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Gay man who survived conversion therapy tells his story in book ‘The Inheritance of Shame’

LONG BEACH — When Peter Gajdics, 24, told his Catholic parents he is gay, their rejection of his “sinful lifestyle” sent him into a tailspin of addiction and depression.

Adding insult to injury,  Gajdics met a licensed psychiatrist near his Canadian hometown who said he would “cure” Gajdics’ homosexuality. (Yeah. We know this isn’t going to end well.) Gajdics was lured into a barbaric, junk science method known as conversion therapy that lasted six years. Ultimately, Gajdics says severed ties with the manipulative psychiatrist and his cult-like setting.

In his book “The Inheritance of Shame,” Peter Gajdics recounts his ordeal in conversion therapy, which he describes as “sexuality abuse” and “prolonged torture,” and how he coped with the damaging repercussions. Photo: Peter Gajdics.

‘THE INHERITANCE OF SHAME’

Gajdics, now 52, recounts his ordeal, which he describes as “sexuality abuse” and “prolonged torture,” and how he coped with the damaging repercussions of conversion therapy in his book “The Inheritance of Shame.”

Gajdics and Ellen Hartwick, clinical director of The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, will participate in a discussion on conversion therapy at the Art Theatre of Long Beach at 7 p.m. tonight. The conversation will be preceded by a screening of “Call Me Kuchu,” a 2012 documentary about openly gay activists in Uganda working to defeat legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by death.

Gajdics also will discuss his book on Friday at Book Soup in West Hollywood.

RELATED: California ban on conversion therapy upheld U.S. Supreme Court

CONVERSION THERAPY

The therapy is also called “pray the gay away” and “ex-gay conversion therapy.”

It became infamous after the 2007 “South Park” episode “Cartman Sucks.” Butters Stotch’s parents thought he was “bi-curious” and sent to him a pray-the-gay-away camp, where several youth committed suicide after being told they were sexually confused.

Gajdics suffered a form of conversion therapy that wasn’t based on religious grounds, but did consider homosexuality an error that could be fixed.

RELATED: Conversion therapy for LGBTQ people would be outlawed under federal bill

Gajdics was raised in British Columbia by a mother who survived a communist concentration camp and a father who was orphaned as a child in war-torn Hungary. Their Catholic faith, which grew stronger after their move to Canada, led them to reject their son’s homosexuality.

RELATED: Ex-gay therapy horrors spotlighted in ‘Kidnapped for Christ’ film

DOCTOR SUED FOR MALPRACTICE

Gajdics sought help from a psychiatrist who medicated and put him through an experimental form of primal therapy that sought to regress him emotionally to a childlike state so that he could be “re-parented” in a supposedly healthy way. The psychiatrist told Gajdics this treatment would “cure” his homosexuality.

Gajdics eventually sued the doctor for malpractice and reached an out of court settlement

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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