Voice of an LGBTQ+ Survivor

My experience at Kanakuk as a gay teenager shattered my sense of self and seriously compromised my wellbeing and mental health. After confessing that I experienced same sex attraction to my counselor out of immense guilt cultivated by the many fire and brimstone sermons targeting the LGBTQ+ community, I was subjected to dehumanization and tactics considered to be a form of conversion therapy. Leadership threatened to tell my parents and kick me out of the camp and forced me to meet with a member of leadership daily who shamed me, dehumanized me, and attempted to pressure me to change my sexual orientation. Additionally, I was forced to shower separately from the girls in my cabin. Even before I told a counselor about my sexuality, I relapsed with self harming because of the immense shame the sermons triggered in me. Those self harming behaviors got worse after leadership found out about my sexuality and I went on to suffer a serious mental health crisis after I left camp caused by immense self hatred. While the mental health struggles I continue to experience now are not rooted in Kanakuk’s treatment of my sexuality, the effects of self hatred caused by dehumanization, threats of going to hell, and shame still are an undercurrent in my life. I ultimately left the Christian faith because I couldn’t reconcile the faith with how I was treated and because I could no longer (and still really can’t) enter a Church or a Christian gathering without feeling immense anxiety, often to the point of panic attacks.

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