Cooper, Alex with Joanna Brooks. “Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began”, HarperOne, 2016.
Mormonism and “Faith”
In Alex Cooper’s life all was going fine when she was fifteen years old. She came from a good Mormon family and they lived quietly in a suburban town and she had taught that it is God’s plan that rules our lives and that God has a plan for everyone. However, Alex began to wonder what was the plan that God had for her and if it included these new feelings she had for Yvette, a girl who made her happy and with whom she was falling in love. This was her secret and a secret that could wreck her family, her church and her life. Alex could not hold it in and she told her parents that she was gay and, as we can imagine, all hell broke lose. Alex was driven from Southern California to Utah, where, against her will, she was given over (by her parents) to fellow Mormons who promised to save Alex from her homosexuality.
For eight months, Alex was held captive in an unlicensed “residential treatment program” that was the same model as other places of this kind (boot camps) that were all over the state of Utah. There she was physically and verbally abused and on many days she was forced to stand facing a wall wearing a heavy backpack filled of rocks. Faith was used to punish and terrorize her. However, Alex was lucky in that with the help of a dedicated legal team in Salt Lake City, she escaped and made legal history in Utah by winning the right to live under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager.
Whenever I read or hear a story like this I can only wonder about the parents who brought the child into the world and their religion that allows such behavior. I was raised in a religious Jewish home and while it was not easy to discuss sexuality with my parents, they were eventually able to understand that we loved each other and that religion had nothing to do with sexuality.
Alex is not alone; we hear stories like this all the time but perhaps now that something has been done about what is called “gay conversion therapy” and sexual rehabilitation centers who claimed that they could save people from their sexuality. Just reading that sentence shows how ridiculous the idea is and I am really not sure what saving someone from his/her sexuality means. Alex’s story was written in the hopes that it will bring awareness and justice to this issue and we see, that even among the young, we often to fight for freedom, acceptance and above all, truth.
“When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began” is the subtitle of the book and while at first we might take that subtitles to not be serious, we realize that it is indeed very serious. Everyone who deals with coming out also deals with fear but here that fear became serious punishment and cruel behavior by Alex’s parents who brought her into the world and supposedly loved her until… and from that point she went into eight months of total abuse.
We feel her strength through her writing that is filled with emotion that she passes on to her readers. This is not the first time that I have heard of what goes on in these bogus rehabilitation centers but it is the first time that I read about a girl having to deal with this foolishness. The very thought that someone believes (or doesn’t believe) that change is possible is ridiculous and absurd. What is even worse is that there are those who are subjected to it. Not many who go through this come out as strong as Alex Cooper.
This is a very important book about a very important topic but I doubt that those who need to read it will do so. Everyone must understand that sexuality is not chosen and that it can be very difficult to be unlike others. Alex issues a challenge to us to help stop this foolishness and it is our responsibility to listen to her. She got out of it before she was permanently damaged but she is one of the few who did so.