One of South Carolina's most notorious conversion therapists has come out of the closet.
McKrae Game, who led one of the nation's largest faith-based conversion therapy programs for nearly two decades, has publicly admitted that he's gay and disavowed the very "harmful" practices he forced on so many just like him.
"I was a religious zealot that hurt people," he told The Post and Courier, two years after the board of directors of Hope for Wholeness fired him from the same organization he founded. "People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?"
Instead, the 51-year-old has now joined several former conversion therapy advocates who have come out as LGBTQ and since pushed to end the widely discredited practice. Conversion therapy is intended to suppress and eventually change a person's sexual orientation or gender through a combination of shame, counseling, and religious teaching. However, long-term studies have shown that not only does this type of "therapy" fail to accomplish its primary goal, it also causes severe and long-lasting psychological harm. The practice has been repeatedly condemned by the American Psychological Association and is currently banned in 18 states across the country.
Undoing the Harm
Bracing for the intense backlash from those he traumatized, Game posted a Facebook update last week that began: "I WAS WRONG! Please forgive me!"
While most who responded were quick to accept that apology and offer their online support for his decision to come clean, some people remain skeptical as to how Mr. Game plans to atone for the damage his ex-gay ministry had done. Wrote one Facebook user:
"People killed themselves as a result of the mental and emotional anguish caused by ministries like this, and others were kicked out of their homes because of false assurances by ministry leaders that they could change if they really wanted to. Charles Colson, after his repentance, founded Prison Fellowship as a way to make amends. What will you do?"
Others echoed the sentiment, insisting that forgiveness will require more than just an apology. Game has no illusions about his destructive role in the lives of thousands. "I created it all," he said about Hope for Wholeness. "We have harmed generations of people."
For his part, he's been meeting with critics and responding to angry messages. Game talked with LGBTQ activist Kim Williams, who said that she came to "eat him alive." But after chatting with Game, Williams says she realizes that "he was just as abused and brainwashed as the people he wanted to save. He was suffering."
What Game intends to do beyond meeting with those he's harmed will be a test of his character.
Life After A Lie
Game says he has more peace now than ever before. He and his wife are still together. He's still a Christian. And he's working on a book to talk about his experiences and reconcile the harm his organization has done.
Said Game on Facebook: "It's all in my past, but many, way TOO MANY continue believing that there is something wrong with themselves and wrong with people that choose to live their lives honestly and open as gay, lesbian, trans, etc. The very harmful cycle of self shame and condemnation has to stop. It's literally killing people!! Learn to love. Learn to love yourself and others."
What do you think? Are apologies enough for McKrae Game to undo the trauma his organization subjected thousands of innocent people to? Or does true atonement require more than just saying "I'm sorry"?