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Posts for March, 2011

Play About Mormon Shock Therapy “Cure” Opens In October

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2011

ABC News has just released this fascinating report about playwright John Cameron’s experiences with a Mormon-sponsored program in the 1970s to try to cure him of his homosexuality through the use of electric shock therapy. That program, at Brigham Young University, was the basis for a doctoral dissertationby Max Ford McBride. Cameron was a very devout Mormon, and even though he had never acted on his sexual attractions at the time, he was desperate to get rid of his feelings. He saw McBride as his savior:

A mercury-filled tube was placed around the base of the penis and the students were shown alternating slides of men and women in various stages of undress.

When participants responded to images of men with an erection, the closed electric circuit was broken and they received three-second electrical shocks at 10-second intervals. Each session lasted an hour. Participants set their own pain levels.

Cameron said his shame was so deep that he selected the highest level.

“Max (the study’s author) didn’t do it, we did it,” he said. “I was always turning it up to get the most pain because I was desperate.”

This line really jumped out at me:

McBride’s alleged response ended up in Cameron’s play: “No one is a homosexual. Homosexuality doesn’t exist. It’s just a symptom of a deeper problem you are not willing to deal with.”

This line — there is no such thing as a homosexual — remains fundamental dogma of the ex-gay movement to this very day.

Cameron was one of thirteen subjects for McBride’s study. McBride today is a psychologist in Provo, Utah. Cameron wrote a play, “14,” about his experiences. The play, which includes portions of McBride’s dissertation, will be performed at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October. The play debuted at University of Iowa in 2007, and was performed at Kent State University in 2009.