Directed by Joel Edgerton, Focus Features’ drama film ‘Boy Erased’ revolves around Jared Eamons, the son of a Baptist preacher who gets forced to take part in a gay conversion therapy assessment program conducted by Love in Action. Jared, a gay individual, is given “guidance” to become heterosexual by Victor Sykes, who mainly conducts and oversees the therapy sessions. The film progresses through Jared’s efforts to accept his sexuality in front of his parents and attempts to run away from the therapy program. Affected by Jared’s moving life saga, we found out whether the character is based on a real person. Well, let us share our findings!
Is Jared Eamons a Real Person?
The character Jared Eamons is based on Garrard Conley, an author and LGBTQIA+ activist. He was born to a Southern Baptist preacher named Hershel and Martha Conley. While growing up, Garrard tried to ignore his attraction toward men. “I had known since third grade that I had an attraction to men. But I think because we were raised in the church, you believe that life is full of temptation. So just having that thought or that feeling is just another temptation, and you ignore it,” he told People. He was outed as gay when he was in college by a fellow student who raped him, according to his book ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir,’ the source material of the movie.
Garrard’s parents were stunned by the revelation, only for Hershel to consult other ministers, who recommended Love in Action. While attending gay-conversion therapy (also called “reparative therapy”) at Love in Action, Garrard said he was shamed for being gay. “It was a lot of shaming. It was lots of fear. You had to really express things that you’d never expressed before. And then you were told, after you expressed them, ‘This is disgusting, this is vile,’” he added. Garrard stated he decided he should leave the institution when John Smid, the director of the institution and the inspiration behind the character Victor Sykes, asked him to say that he hated his father.
Garrard couldn’t understand how people who ran a Christian institution could ask someone to hate to be “cured.” He then called his mother, Martha, and asked her to take him away from the institution. Martha came to the institution and asked her son whether he was going to kill himself, only for him to respond “yes,” according to the latter’s memoir. Martha put an end to Garrard’s therapy despite Hershel’s opposition. “My mom saved my life. If she’d hesitated, if she’d said, ‘Maybe you should try it, stick it out,’ I think I would have gone back. But she decided to take us home,” he said in the same interview with People.
Where is Garrard Conley Now?
Garrard Conley now lives in New York City with his husband, Shahab, a software engineer. He is working as an assistant professor of creative writing at Kennesaw State University, located in Kennesaw, Georgia. After “escaping” Love in Action, Garrard attended Auburn University, Alabama, and received a Master’s degree in English language and literature/letters. He then attended Brooklyn College, New York City, to complete his post-graduation in creative writing. Garrard published his memoir, ‘Boy Erased,’ in 2016.
Garrard’s relationship with his father, Hershel, after discontinuing the therapy program at Love in Action, was rocky at first but they “found ways around it through the years,” as per the aforementioned People interview. After receiving his first Master’s degree, Garrard worked at the American College of Sofia, Bulgaria, as an IB English instructor. He then worked in Boston-based GrubStreet, a non-profit creative writing center, as a memoir incubator instructor. He has been working at Kennesaw State University since July 2020.
Interestingly, Garrard was involved in the making of Edgerton’s ‘Boy Erased’ as a consultant. He approved the script the actor-director wrote and kept in touch with the latter throughout the production of the film. The author even visited the filming sets of the movie with his mother Martha. In 2018, Garrard released a podcast titled ‘UnErased: The History of Conversion Therapy in America,’ exploring his personal experiences and the history of conversion therapy in the country. He is also an eminent speaker as he has been presenting his life story in national and international venues to raise awareness concerning conversion therapy and LGBTQIA+ rights.
Garrard is a well-regarded LGBTQIA+ activist as well. “We’re getting so close to the finish line that I’m becoming more radical and more of an activist each day,” he told Esquire in 2018 while talking about fighting for queer rights. Garrard recently completed his debut novel, titled ‘All the World Beside.’ The novel is a love story between two men in Puritan New England. It is expected to be published on March 26, 2024, by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group.
Read More: Is Boy Erased Based on a True Story?