"It's not really scary," Brad says. "None of this is scary."
May 5, 2016 9:10 AM   Subscribe

"Safety Rope," an achingly beautiful essay by Garrard Conley: "No touching unless he touches you. No touching where people can see. No touching unless dared to touch. Brad makes the rules, but never says them aloud. One, two, three. Brad and I don't leave our hands down there for more than a few seconds. When I say my prayers at night, I pretend to be penitent, but I'm secretly happy for the betrayal."

Conley was recently interviewed by OUT, Michigan Quarterly Review, and the American College of Sofia about his experiences with so-called "conversion therapy." The "ex-gay" camp Conley's parents sent him to (currently known as Restoration Path, formerly known as Love in Action) was the focus of a 2011 documentary: This Is What Love in Action Looks Like.

These experiences form the basis of Conley's upcoming memoir, Boy Erased. He considers "Safety Rope" to be a prequel to the events in his memoir, the first chapter of which is available at VQR Online.
posted by amnesia and magnets (5 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, wow. 'Achingly beautiful' is bang on. So much about his interactions with Brad is so very, very familiar. The rules, those situations where the other guy is experimenting and feeling out his boundaries and you're not, you are so not, and you have to pretend you are so it'll keep happening. I remember, vividly, being fourteen and with someone and we both stopped pretending and I want to be so nice to Brad that I can’t breathe is so true.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

He has a nice TEDx talk as well.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2016

The year I learned this system of touches, the news was still running wild with the Matthew Shepard story, digging into all the gory details, listing his injuries blow-by-blow and stringing the boy up like a martyred Christ. The details were almost always morbid. Had he made a pass at his two murderers, and how long did it take the murderers to respond? Had they led him on? Had they smiled at him? Had he smiled back?

“I’m not saying I support what they did to that boy,” a church deacon said during the height of the Shepard story coverage, “but if any man tried to make a pass at me, I’d bash his brains in.”

I watched how our townspeople reacted to that story, and calibrated my own reaction to suit theirs. If someone expressed sympathy, I would relax my posture, breathe easier. If someone expressed disgust, I would nod and try to look seriously disgusted. The rest of the time I tried to make my face look as neutral as possible, terrified someone would find me out and bash my brains in.

Ouch. That is so damn familiar it actually hurt to read. I'm so glad this isn't my life anymore and it makes me so sad for those who still feel they have to live this way.

That was such a well done piece. Thanks for sharing.
posted by This Guy at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow — really beautiful. I hope I remember to buy his memoir when it comes out.

Thank you for posting.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:42 AM on May 5, 2016

Ooh nevermind! It's available for pre-order on Amazon! I needed to read the [more inside].
posted by Zephyrial at 10:42 AM on May 5, 2016

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