Quebecer who underwent gay conversion therapy calls for more awareness, love
'Being Christian and being gay was not an option in my community,' Gabriel Nadeau recalls
For a long time, Gabriel Nadeau rejected his sexual orientation.
He grew up in a strict religious community in Chambly, Que., where he had limited exposure to the wider world. He, and the people around him, thought his homosexuality was a demon living inside him.
"I didn't want to be gay. Being Christian and being gay was not an option in my community," Nadeau, now 23, told CBC Breakaway's Saroja Coelho.
So, when he was 12, Nadeau told his parents he was gay, and that he didn't want to be.
His conversion therapy started then. Nadeau's church believed it would save him.
"Some Christians believe that homosexuality is a demon, so basically you need to go through an exorcism session to be free of homosexuality," Nadeau explained.
Banned in Ontario
In 2015, Ontario became the first province in Canada to ban conversion therapy for people under the age of 18. In Quebec, and most of the country, it has not been banned.
Conversion therapy is a widely discredited practice of attempting to change a patient's sexual orientation or gender identity through counselling, behaviour modification and even medication.
The practice is often linked to religious groups but can be rooted in psychiatry and psychology.
Many professional medical and mental health organizations oppose the practice of sexual orientation change therapy because studies have not shown it to be effective and have shown it can cause psychological harm.
During therapy session, Nadeau said he was held down to a table by four people there to "contain" him in order to release the "homosexuality spirit" inside him.
He was made to drink olive oil, then the pastor shouted gut-wrenching words in his ears for about 30 minutes, Nadeau said.
"Not talking to me, but talking to the spirit inside of me," he said.
He went through the process twice more after his first treatment at 12 — at 16 and again at 18.
Now, Nadeau speaks out about his experiences. He wants people who are in the same situation as he was to know that they're not alone, and he wants people to know that it's still happening.
"I want those people to know that it's ok to be who they are. I just wish that they stop rejecting themselves, and [start] loving themselves and loving who they want to love," Nadeau said.
As soon as he realized he wasn't going to be part of the church anymore, he shared his story on Facebook.
"I felt like I didn't have anything to hide."
Nadeau spoke to CBC's Breakaway on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
It represents the day the World Health Organization pulled homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1990.
In Quebec, rainbow flags flew in Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City to mark the day.
With files from CBC Breakaway