I’m that guy. Not exactly that guy Garrard Conley, whose memoir, Boy Erased is now a raw-truth film starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, and Joel Edgerton. However, I am that guy who faced a particular brand of gay conversion therapy in the hands of religion when I first came out at the age of 19.
Raised Seventh-Day Adventist, being homo was a no-no, much like it is in most faith-based circles. When confronted with the crisis of faith and knowledge of what I found myself to be, I like many others was sent off to religious counseling, or, as depicted in this film, to the “Are you really going to subject another human being to this insane treatment?” gay conversion therapy circus camps, to be fixed. Pray the gay away, pray, pray, pray! It doesn’t work. It never has, and never will, even though science and phycology have proven we are born this way, some still, in the name of God and Religion, subject the “lost” to reparative therapy. Thus the reason this movie is poignant and relevant even in our “evolved society” today.
My venture into the theater seats to see how well they addressed the fixin’ of homosexuals in this film soon found me warding off that suffocating, pew bound hysteria, that I’d experienced ringside, as the truth of my sexuality and connection to my God did battle my second year in college. Having evolved and grown past those experiences, I suddenly had another realization. While a majority of my fellow theatergoers may have been experiencing the brazenly abusive world of gay conversion therapy for the first time, I actually saw the bigger messages projecting off the screen of Boy Erased. Like a slap across the cheeks for having lustful thoughts about other men, I started to see deeper messages challenging my thoughts that went well beyond the drink the kool-aid approach to rid yourself of your same-sex attractions premise of the film.
Yes, this film is about a family’s experience with a gay son and their Mr. Toad ride into the world of gay conversion therapy. Yet in the madness of the experience, the film also exposes the depths of misogyny, gas lighting, bigotry, and male white privilege, that drives mental and physical abuse deployed to change someone simply because they don’t march in time to your values and beliefs.
In reality guys (and gals), Boy Erased is all our stories – even if you’re not gay and supposedly needing it prayed away. All of us men (and women), experience some warped ritual of erasing away our truest self, simply because our parents, family, society tells us, “You can’t be that!”
- You can’t be a boy who shows emotions.
- Don’t you dare act confused. Men have their shit together.
- God forbid you question authority, lest God strike you down.
- How dare you turn your back on the beliefs that you’ve been raised. Now turn your back so we can beat them back into you.
- Men have their place, and women have theirs, that’s just the way it works.
Yes, this movie is about being gay and the attempt to erase homosexuality out of Gerrard’s DNA, yet let’s not forget the countless times, we as men have faced the erasers held in the hands of those who claim to know better, who erase bits and pieces of who we are, simply because they are wounded, living in blind faith, or repeating the patterns of the generations from whence they came.
It’s time we men wake up and realize that boy erased leads to men erased, which quickly snowballs into humanity erased on all levels.
- If someone doesn’t act the way you do…erase them.
- If men don’t man up the way you do…erase them.
- If women don’t play their assigned role…erase them.
- If employees don’t play to your controlling agenda…erase them.
- If you cannot manipulate someone into your deluded thinking…erase them. (Just watch how 45 runs the White House.)
Guys, guys, guys. If you want to be real men. Real men of conscious, discernment, empathy, love, compassion, and understanding, there’s only one question to be asked. A question this movie addresses underneath its original premise. That question is…
What are you, as a man, trying to erase? Do you find yourself:
- Attempting to erase a wounded male relationship you experienced by now acting out against other men?
- Belittling women, even in jest, in order to erase the rejection of your first attempt to ask a girl out on a date?
- Controlling others at all costs, in order to erase your own past mistakes when you were out of control?
- Playing the game to avoid being an outcast, in hopes of erasing the emptiness felt by always being chosen last in the game of kickball?
- Pressuring others into your beliefs, blindly erasing all the painful times others pressured you into standing in their beliefs, no questions asked?
Boy Erased rattled me at my core, back to the days of first attempting to eradicate my homosexuality under the guise of a misguided religious belief structure. I’m grateful that it also reminded me that when art beautifully imitates life, we’re left to not only see art for what it is, but are also soulfully invited to go beyond what we see on the surface and ask ourselves, “How can what I’m witnessing make me a better man, a better human?”
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