My best friend in high school was gay — in fact, he and his then-boyfriend helped me start this site fourteen years ago last month. I don’t think I’ll ever appreciate just how challenging it was for him being the gay kid in small-town Arkansas at the time. I remember when his father found out, he punched him. He fucking punched his own kid in the face because he was gay, and I had to stash him away in a closet in my house for a few days until things cooled down (THE METAPHOR!). It was because I was best friends with him that my Dad was eventually comfortable enough to come out to me, although my father ultimately took his self-hatred to the grave.
The other reason he came out to me was because he was terrified that I was gay. A guy he was sleeping with had reported to my father that he’d seen me volunteer at a gay rights organization (which I did because I knew my father was gay before he told me) and jumped to conclusions, and my father used his coming-out announcement to convince me not to be gay, because my father — who listened to way too much Rush Limbaugh — believed it was within my self-control. That’s how brainwashed so many people were in the Bible belt, so brainwashed that a man who didn’t even believe in God tried to use his own horrible, violent experiences as a gay man to convince his son not to be gay. “Please don’t be like your old man, Dusty.”
A Boy Erased — based on Garrard Conley’s memoir — is set against a similar backdrop, also in a small Arkansas town. It’s about a 19-year-old whose father, a Baptist minister (Russell Crowe) and mother (Nicole Kidman) put him in conversion therapy because, well, because they loved him, because that’s what they thought was best, because that’s how people in the Bible Belt were and in many cases, still are. Because even if they can accept you, they believe that God will reject you.
Here’s the trailer. Grab a tissue.