The man who founded one of the largest gay 'conversion' therapy churches in the US has come out as gay.
McKrae Game, who was subjected to gay 'conversion' therapy in his youth before founding the Christian-based Hope for Wholeness programme in 1999, called for an end to the abusive practice, admitting it is a "lie" that has "harmed generations of people.”
Speaking to The Post and Courier, Game said: "Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful. Because it’s false advertising."
The 51-year-old from South Carolina, who led Hope for Wholeness for almost 20 years before being fired in 2017, first recognised his same-sex attraction at 11 and began an relationship with a man in his late teens before attempting to suppress his sexuality through 'conversion' therapy and eventually marrying a woman.
His attempts failed, however, and Game soon began working with Exodus International, a conversion therapy network which oversees around 120 'ministries' across the US and Canada.
After founding his own off-shoot, then known as The Truth Ministry, Game estimates he subjected thousands of other vulberable LGBTQ people to 'conversion' therapy.
"I was a religious zealot that hurt people," he said. "People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me.
"Why would I want that to continue?"
He added: "I created it all. "We have harmed generations of people.”
Organisations including the American Medical Association have repeatedly highlighted the psychological damage caused by attempting to change someone's sexual orientation through counselling or painful aversion therapy, while recent Hollywood films including Boy Erased and The Miseducation of Cameron post have helped shine a spotlight on the practice over the last year.
A 2018 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute estimated that up to 700,000 LGBTQ people in the US have been subjected to 'conversion' therapy in some form.
Since California became the first US state to ban 'conversion' therapy for children in 2012, a further 15 states have followed suit. But of the 16, only New York bans 'conversion' therapy for both children and adults.
700,000 LGBTQ-identifying adults have undergone conversion therapy treatments or counseling in some form according to a 2018 study by UCLA’s Williams Institute.
Since coming out as gay, Game has received angry messages from LGBTQ people who've been hurt and offended by the role he's played in propagating the dangerous faleshoods of 'conversion' therapy - but he says he hopes they will give him the chance to make amends for his past.
"Most people in the gay community have treated me ridiculously kind,” Game said. "Liking me for me now and not who I was.
"And I hope they just give me the chance to talk to them so I can hear them out and apologise."