When author Marlon James was in his thirties, he desperately sought help from his pastors to help him "cure" his sexual orientation. Growing up in Jamaica, which is widely recognized as being one of the most dangerous places in the world for LGBT people, he regularly encountered anti-gay attitudes and violence and the prospect of finding a way out seemed too good to be true. In an interview with British newspaper, The Times, the 45-year-0ld James described what he went through with the "ex-gay" conversion therapists that his pastors had directed him to see. “I thought ‘Great, I am getting rid of demons’, until I read up on the whole ex-gay thing," he said in the interview.
Under Jamaican law, sex between men is a criminal offense punishable by up to ten years in prison. Convicted homosexuals are routinely sent to labour camps where they are often targeted by guards and other inmates. Things are little better for men even suspected of being "battyboys" (local slang for gay) and homophobic assaults remain common. Though the "ex-gay" movement has been discredited in most Western countries, including being outlawed as child abuse in many jurisdictions, conversion therapists continue to practice in Jamaica with little oversight by professional organizations.
For James, who became the first Jamaican author to win the Man Booker Prize in 2015, the conversion therapy meant a gruesome regime of aversion therapy, prayer, vomiting, and even an "exorcism" to drive out his "demons." His ordeal eventually led to his fleeing Jamaica and taking up residence in Minneapolis where he now teaches literature at St. Paul's Macalester College.