When author Peter Gajdics was 23 years old, he came out to his parents. It didn't go well. His parents' wholesale rejection of his sexuality, combined with an incident of childhood sexual abuse, led him into the hands of a Vancouver psychiatrist hell-bent on "curing" him of his homosexuality.
For six years, the psychiatrist tried all sorts of stuff. First, he persuaded Peter into believing the molestation was what had, in large part, "turned him gay." The doctor then enlisted Peter in an intense and bizarre form of primal scream therapy that would supposedly let him access early memories and override his identity. In addition, he kept Peter plied with dangerously high doses of psychiatric drugs, and stuck him in a home with other primal-therapy patients, insisting that Peter cut ties with his family and friends — and to think of the doctor as his new "daddy." All the while, or for much of it anyway, Peter actually did trust his doctor; he may even have loved him.
All this is to say that, if anyone was going to get Peter to turn away from his homosexual urges, it was this crazy bastard. And yet, when Peter walked away from his tormentor — a move that, at that low point in his life, took incredible strength — he possessed the same attraction to men he always had.
The only thing the doctor had managed to take away was Peter's freedom — something he never should have been allowed to do in the first place.
Which brings me to this:
Today, because of Peter's own personal lobbying efforts, the city of Vancouver became the first city in Canada to ban all forms of conversion therapy for both minors and adults. In a unanimous vote, the Vancouver City Council put an end to businesses that engage in the "practice of 'conversion therapy' or 'reparative therapy,' pseudo-scientific techniques that attempt to persuade persons to change their sexual orientation or gender identity."
You can watch the video here.
Because of Peter's willingness to tell his story publicly, an untold number of Vancouver citizens will be spared the torment he went through. I cannot even imagine how healing that must be for him.
You can read all about the ban, and Peter's efforts, in a number of media outlets — including the following: PBS NewsHour, The Toronto Star, CBC, Georgia Straight, On Top Magazine, and News1130. Also, McClean's has just published an op-ed by Peter. You can read it here. (I'll add links to more stories as they come in.)
Part of the Brown Paper Press mission statement reads: "We champion authors with new perspectives, strong voices and original ideas that just might change the world."
I've gone back and forth on those last six words countless times in the last four years. That just might change the world. It's an ambitious statement, yes, but is it also naive? What does it look like to "change the world" anyway?
Today is the day I stop questioning that word choice. In my view, Peter Gajdics has single-handedly made our mission statement verifiably true. Thank you, Peter, for using your story to change the world — one city at a time.