When things first started going great in Matthew Scott Montgomery's career — appearing on Disney Channel six days a week on shows like Shake It Up, Sonny with a Chance, and So Random — he was secretly going to gay conversion therapy on his days off.
"Disney was always really great to me. Disney had nothing to do with it, it was not their idea," Montgomery noted about his involvement with conversion therapy. "They didn't know, no one knew, my cast mates didn't know at the time."
Christy Carlson Romano/ Youtube Matthew Scott Montgomery
Montgomery recalled growing up in North Carolina with "very, very conservative" parents who taught him to believe that "gay people are the most evil thing that could possibly exist."
He learned to act by passing as straight and, as soon as he could, took his talents to NYU, where after six weeks he was encouraged to try his hand at LA. Shortly after moving to the west coast, Montgomery was cast in a play that would change his life, Yellow by Del Shores, in which he portrayed a gay character who gets abused and kicked out of his house — which in turn led to him coming out to his parents.
They did not take it well. His mother collapsed in tears while his father set him up with conversion therapy. Having grown up indoctrinated with guilt and the idea that he was always deserving of punishment, Montgomery decided to attend the therapy sessions.
Meanwhile, Yellow led to him being cast in Shake It Up for Disney, then Sonny with a Chance, and So Random. Montgomery would go to conversion therapy on his days off as punishment for the success he didn't think he deserved.
Montgomery describes the center he went to as a place specifically for "gay men who wanted to be turned from gay to straight and make it as a straight movie star." The center would give him homework every night; one assignment was to play football, another involved him apologizing to his dad for being "sensitive" and "artistic."
The therapy sessions grew more intense to include electro shock therapy, until one day Montgomery "just kind of woke up" and decided he didn't want to endure it anymore.
Montgomery believes acting ultimately saved him, particularly the redemption of his character in Yellow, who is eventually adopted by a family that loves him.
"I think that was the therapy that I actually needed," he explained, "because I got the experience of what it was like to have a family not only love me but celebrate me and really accept me."
"Demi's family. That's my family, that's my soulmate," Montgomery said. "That's the person who loves me the deepest. At that point, I was able to begin to carefully curate a life that was filled with love and art and expression that was satisfying me."
And to anyone considering conversion therapy, Montgomery has a simple message: "There's nothing wrong with you. There's not a thing in the world wrong with you. You are loved. You deserve to have a perfect beautiful life."
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