A Different Reality. A Dire Discussion.

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I grew up in Conservative Christian circles and it’s suffice to say I was closeted practically my entire life. While some people might’ve guessed about me growing up, they’d have to fight tooth and nail to get me to admit it. So I spent those years telling people things they wanted to hear or coming up with excuses as to why I didn’t have a girlfriend. I remember it all. I remember feeling guilty and confused. I remember not really having an answer even though the Church supposedly had one.

One day I was just sitting at the table with my friends and we were talking with our Pastor. California’s Proposition 8 had come up and that most certainly turned into a lively discussion. I told everyone, “Well it’s not like you can just change someone’s sexuality.” At this my Pastor whipped his head and said, “Of course you can! Haven’t you heard of the Exodus Camps?”

He went into very little detail about them. Really, all he told us was that they were huge and they had found a way to “cure” homosexuality. Honestly, I loved my Pastor and I thought he was a great man. However, he was also human. He thought he was helping but that moment was defining. In that moment I was convinced my sexuality could change. I was convinced that because other homosexuals were becoming heterosexuals, then everything my church was telling me was true. That meant that I was the worst of the worst and I always would be unless I changed.

Again, I didn’t tell anyone my dirty secret. I kept that, and all my self-loathing, to myself. I knew that if I told someone, they wouldn’t just be trying to sell me on the Exodus camps. I knew that if I told someone, they’d be signing me up for it. I lived a lot of my life with this fear and it took years for me to come to a different truth—a different reality. I was able to realize that I am loved and that I’m not the monster people make me out to be.

This is an all too common journey for so many and it’s a conversation that Emily M. Danforth doesn’t shy away from. Her book The Miseducation of Cameron Post was first published in 2012 and was a YA success. This past summer it was adapted into a film starring Chloe Grace Moretz. Danforth is so honest with her book. She writes about young Cameron who discovers she’s gay and is later sent to “reparative therapy”. Now, Cameron doesn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye and painfully comes to her own realizations.

“I don’t think of myself as a homosexual. I don’t think of myself as anything other than me.”

Unfortunately, children have historically been presented with either hate yourself or go to hell. This leaves people to choose pain or leave the religious systems all together. But what is infinitely more heartbreaking is the reality that many turn to the unthinkable after years of guilt and shame. This is a topic that is constantly swept under the rug, especially by those who should be speaking up.

Emily M. Danforth is different. She doesn’t settle with the silence. She doesn’t settle with the pain. And she certainly doesn’t hesitate to be honest with her readers. It may be a tough topic for some people but she doesn’t care and I love it! In her book she gives us a genuine story of a girl just trying to be herself. We read about Cameron caught up in traditions that are older and bigger than herself, but Cameron doesn’t give up. Cameron fights and she persists

In the film, Cameron opens up when meeting with an inspector. She’s asked about her confidence in the staff and she’s honest. She tells him that “God’s Promises” (“Promises” in the book) is centered around teaching the kids to hate who they are. In the book, we read Cameron expand on this. Cameron tries to explain that underneath the theology is a system that abuses children and leaves them with nowhere to run.

“And there was a whole world beyond that shoreline, beyond that forest, beyond the knuckle mountains, beyond, beyond, beyond, not beneath the surface at all, but beyond and waiting.”

Emily M. Danforth does such an amazing job of bringing the hard stuff to the table because they need to be addressed. With her work, she gives a voice to victims and hopefully educates those still wrestling with bigotry. The film is equally beautiful and gut-wrenching. It was originally released at the 2018 Sundance film festival and was quite successful. While the film starts much later than the book, it’s true to the spirit of the book and Cameron’s time at “Promises”.

I couldn’t help but love the film and adore the book. Emily gives us a story that reminds readers that there is a different narrative out there. There is a different reality beyond the fear: that we are all human and that we are all loved.

PRR Writer Christopher Lee

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