Resounds: Emily Danforth, Matthew Shuka

Nov 13, 2018

Emily Danforth (left), Matthew Shuka
Credit Anna Paige

The award-winning film The Miseducation of Cameron Post is based on the novel of the same name by former Miles City Montana resident Emily Danforth. The film takes place at a conversion therapy camp for gay youth.

Matthew Shuka, from the organization of Born Perfect, is working throughout the country to raise awareness and increase public education on conversion therapy.

Emily Danforth and Matthew Shuka join us in the studio to discuss the lives of LGBTQ youth and how a powerful film and novel have the potential to change hearts and minds of audiences of all ages.

Emily Danforth: In her book on craft, Mystery & Manners, Flannery O'Connor wrote: "A story is a way to say something that can't be said any other way, and it takes every word of the story to say what the meaning is. You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate. When anyone asks what a story is about, the only proper thing is to tell him to read the story."

The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Dead parents. Random acts of shoplifting. Girls kissing girls in barns, in twisty slides on playgrounds, in abandoned hospitals. A Victorian dollhouse with all kinds of weird shit glued to it. The compulsive renting and watching of 99 cent videos. Miles City, Montana. The 1990s. Swimming. Summer. Cowgirls. Dinosaur discovering. Ferris Wheels. Conversion therapy. Taco Johns. A girl named Jane Fonda and the hollowed compartment in her prosthetic leg. The way a mountain-toppling earthquake that happened some thirty years before keeps after shocking our hero: Cameron Post. Yup: it's coming of age, it's coming of GAYge, it's a Bildungsroman, a novel of development, it's all of these things, none of these things, and it would be kick-ass if you gave it a whirl.

Mathew Shurka: "I was 21-years-old when I had my last conversion therapy session. It was 2009, and the secret ate away at me. I thought there was no one I could talk to about what I lived through, a part of my life when I was berated by people who told me that who I was attracted to was wrong, that there was something wrong with me. I felt isolated.

"But the fact of the matter is that I wasn’t alone. Nearly 700,000 people in the United States have been through conversion therapy, with 350,000 of those who faced it during their adolescence. And plenty more will continue to go through it."

Conversion Therapy: According to a study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, an estimated 20,000 LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 17 will undergo conversion therapy from a licensed health care professional before turning 18; about 57,000 youth will receive the treatment from a religious or spiritual advisor.

These numbers might be staggering, but it’s a wake-up call that this is continually happening to young people. And now, popular culture is putting a spotlight on the realities of conversion therapy and those who have lived through it.

And despite the fact that a number of major medical and mental health organizations— including the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association — have denounced conversion therapy as harmful and ineffective, many licensed therapists in the United States continue this so-called practice.

Those who have been exposed to conversion therapy are likely to become depressed and are 8.9 times more likely to develop suicidal ideation. Clearly, conversion therapy puts people in danger.

To date, 14 states and D.C. have passed laws protecting LGBTQ youth from these dangerous practices. Now, more organizations than ever are working together to raise awareness and increase public education on conversion therapy.