For Alyson Stoner, experiencing conversion therapy was such a difficult chapter in her life that her legs start shaking at the thought of reliving it.
During a Facebook Live interview with Insider on June 28, the 27-year-old former Disney child star, who rose to fame with roles in Cheaper by the Dozen and Step Up, reflected on her experience with conversion therapy before coming out as pansexual. “I did go to a form of conversion therapy. I admitted myself to kind of an outpatient variation,” she explained, “because I didn’t feel safe being in the public eye letting people know I’m trying to do this, I’m dealing with this.”
She also revisited how she felt at the time and how those in her religious community affected her. “I felt stuck. I felt wretched. 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 and everything good and true and to be an ambassador of love, to let my life express all of these beautiful truths,” Stoner continued. “So to hear from people you trust, from people you respect, from people you might even aspire to become, when they say that you at your core are ‘rotten,’ ‘abominable,’ that the devil has a target on your back because of your position in Hollywood and so you can’t let this put out your light—it just sends you into a spiral, at least for me, because I just wanted to do the right thing.”
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Stoner was reluctant to get into any specific details about that experience, including when she attempted the conversion therapy. “My mind doesn’t want to even go there. My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it,” she said. “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.”
The negative impact did not stop there. “It severs the mind-body connection because I see the body as something that is shameful, that is not to be trusted and it actually ends up messing with my ability to foster genuine relationships with others and myself,” she noted, “because now I’m suppressing a voice. I’m trying to change something that is what I now understand very natural.”
Ultimately, the star was “trying to be something I’m not,” which, as she acknowledged, can have major repercussions. “That is so draining—at the surface at least it’s draining, at most it can lead to people taking their own lives because they don’t feel like they have anywhere to belong, they feel like they don’t matter, they feel like there’s no hope, they feel alone.”
While “the dangers are measurable,” she said, there are risks for those who survive it, too. “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 continued. “And if you don’t have access to a ton of support and you’re navigating that alone, it is heavy. It is hard, so yes, I’m not capable yet of going back and recounting specifics, which is an indicator of just how difficult that chapter was for me.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).