Alyson Stoner is using her platform to shed light on several challenges the LGBTQ community faces regarding mental, emotional and physical well-being.
The 27-year-old former Disney star publicly came out as pansexual in 2018 when she penned an open letter for Teen Vogue. She also appeared in 2008’s “Camp Rock” alongside Demi Lovato, who recently revealed they are non-binary.
But before coming out, the child star checked herself into an “outpatient variation” of conversion therapy as she grappled with her sexuality and romantic feelings for a woman, causing her to question “whether my life was worth living.”
“I felt stuck. I felt wretched,” Stoner told Insider. “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. So 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.”
Years after leaving the “dangerous” conversion therapy, the actress still finds it “legitimately difficult” to talk about. “My mind doesn’t want to even go there,” she confessed. “My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it. 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 to society.”
Stoner admits conversion therapy, which is discredited by the World Health Organization and more than 60 health professional associations from over 20 countries, can lead people to feel ashamed of themselves, to feel as they don’t belong anywhere and have no value to society, which can spark suicidal thoughts and actions.
“It severs the mind-body connection because I see the body as something that is shameful, that is not to be trusted,” she said. “It actually ends up messing with my ability to foster genuine relationships with others and myself, because now I’m suppressing a voice. I’m trying to change something that is what I now understand [to be] very natural.”
A peer-reviewed study published by the Trevor Project in the American Journal of Public Health found that LGBTQ youth who were placed in conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.
“The dangers are measurable,” Stoner explains. “They are measurable. 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.”
Stoner, a health and wellness advocate focusing on the LGBTQ+ community, recently released a book, “Mind Body Pride,” which will donate 100% of the proceeds to support LGBTQIA+ youth wellness.
“I wrote ‘Mind Body Pride’ because LGBTQIA+ folks are not given proper health resources and safe spaces to understand and affirm our authentic humanity,” Stoner, who works with the United Nations, World Economic Forum, World Health Organization, TED and the Los Angeles LGBTQIA+ Center, told Teen Vogue. “The queer community faces unique challenges related to mental, emotional and physical health and there is currently a major gap in the wellness space that we need to address.”
More than 700,000 LGBTQ+ people have been subjected to conversion therapy, and an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ youth will experience this unproven therapy in coming years, according to studies by the UCLA Williams Institute.
It should be outlawed federally, but sadly conversion therapy is still legal in 30 states across the United States.