A gay man who spent thousands of dollars trying to cure himself of being gay has shared his experiences of controversial ‘conversion’ therapy.
Peterson Toscano, 47, says he has spent $30,000 (â‚¬23,000) on treatments that claim they can turn gay men straight.
Speaking to the BBC, the American performance artist says it took him 17 years to accept that he was gay and now refers to himself as an ‘ex-gay survivor.’
Not only do these treatments not work but he warns they are ‘pyschologically damaging.’
Raised in upstate New York in a devout Christian family, Toscano attended an evangelical church where he struggled to deal with the teachings of his faith and his feelings for other men.
Of his faith, he says: ‘I was doing something spiritually and morally wrong that I would be punished for in the afterlife. And so there was a lot of fear and terrible desperation.’
Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy, is a controversial practice mostly funded through evangelical Christian churches that claims to be able to cure people of being gay.
The American arm of the World Health Organization has condemned gay ‘cures’ as dangerous and says they are not medically justified.
It is not only confined to the USA, as Toscano says he visited England to undergo a failed exorcism in the West Midlands. It was to be his third attempt to exercise ‘gay demons’ from his body.
He does not endorse this type of treatment, saying: ‘That sort of teaching is psychologically damaging, especially to young people.
‘If you believe that, you will then do whatever you can to rip up your soul.’
California has recently approved legislation that would ban anybody under the age of 18 from undergoing conversion therapy.
Passed on 28 August, it moves the US closer to becoming the first state in America to ban the practice entirely.
The bill, authored by Senator Ted Lieu, would also make adults who chose to undergo the therapy sign a release form that says the treatment is ineffective and dangerous.
Opponents of the bill claimed the law would undermine parents who want their children to receive therapy for same-sex attractions.
As for Toscano, after years of trying ‘gay cures’ he has finally accepted his sexuality and now uses his past experiences in performances to raise awareness of the dangers of trying to cure your sexuality.