Wyatt will never forget the fateful day that, at 16 years old, his parents forced him to enroll in a boarding school. The Teen Reform School, located in Kanab, Utah, was the former town hospital converted into a place where parents sent their kids as an effort to “save them.” The boarding school practiced “conversion therapy,” or the discredited practice of trying to change an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Wyatt was the institution’s first and only patient. For months, he endured the school headmaster shoving images of people dying from AIDS patients in the 1980s while reinforcing that Wyatt would die alone if he continued to “choose” to be gay. The strategies for so-called “therapy” were cruel, including sleep deprivation, being forced to sleep on the floor, and aversion practices – but throughout all of them, Wyatt still knew he was gay.
To deal with the trauma of that year, Wyatt turned to drinking and illegal drugs, and he felt that nothing could suppress the pain. At 21, while in rehab, Wyatt discovered he was living with HIV. Rehab at Bridge House in New Orleans saved his life. As Wyatt found healing, he has begun to openly share his story where he now lives, Los Angeles. “There is power in sharing my story,” Wyatt said. Speaking up to others, blogging about it, and even sharing with members of Congress the dangers of conversion therapy has helped him and countless others. Now Wyatt has a message for others: “If you truly love your child, let them be the person that they were destined to be.”