McKrae Game spent twenty years telling LGBTQ+ people that they were going to hell if they did not change their ways.
As it turned out, if there is a hell for gay people, he's going to be burning right along with the rest of us.
In 1999, Game founded Hope for Wholeness, which would become one of the largest conversion therapy centers in the country. The organization developed a curriculum that depicts homosexuality as a mental disorder and promises to help people "find comfort and guidance" through "a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," according to the website.
This week, Game came out as gay in an interview with Post and Courier. Raised in a Southern Baptist household, he apparently felt "isolated from other boys,"and during his childhood he developed a "fascination with his sister's clothes." He originally came out at the age of 19, but by 22, he had returned to the closet and began seeking redemption in the eyes of the Lord. In 2017, Game was fired from Hope for Wholeness for watching gay adult films, and last year he began publicly expressing doubts about the organization he helped create.
As of today, he has severed all ties to the practice, and he's expressed total opposition to conversion therapy techniques. "Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it's very harmful," he said, calling it "false advertising."
This false advertising can have deadly consequences. Conversion therapy has been widely denounced by doctors and professionals, and it's illegal in 18 states. The practice originated with brutal techniques like ice-pick lobotomies, but now it mostly consists of talk therapy and hypnosis, though electroshock therapy and other forms of physical abuse are still sometimes used. These techniques can have detrimental effects on mental and physical health, and its effectiveness is not supported by any conclusive scientific evidence.
Game seems well aware of this. "I was a religious zealot that hurt people," he said. "People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?" he continued.
"I told people they were going to Hell if they didn't stop, and these were professing Christians! This was probably my worst wrongful act," he wrote in a Facebook post that highlights the deep hipocrisy at the core of religious conversion therapy practices.
Certainly, Game's actions caused unimaginable harm to huge numbers of people. In the true spirit of Christianity, though, he's been largely embraced by the gay community since coming out, and hopefully this revelation will inspire other proponents of conversion therapy to examine their deeper motives.
In fact, maybe Game's decision to come out will inspire other homophobic people and conversion therapy practitioners to come out as queer, or at least it could let them release whatever pain is driving them to police others' lives. It's hard to imagine why people would put others through the trauma and pain caused by conversion therapy, unless they were suppressing a deep sense of shame within themselves. If only all conversion therapy practitioners would just come out as gay.
The idea that homophobes might be gay themselves is actually a popular theory among armchair psychologists in the queer community. There have been a multitude of scandals wherein homophobic politicians and conservatives have come out or were caught in gay affairs, each adding fuel to the fire; and of course, the idea that Mike Pence (who openly supports conversion therapy) might be gay has been a running joke among proponents of human rights.
Although there isn't significant scientific evidence that homophobia is directly correlated with queerness, one study from 2012 did reach this conclusion, finding unusually high levels of homophobia in people who called themselves heterosexual but expressed signs of homosexuality.
While it's tempting to blame bigotry on internalized queerness, it's never okay to force one's ideal sexual preferences onto others. Ideally, we would all be allowed to love who we wish to love and be on our way. But since the straight world has made this impossible, the gay community might be forgiven for hoping that all conversion therapy practitioners will someday come to the same conclusion that Game did.
After all, homophobia, conversion therapy, and other malicious practices that demonize love on the basis of religion all stem from the same sources: deep shame, fear of the unknown, and a desire to control others. Though the idea that love is the answer to everything can feel starry-eyed, in the case of homophobia, it's just the truth. According to Game's Facebook post, "The very harmful cycle of self shame and condemnation has to stop. It's literally killing people!! Learn to love. Learn to love yourself and others," he finished. If only it hadn't taken him so long to learn.