Mormon 'Gay Cure' Study Used Electric Shocks Against Homosexual Feelings


"The BYU Counseling Center never practiced therapy that would involve chemical or induced vomiting," she said.

Today, therapies are all "mainline therapeutic approaches," according to Jenkins, and all faculty are expected to be licensed and programs accredited.

The university, which is owned by the Mormon Church, said its policy on homosexuality is in line with Mormon doctrine -- today's students are not disciplined unless they engage in sexual activity, and that includes heterosexual sex before marriage.

"BYU will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction, and welcomes as full members of the university community all whose behavior meets university standards," said Jenkins. "Members of the university community can remain in good standing if they conduct their lives in a manner consistent with Gospel principles."

Play About 1976 Shock Therapy Opens

Cameron, who is now openly gay, wrote a play about his shock therapy experience, "14," which includes much of McBride's controversial dissertation. "I think we need to know the story, to learn from it."

The show, which explores his struggle with coming out, opened at University of Iowa in 2007, Kent State University in 2009 and is being performed at the University of Colorado in Boulder in October.

"They thought they were doing something to help me," he said of the experiment. "I can't fault them for that. But now that they are educated, now we know homosexuality is not a choice, people are born this way. The church doesn't still have to be threatened by homosexuality." left two telephone messages for McBride, who is now a psychologist in Provo, Utah, but there was no reply.

Cameron had dated girls at BYU and even been engaged a couple of times, but said he always knew those relationships were doomed to failure.

He confessed his struggle to a psychology professor and asked for help. The 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."

Cameron said he was deemed a success and was "desperate" enough to believe the therapy worked. But he said it pushed him "deeper and deeper into [my] own closet."

During the study, Cameron said McBride suggested he wear a rubber band on his wrist and snap it if he had inappropriate thoughts. "I got the thin ones so they would hurt more," he said. "Some days I would come home and have bloody wrists."

Connell O'Donovan, who now works at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told he was sent to BYU in 1976 for vomit therapy, but couldn't go through with it.

BYU said its counseling services never conducted such treatment, but O'Donovan counters that he was evaluated by Joseph Smith Family Living Center, another service on campus.

In 1986, he said he volunteered for "extremely debilitating hypnotherapy" through another Utah counseling center, He said a Mormon intern hypnotized him, splitting him into "Gay Connell" and "Straight Connell."

"He then had me visualize Jesus coming down through the ceiling and utterly destroying Gay Connell to dust and then 'a mighty wind' blowing all the dust away," said O'Donovan. "This is the single most emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually crippling experience of my entire life."

"Some 18 years later I am still healing from that traumatic "therapeutic" experience," he writes in a 2004 essay on his journey.

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