Daniel Franzese is finally ready to open up about his unusual experience with conversion therapy.
In a conversation with Page Six published Tuesday, the Mean Girls star revealed the surprising truth about his past experiences with the horrific practice at just 21 years old. For those who don’t know, conversion therapy is the use of emotional and sometimes physical therapy to “cure” queer individuals of their same-sex desires and gender identity expression. In practice, this often amounts to torturing someone until their mind breaks.
There is no evidence to support that this practice actually works, and it is often tied to religious and conservative institutions with the goal of marginalizing and punishing affected individuals, historically with extreme methods.
Daniel’s entry into conversion therapy is one you don’t hear about often — as he wasn’t pushed into it by family or church. He chose it.
He explained to the outlet that he forced himself into the highly controversial therapy with the end goal of “converting” himself from gay to straight, revealing that he “didn’t want to be gay,” and “didn’t know what to do.” Daniel added that while he felt “lovingly tolerated” by his Catholic and Pentecostal Christian family, “the world around” him made him “feel like being gay was not ok.”
So sad that our society makes people feel like they can’t be themselves!
What followed was six months with a conversion therapist who was recommended to his grandmother by her pastor. The now 44-year-old explained:
“I went to one-on-one therapy sessions with a person who was trying to change me straight and make me pray the gay away and alienate all my allies.”
That sounds horrible — not only does the therapy make you reject your own truth, but it forces you to reject the people who support you for being you! Most shockingly, he revealed he was “brainwashed” into confronting his mother:
“They told me to tell my mom that my mom was the reason that I was leaning toward bisexual thoughts or whatever because she was so open. They made me come out to my mom, who was literally like my best ally, and say, ‘It’s your fault.’”
The confrontation led to a falling out with his mother, who was “so hurt” — they didn’t talk for two whole months. Heartbreaking… For the mom as well who did nothing but love her son exactly how he was!
However, the comedian eventually found his way. He revealed the exact session in which he quit it all:
“I was, like, scared. And [my therapist] was like, ‘What are you afraid of?’ And I was like, ‘I’m afraid I’m gonna go to hell.’ And he was like, ‘You can be [sucking a d**k], and the second coming of Christ could happen, and you’re not gonna go to hell if you love God. That’s not what it is.’”
Sorry, we can’t help but laugh at the imagery there! So then what exactly was the point of Daniel’s six-month journey?
The real moment of clarity came from what was meant to be inspiring. See, Daniel was sure his therapist was “SO gay, like gay.com.org.edu.” And when this man finally confessed that he “used to be gay,” but no longer was (right…) and was now married to a woman, it was enough for Daniel to bid his farewells to conversion therapy.
Wow. His family loved and supported him, but he couldn’t see it because of what the world made him feel about himself. He had to see someone else who had truly erased their identity to realize what he was doing to himself. So moving. We guess, in a way, conversion therapy did help… in a completely accidental way, at least.
Following that realization, Daniel reconciled with his mother and strengthened their relationship. Yay!
Years later, in 2014 — on the 10th anniversary of Mean Girls, a movie where Daniel played an iconic gay teen — he received a fan letter, which he paraphrased:
“I don’t know if you’re gay or not, and it doesn’t matter, but when I was in eighth grade, I was beat up for being chubby, and I was tortured every day for being a sissy. And then your movie came out. And then on the first day of my freshman year in ninth grade, the popular senior girls walked up to me and said, ‘You’re like Damian! Come sit with us.’ You made me popular in high school. Thank you for giving me something in media that I can point to and say, ‘That’s me, and I’m proud.’”
Representation matters! Daniel revealed that the letter gave him the confidence to come out publicly. He explained:
“I was just missing one person that told me that I could do that. I could be who I want to be and do what I want to do.”
As of now, Daniel is finishing up his highly anticipated play titled Italian Mom Loves You! while performing stand-up comedy tours and co-hosting Yass, Jesus! – “a faith and sexuality affirming comedy podcast that believes you don’t have to pick between gay and God.” AH-Mazing!
You go, Glen Coco!
What are your thoughts on Daniel’s story, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments (below)!
[Image via Daniel Franzese/Instagram & MOVIE CLIPS/YouTube]