John M. Becker

Vaughn Walker, Prop 8 Judge, Survived 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

Filed By John M. Becker | April 21, 2014 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: conversion therapy, ex-gay, ex-gay therapy, Forcing the Spring, pray away the gay, Prop 8, Proposition 8, reparative therapy, Vaughn Walker

vaughn-walker-flag.jpgVaughn Walker, the California-based U.S. district judge who heard the federal trial challenging Proposition 8 -- and whose ruling striking it down was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last June, returning marriage equality to California -- reveals in a forthcoming book that he survived the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called "ex-gay" therapy, which falsely claims it can change a person from gay to straight.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that during the trial, testimony from a fellow survivor brought Judge Walker's own memories flooding back:

"Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality" describes Walker blinking back tears as he listened to the man's testimony in 2010, recalling the therapy he had undergone three decades earlier to try to unsnarl uncertainties about his own sexual orientation - but it was a nightmare not revealed publicly until now...

In the late 1970s, when he was a lawyer in his early 30s, Walker says in the book, he had never had a relationship with a man, knew that an acknowledgment of homosexuality would hurt his career and decided "to see a psychiatrist about my ... affliction."

Becker writes that Walker told her the psychiatrist - after some counseling that Walker no longer remembers in any detail - ultimately determined he was not actually gay because he had not yet had sex with a man.

"And he pronounced me cured," recalled Walker - who "wanted badly to believe that was true," the book says.

Of course, it wasn't -- efforts to change a person's sexual orientation have been denounced and discredited by literally every major mainstream organization of medical and mental health professionals as ineffective and potentially dangerous. All say that sexual orientation is not chosen and cannot be changed.

During the 2010 trial, 26-year-old "conversion therapy" survivor Ryan Kendall of Denver took the stand and testified about his experience, revealing that the therapy was so insulting and abusive that he ran away after a year and a half "and spent the next decade depressed and periodically contemplating suicide," according to the Chronicle. Walker called Kendall's testimony "the most touching testimony at trial."

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