Lyon College hosted former student engagement specialist Jonathan Davey last Thursday as he spoke candidly to the Lyon community about his experiences with gay conversion therapy in his talk “Religion and Rainbows.”
Following his talk, three Lyon students and a faculty member participated in a panel discussion and fielded questions regarding Christianity and the LGBTQ+ community.
Davey began by encouraging his audience to keep an open mind, saying, “I think that this is a space where we’re here to learn and listen. We’re here to educate ourselves and come in with an open mind and hear different perspectives. I’m going to share with you my story and then the panel, when they come up, could have a totally opposite experience than I have or belief than I have.”
At a young age, Davey began to understand that his sexual orientation was deemed “sinful” by God and his church.
Davey said, “I started to hear that being gay is a sin. That lying with another man is a sin, an abomination. So it was something I continued to hide.”
When he was age 18, Davey came out as gay to his mother. Her reaction came from a place of confusion. She said “I just don’t want you to have a tough life,” and feared the pain he would go through as an openly gay man.
Davey expressed that he was already struggling, and getting it off his chest and saying “this is who I am” made him feel better.
Though he found great relief in sharing that part of him with his mother and the world, the deeply ingrained shame still followed him. At the prompting of his roommate, Davey attended a gay conversion therapy conference that claimed to help participants become “cured” of their homosexual nature.
According to a study done by the American Psychological Association, these programs have been proven to have very little success while being very damaging to the participants.
After the conference, Davey renounced his gay lifestyle and redoubled his efforts to avoid “falling” from grace with God. He moved and began attending conversion therapy and surrounded himself completely with individuals who would help him on his “walk” to becoming straight. This therapy did not change him, though. Even after three long years, it left him only feeling “disgusted with [him]self.” Davey spoke about the trauma inflicted by this type of therapy and countless nights praying in a vain attempt to “change who [he is].”
In his senior year of college, Davey began to question the therapy. Upon coming back out as a gay man, Davey was told by many of his friends that he had not tried hard enough to change, and they stopped being his friends.
His mom, however, was extremely happy that he had found happiness within himself at last.
“It took me a really long time to come back out, and it took me even longer to come out and say that I was a proud gay man,” says Davey.
Davey’s Lyon family felt overwhelming pride for his bravery in living and telling such an emotional story. Sophomore Zoe Dye thinks that sharing stories like Davey’s are important. She says, “It follows a narrative we've come to expect from being LGBTQA in the south, but that's just the point: This keeps happening, and changing that starts with us.”
“I was happy that Davey was open about who he was and glad he was able to become a proud gay man,” shared Lyon’s chaplain Rev. Margaret Alsup. “I was sad at how the church played a role in hurting him and trying to stifle who he is and was meant to be. My hope is that through conversations and events like tonight people can learn the impact of their words and actions and treat others who might differ from them with love and respect.”
Lyon is more than just a college. It's a community distinguished by its academic curriculum, unique honor and social systems, and award-winning professors.