Achieving LGBTQ Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

#BornPerfect – Sam Brinton


Sam Brinton

“I am living proof that what conversion therapy can destroy, self-acceptance can save.”
—Sam Brinton

NCLR Contributor

Months before my seventh-grade year, I realized I had a crush on my best friend, who happened to be male.

I was too young to understand why anyone would think this was wrong and that not everyone would support me. After beatings failed to work, and at the beckoning of my church, I was put into conversion therapy, the dangerous practice used by some therapists and counselors to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For me, and countless others like me, it can only be described as mental torture.

I was told I was sick. I was told God hated me. I was told every other gay person on earth had been executed. By the end of the so-called “treatments,” I believed the government was looking for me, that I had somehow contracted AIDS, and that I would die alone. The mental pain this caused is something I cannot fathom going through again, yet thousands of youth across the country are placed in the same situation every day.

When psychological abuse was not sufficient to change my sexual orientation, my therapist moved to what can only be called physical abuse. My hands were tied down and ice was placed on them while I was shown pictures of men. Later sessions would include copper heating coils, needles in my fingers, and electric shocks. Similar to Pavlov’s experience with dogs, I was supposed to associate the touch of a man with pain. By the end, even hugging my father brought on flashbacks.

To end the pain those years caused, I would go on to attempt suicide several times. During one attempt, I climbed onto the roof of my apartment building and looked down. In that moment, I decided I would rather lie and tell everyone I had become straight than jump. It worked. For a while the torture stopped and my life returned to some degree of “normality.”

It wasn’t until college that I was able to come out and begin my life being who I am. Once I finally started living truthfully, everything got better. I threw myself into school, extracurricular activities, and advocacy.

This year, I graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with dual master’s degrees in nuclear engineering, and technology and policy. I am living proof that what conversion therapy can destroy, self-acceptance can save.

Today, I know who I am. I’m strong in my faith, and I’m strong in my identity. And I know that I can’t change what I never chose.

This torture continues to have repercussions with youth, but it doesn’t have to continue. We have the chance to save LGBT youth from ever having to experience what I went through.


If you are a survivor of conversion therapy, consider sharing your story and speaking out to protect others.  Your email to us will be confidential. We will not share your story without your permission.  Even if you do not want to share your story publicly, hearing about your experience can help us learn more and protect others from being harmed by these damaging “therapies.”

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