Emily Danforth’s groundbreaking 2012 fiction book The Miseducation of Cameron Post shined an important light onto the experiences of LGBTQ teens forced into so-called anti-gay conversion therapy. Unfortunately, the film adaptation by Desiree Akhavan, out this week, remains just as relevant.
The fictional and empowering book and film tell the story of Cameron Post, brought to life by Chloe Moretz, who faces down the emotional abuse of anti-gay conversion therapy at a program called God’s Promise with the support of a group of sarcastic and headstrong teens—Jane, played by Sasha Lane, and Adam, portrayed by Forrest Goodluck.
God’s Promise helps teens, now rebranded as “disciples,” struggling with what they call “Same-Sex Attraction” (SSA). Upon arrival, each “disciple” has to fill out an iceberg; the tip is SSA, and the bottom are its “causes”—confusion of gender identity, or bonding with the wrong parent. “My parents are dead,” Cameron remarks at the task. Jane doesn’t miss a minute: “That should probably go on your iceberg,” she tells her.
Despite the levity of the film’s depiction of teen spirit, its adjacent subject matter is very serious. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia have bans against conversion therapy—New Jersey, California, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire and Delaware—and 68 percent of LGBTQ teens live in states without such protections.
Survivors of conversion programs are at accelerated risk of suicide and depression—so much so that suicide is sometimes referenced as a “side effect” of enrollment. (When one of the disciples has an “accident” and hurts himself, Cameron realizes: “You people have no idea what you’re doing, do you? You’re just making it up as you go along.”)
Akhavan and Moretz met with survivors of conversion therapy in preparation for the film. “One of the boys I met was 25 and half-Persian,” Akhavan told i-D. “It broke my heart. He was in the New York area, and it was horrifying the things they did to him. They put him on viagra as a teenager so he could fuck girls. Like, a teenage boy on viagra. Legally you can’t do that, so his father would take out the viagra. It’s like a fucking horror story.”
When Danforth’s book was released, a nationwide movement to end anti-gay programs like the fictional God’s Promise was gaining ground. Six years later, a politician who has spoken out in favor of the horrific practice is the Vice President. That’s why it’s key that no matter how many hilarious Christian rock concert scenes and witty one liners viewers find themselves laughing at during Miseducation, the film never lets you forget the horrors of what these kids are going through.
As Jane says: “I didn’t have a choice. Did you?”
Amy DePoy is a student at Yale University and an editorial intern at Ms. She loves feminism, reading and writing. She also loves all fruits, but especially strawberries.