's love.