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Actress and dancer Alyson Stoner says that the homophobia she faced after falling in love with a woman sent her “into a spiral” that ultimately led to her entering conversion therapy.
The actress, who publicly identified as a member of the LGBTQ community in 2018, told Insider in an interview published Wednesday that she had admitted herself to an “outpatient variation” program of the practice, which aims to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of individuals.
“I felt stuck. I felt wretched. I felt like everything was wrong with me, even though I, in my heart of hearts, only desired to be a devoted follower of God,” Stoner said.
Conversion therapy, which has been discredited by numerous health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, is currently banned in 20 U.S. states.
Stoner says her decision to admit herself was driven by a struggle between her queer and religious identities, specifically the negative and homophobic messages being sent by those around her, including pastors.
“To hear from people you trust, from people you respect, from people you might even aspire to become, that you at your core are ‘rotten,’ ‘abominable,’ that the devil has a target on your back because of your position in Hollywood, … it just sends you into a spiral — at least for me, because I just wanted to do the right thing,” the Cheaper by the Dozen star said.
Recalling her experiences in the program, Stoner said it not only altered her perception of herself but directly impacted her ability to have relationships.
“It severs the mind-body connection because I see the body as something that is shameful, that is not to be trusted. It actually ends up messing with my ability to foster genuine relationships with others and myself, because now I’m suppressing a voice,” she said. “I’m trying to change something that is what I now understand [to be] very natural.”
The Step Up actress said that ultimately she realized that those negative opinions and views of LGBTQ people by those in her religious community were by-products of their “environment and a time period.”
But despite getting out, the experience still left “scars” and has remained “legitimately difficult” to talk about. “My mind doesn’t want to even go there. My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it,” she said.
Reflecting on how dangerous the practice is, Stoner shared that negative messages and painful anti-LGBTQ sentiments are powerful, even for people who have access to various support systems.
“I know firsthand how dangerous it is for me as someone who had access to therapy and other forms of support. And I still was considering whether my life was worth living or, if everything was wrong with me, then what good was it for me to be around, starting to see myself as someone who only brought harm to other people but to society.
“The dangers are measurable. They are measurable,” she concluded. “Even if someone comes out of it on the other side and says, ‘Hey, no, I’m living a great life,’ there are scars there. There are shadows.”
In a 2018 essay penned for Teen Vogue, Stoner initially opened up about her identity and recounted that first time falling in love with a woman, a dance instructor, whom she described as “a girl who changed everything I knew about myself as a woman, human being and performer.”
“For every ounce of hurt I faced, she offered a sea of love and gratitude,” Stoner wrote. “I paid attention to how our connection shaped me. In its purest sense, I felt awakened, more compassionate and like my truest self. She strengthened and inspired me, creating a space for me to discover myself without judgment.”
She also further detailed what sent her to conversion therapy, including people in the industry telling her she should deny who she was.
“Some people in the industry warned me that I’d ruin my career, miss out on possible jobs and potentially put my life in danger if I ever came out. My dream and all I’d worked tirelessly for since the age of 6 was suddenly at risk by my being … true to myself.”
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