Boy Erased: Is Love in Action a Real Organization? Does it Still Exist?

Joel Edgerton’s drama film ‘Boy Erased’ revolves around Jared Eamons, a young gay man who is sent to a Christian organization named Love in Action in Memphis, Tennessee, for a gay conversion therapy assessment program. At the establishment, Jared and other queer participants get shamed for being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. The custodians of Love in Action make them believe that it is possible to “convert” to a heterosexual.

The film progresses through Jared’s efforts to learn more about the organization and his attempts to escape from the same. Moved by Jared’s tale, we have found out whether the organization has a real-life counterpart. Well, here’s what we can share about the same! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Is Love in Action a Real Organization?

Yes, Love in Action (LIA) is based on a real organization. The real-life group was an ex-gay Christian ministry founded in 1973 by Frank Worthen, John Evans, and Kent Philpott. Love in Action was infamous for gay conversion therapy programs. “I hope we can help men and women overcome… mindsets counterproductive to their walk in Christ,” John Smid, the inspiration behind the character Victor Sykes and a former director of the organization, said about the therapy program at Love in Action, which was known as the “Refuge.” As per reports, LIA considered attraction and feelings towards same-sex individuals “unhappiness, isolation, and death.”

In 1975, co-founder John Evans left the ministry reportedly after a friend killed himself because the latter couldn’t convert to a heterosexual. “They [LIA] are destroying people’s lives. If you don’t do their thing, you’re not of God, you’ll go to hell. They’re living in a fantasy world,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 1993. Garrard Conley, the inspiration behind the protagonist Jared, arrived in Love in Action in 2004. “You feel like it’s life and death at every moment,” Garrard told People about his experience at the LIA center.

Garrard was shamed for being gay at LIA. “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.’ […] It felt like complete hopelessness,” he added in the same People interview. He also revealed in the same interview that patients were subjected to physical abuse. “Various bloggers have since approximated the number of suicides resulting from LIA’s treatment as anywhere from twenty to thirty cases, though figures like these are impossible to pin down,” Garrard wrote in ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir,” the source text of Edgerton’s film.

Garrard put an end to his conversion therapy at LIA after getting asked to proclaim that he hated his father looking at an empty chair that represented the latter. “They were just so angry that I wouldn’t do it. I was thinking to myself, ‘This is a Christian institution, and they want me to say that I hate someone, in order to be cured.’ That seems like the opposite of what Christianity is supposed to be,” he added to People. In 2007, LIA discontinued the Refuge program. In the following year, Smid left the ministry.

Does Love in Action Still Exist?

Love in Action was renamed Restoration Path in 2012. However, the ministry seemingly didn’t last long after the change of name. According to reports, the organization was eventually dissolved. “Exodus International, the umbrella company Love in Action worked under, will disband, and in its wake, only a few ex-gay facilities will continue their operations, none of them ever as big or prevalent as Love in Action, though a few dogged evangelicals will export ex-gay thinking to places like Uganda,” Garrard revealed in ‘Boy Erased: A Memoir.” As of now, the organization’s website and Facebook profile are offline as well.

Read More: Is Victor Sykes Based on a Real Person? Where is John Smid Now?