By Mahita Gajanan
September 4, 2019

A founder and former leader of a South Carolina faith-based conversion therapy program has come out as gay.

McKrae Game, 51, is speaking out in a new interview after he announced he was gay in June, about two years after he was fired from Hope for Wholeness, the conversion therapy program he founded in 1999. Like other conversion therapy programs around the U.S., the program aimed to rid a person of their LGBTQ identity through counseling.

Game has disavowed the program’s practices since coming out publicly (though a biography still listed for him on Hope for Wholeness’s website claims he had “lived as a gay man for three years” before founding his ministry.)

“Conversion therapy is not just a lie, but it’s very harmful,” he told The Post and Courier. “Because it’s false advertising.”

Over the course of his career with Hope for Wholeness, Game was open about experiencing attraction to other men and wrote about his struggle with watching gay pornography. He was fired in November 2017, and said in a Facebook Live video posted on Tuesday that he believed his use of pornography led to being let go from the program.

“I was devastated to say the least, and humiliated. I really did not want to come out about that publicly at the time,” he said.

As a practice, conversion therapy has been widely discredited by health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association. Attempts at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity are linked with mental health trauma, including thoughts of suicide.

Though roundly condemned by medical professionals, conversion therapy remains in practice in much of the U.S. About 698,000 LGBTQ adults in the U.S. have received conversion therapy, according to a 2018 study from UCLA’s Williams Institute. Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. currently ban conversion therapy for minors, according to the think tank Movement Advancement Project. South Carolina, Game’s home state, is not among the ones that ban the practice.

Game is now trying to apologize for his work in suppressing other people’s identities. His coming out follows similar declarations from other former conversion therapy leaders. Earlier this year, David Matheson, a well-known former Mormon conversion therapist, said he was gay.

On Facebook, Game has written several posts about his experiences since coming out and expressed sorrow for the harm he’d caused to others. “I know that creating creating the organization that still lives was in a large way causing harm,” Game wrote in a post in September.

Later, he told the The Post and Courier: “I was a religious zealot that hurt people. People said they attempted suicide over me and the things I said to them. People, I know, are in therapy because of me. Why would I want that to continue?”

Hope for Wholeness did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment.

 

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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