It got better. Then it got worse. What now?

MatthewsPlace.com
Aug 26 · 5 min read

by Adam Sass


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via Lohanthony’s YouTube

This question has been on the minds of his fans ever since the YouTube star posted a video seemingly denouncing his homosexuality. For the uninitiated, Anthony Quintal — up until very recently — has been a perky, outgoing, proudly gay, twenty-one-year-old internet personality who goes by the name Lohanthony. Many of his fans are themselves young queer people who grew up (and out of the closet) alongside of him.

That all changed this past weekend when Quintal — his popular YouTube channel long dormant and scrubbed of its past content — reemerged with a video that left many people disturbed, confused, and heartbroken. In the video, Quintal claims to embrace “Christian celibacy” and decries a “decade-long search for gay love that would ultimately end with disappointment … a voice, which was later filled by Jesus Christ.” He goes on to reference a terrible incident where he was sexually abused by an older boy, and among other things, says he was addicted to alcohol, money, and attention.

What I saw is what a lot of people also claim to have seen: a boy in pain. Many people asked if this is proof that Quintal was subjected to conversion therapy, the discredited and debunked practice of using emotional and physical abuse to get someone to change their sexual orientation or gender expression. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if Quintal was sent to a facility or a camp where this practice is done (yes, it still persists). Conversion therapy is not contained to a camp or doctor’s office or church — conversion therapy is any act of pressuring someone to annihilate their own queerness, and in my eyes, Quintal has done exactly that.

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Quintal’s video bears all the dog whistle hallmarks of conversion therapy, even if he doesn’t come right out and say the words, “I am not gay anymore.” It’s common practice for conversion therapy to draw a firm, yet blurry line between sexual abuse and queerness. It’s also common to talk on and on about addiction in the same breath as queerness; that someone seeks out relationships with men and is also addicted to alcohol, drugs, or whatever else, as if the two things are related in any way. They’re not related. But conversion therapy cynically lumps them together in talking points, so that the mind will conflate the two — addiction and queerness — like the world’s most depressing word cloud.

In conversion therapy, queer participants are asked (forced) to create a kind of emotional map. For example, draw your family tree and list every bad thing you and your family members have ever done, as well as any addictions or incidents of abuse you’ve dealt with. The idea is to cement in the queer person’s mind that their queerness is just another one of these things that belongs on that map. But as they say in Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others.

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I know this because I’ve spent the past seven years researching conversion therapy for my young adult novel, Surrender Your Sons. In that time, I interviewed conversion survivors, one of whom was Garrard Conley, the author behind the bestselling memoir Boy Erased. It was Garrard who explained to me that conversion therapy doesn’t have to be contained to a place. That is conversion therapy’s sinister power. It can be in your school. It can be in your home. It can even be in yourself, if you manage to convince yourself that your queerness is the cause of your problems. It can be everywhere, and because it can be everywhere, it can’t be eradicated. We can — and must — pass legislation that forbids the practice. Organizations like Born Perfect and The Trevor Project have been titanically successful in beating it back. But the story of Anthony Quintal shook me because it’s a reminder that conversion therapy can reach any of us if it finds us at the right time and place.

I can’t imagine the hardships Quintal has struggled with, and to do so with over a million Instagram followers watching. Lohanthony came about in the age of It Gets Better, and it’s heartbreaking to see someone out go back in. I don’t know who put the bug in his ear that made him seemingly unravel everything he knew he was just a few years ago. Sometimes, the culprit is just plain old society. What I do know is that Quintal needs your care and concern, not scorn and jokes. This part is tricky because the agents of conversion therapy now have a platform with over a million followers, many of whom love Lohanthony. Will most of his followers recognize his message as false and reject it? Probably. Could there be a few vulnerable young queers watching who might take these messages to heart? Why not? Lohanthony is a young queer and he took someone else’s messages to heart.

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A still from Boy, Erased

When we say queer people are a vulnerable population, we mean it. What’s happening with Lohanthony is simply very, very sad. There’s no more elegant way to say it. It sucks, and it’s sad. So many of us are asking, “How could this happen?” More importantly, how can we help him? Short answer: I don’t know. Long answer: send him queer-affirming messages. He might never respond, but maybe he’s watching. Post them in the comments of his videos, because someone else might be watching. And when the day comes that Lohanthony comes back to the light, embrace him. No jokes. No hate. Just love.

It got better, then it got worse, but it can get better again.


About the Author:

Adam Sass began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. (He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte.) Raised in an Illinois farm town, his desire for a creative career took him to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and currently, North Carolina, where he lives with his husband and dachshunds. When he’s not dropping hot takes on Twitter, Adam is a recurring co-host on the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast @Slayerfest98. Surrender Your Sons is his first novel.

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com

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Written by

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit for our publication? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

MatthewsPlace.com

Written by

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

Matthew’s Place

MatthewsPlace.com is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation| Words by & for LGBTQ+ youth | #EraseHate | Want to submit for our publication? Email sara@matthewshepard.org

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