By Alex Cooper with Joanna Brooks
Published by Harper One, an Imprint of Harper Collins
A tightly-knit religious community can have its advantages. They can organize in a crisis, and neighbors can develop a sense of loyalty to each other.
The downside is when religious doctrine is wrong, and the community runs a mile defending it — at the expense of human decency. That’s when the atmosphere turns cult-like.
Alex Cooper came out as a lesbian to her Southern California parents when she was fifteen. Her Mormon parents believed homosexuality was a sin, and to rescue her soul they got a referral to charlatans in Utah who promised to set Alex “straight.”
For an extended period of time, Alex stayed in the home of a couple who had no credentials and no permit to run a treatment facility. They had clout in their community, though, so no one intervened even when they were obviously committing acts of torture.
“We know everyone. It’s just your word against ours,” one of them warned Alex when she arrived, and that warning was repeated later when she tried to get help.
If you’re skeptical that any person without celebrity status can “know everyone,” that’s one good reason to read this book (there are other good reasons, too). Some amoral individuals spend years or decades getting acquainted with as many people as possible, and saying/doing just the right things to build clout. Personally, I used to know someone who did that, and I saw what he got away with. Those people are real.
Alex Cooper’s memoir is a personal account of the basic things happening in so-called reparative therapy for teenagers: The good cop-bad cop behavior on the part of abusers, unconditional trust the abusers receive from parents, the ways victims who are housed together are encouraged to inform on each other, and the sense of hopelessness that results from the constant pressure.
In under 250 pages, Alex Cooper and her co-author describe how her life changed after she decided on the spur of the moment to tell her parents she was gay, and how she has salvaged her life and her relationship with her parents since. After reading the book, I still had a few questions. However, we can and should respect the author’s right not to share every bit of dirty laundry.
Alex Cooper had an unlikely court victory in Utah after she escaped from her tormentors. If you read this book, please think of the invisible children and teenagers who cannot find protection from monsters who claim to be helping them. If they survive the initial brutality, some of those young people will eventually pull themselves together with or without support, some will become semi-functional walking wounded, some will end up on the street or in prisons or hospitals, and some will commit suicide.
Here’s a link to the book’s official website. It has information on finding support for LGBT youth and their families: