It Gets Better: From Perry, IA

Jim Burroway

October 20th, 2010

If you’ve never seen the web site I’m From Driftwood, you really owe yourself a heart-warming visit. The site is made up of stories submitted by people from all over. Each story’s title says where they come from — “I’m from Sheboygan Falls“, “I’m From Lake Charles“,  you get the picture — and they talk about what it was like growing up there, before they were out and as they were coming out. In many ways, it could be seen as a forerunner to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, which was begun in response to the rash of LGBT suicides we saw in September.

In a few of the I’m From Driftwood posts, you can see considerable overlap between the two projects. This one, “I’m From Perry, IA”, begins with Samuel describing his harrowing experience with a brutal and punitive ex-gay conversion therapy experience. Watch it:

Samuel’s experience is not altogether rare. If his story ended there — conditional love as long as he pretended to be straight — we would see the perfect setup for a life of torment. But there’s another ingredient involved that, for now, is making the story’s ending different from where it could have gone. That ingredient is Sam’s fortitude. Things still aren’t any better with his parents — they still insist that he “change” before they allow him back into the home. But now that he’s in college at Kansas State, things have somehow started to get better for him. But in a very different way and on his terms:

…But, I do recognize that I will give them that chance. What my parents did was part of what they believed. They thought they were losing their child and they wanted to help him, so I have to forgive them, I have to move forward. But I think the reason why I was so excited to be able tell the story was that if there’s other people who have gone through conversion therapy, who are having those feelings of, “I’m the only one alone”, you need to know that there are people who have made it through and, you can’t change what I never chose.

The sad tragedy to all of this is that Sam’s story is both unique and not uncommon. There’s hardly a month that goes by that I don’t get an email from someone asking for advice. Either they are trying to recover from an ex-gay experience or, more commonly, a friend or relative asks what they should do when someone they know enters some kind of “treatment” program. These are hard stories to deal with, but one good resource is Beyond Ex-Gay, a network of ex-gay survivors. It’s not only for survivors themselves, but also their families and friends. I know that they have provided valuable support to those who are coming out of the ex-gay experience.


October 20th, 2010

Disown your son. Pretty messed up family values right there. Acceptance in his family appears to be on a cash and carry basis.

He’s a courageous kid I’m thankful that he has documented his story and given it to us.


October 21st, 2010

Sam is hawt. And one day he’ll find a wonderful man and start a family of his own. I wish him the best in life.


October 21st, 2010

Sam is not just hawt, a quick google check indicates that that he’s doing great things as a student and activist.

Ben in Oakland

October 21st, 2010

One of many sad things in this story– he sounds like a courageous, honest, and compassonate young man. they should be proud that they have rasied such a fine youngster.

I wish him luck,. I tried the same approach with my parents, and eventually realized the problem wasn’t my being gay, it was our whole relationship.

I eventually gave up. Their loss.


October 21st, 2010

As a former Criminal Prosecutor, it occurs to me that this is a child abuse / domestic violence trial waiting to happen.

I suspect Samuel is not the only one physically assaulted by Dear Ol’ Dad.

If there are minor children still in the home or other family members who continue to “fall,” I would get local law enforcement on it NOW.

At some point, understanding of bullies, regardless of our relationship to them, must give way to the basic letter of the law.

Put Dad away.



October 21st, 2010

Out of my 3 daughters, I got one butch dyke and two femme bisexuals– and I couldn’t have been more proud or accepting of them, no matter what thier orientation is. I truly don’t understand a “parent” who would reject their kid because of what sex they’re attracted to.


October 22nd, 2010

I agree with Brad. Sam is describing some very serious crimes here. Dad should be in prison.


October 22nd, 2010

Thanks for the link and info for the “I’m from Driftwood” site…what a great project and site! I’m recommending it to friends, and enjoying the diverse and fascinating stories from all over the country. Some are video, like Matt’s story, and some are written. All are wonderful.


October 23rd, 2010


There is a distinct vocal pattern to true stories.

As others have pointed out – his Dad and “physical therapists” should, at the very least, be reported/investigated.

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