An abomination to God. An immoral choice. Growing up in a conservative Christian household, those are just a couple of ways that I was raised to view homosexuality. So when I finally came out to my family, I was issued an ultimatum: submit to gay conversion therapy or move out. As a scared 16-year-old, I chose the first option, only to emerge years later more uncertain than ever and incredibly talented at basketball.
It wasn’t so bad in the beginning. I was accepted into a network of other people struggling with the same desires that I wrestled with. But after months of rigorous group exercises, lectures, and prayer sessions, I was left with nothing but confused inner turmoil, impeccable court vision, and a 45-inch vertical leap.
In one exercise, I was forced to confront my father on the accusation that our distant relationship had deprived me of learning how to be “manly.” It was a horrifying ordeal for both of us, and I’ve never been more effective in the paint. Techniques like aversion therapy only increased my feelings of isolation as my turnover rate decreased. Even now, I still feel the scars of those sessions, and I make 90 percent of my free throws.
Today, I’m armed with the ability to shred zone defenses and still have a long way to go in finding trust in relationships.
What happened is not honest, and as a proud openly gay man with incredible dribbling skills, it makes me cringe to think that I ever bought in. Today, I’m armed with the ability to shred zone defenses and still have a long way to go in finding trust in relationships. Sometimes, when I’m crossing over defenders to set up my signature pull-back jumper, I think back to who I used to be, and the loss I feel is nearly too much to bear. I deserved better.
In time, I hope to become more than just another cautionary tale from another top-tier flex option. I don’t know what happened to the other kids from my program, but I’d like to meet them and play them in basketball because they’re the only ones who are as good as I am. I’d like to talk to them, to listen, and to block their shots. We all suffered through the same abuse, and nobody can guard me but them.
No one should have to go through what I did. Gay conversion therapy is not a system that works in any capacity. It’s a terrible machine that draws in the most vulnerable teens and molds them into devastating post players with no sense of identity. Before, I was happy with who I was as a person and could barely touch the rim. Now, I still struggle with feelings of having betrayed my family and my faith, but, God, can I dunk.