How can there be a cure for something that is not a disease?
That's all I could think as I watched a BBC news report from my living room in London about a New York church claiming to have a cure for homosexuality. The report went on to expose the treatments practiced by gay conversion facilities, with doctors countering that these "treatments" caused more harm than good. Horrified, I did some investigating and was disturbed to discover that there were thousands of these facilities all around the world. I responded in the best way I knew how--through my music. I wrote "Divine Cure" as an uplifting song. On the surface it sounds positive, but if you look deeper the truth is much darker. Much like many of these conversion camps.
Most parents who send their kids to these camps aren't bad. They truly believe their children can change their sexual orientation. But even people who call themselves "Ex-gays" admit they struggle with "those feelings" their entire lives. So, they've been taught to repress who they are, but their orientation has not changed.
I believe when artists speak their truth, the universe connects them with the right people. I was fortunate to find a property, owned by friends, that was being demolished. The moment I saw it, I knew it was the perfect location to film the "Divine Cure" video. But I needed a director. My friend Jeffrey Reddick had just directed his first short film. After seeing it, I talked to him about "Divine Cure." Jeffrey connected with the song on a deeply personal level. He said he believed everyone feels like they're "not enough" and often wish they could find a "Divine Cure" that would make them feel accepted and loved. Jeffrey told me about the horrific racism he faced growing up and how, when he was young, he often prayed to be white, because society taught him that he was less than. Just like LGBTQ youth often pray to be straight because society teaches them from birth that they are perverted or damaged. When I heard this, I knew Jeffrey was the man to bring this story to life. So I asked him to co-write the video with me and direct it.
What happened next was serendipitous. Several people I asked to work on the video had, unbeknownst to me, been directly affected by gay conversion therapy. Jake Johnson was the first actor I approached because I thought he had the right "look." I was shocked to learn Jake was in a conversion camp from the age of 9 to 13. I took Jake to the house where we planned to shoot. As we walked around property, he relived his heart-wrenching story of emotional, physical and sexual abuse. This was a turning point for the project because I now had a true account of someone's experience at one of those facilities. What we show is horrific. But we really only scratched the surface of the abuse he and many other kids suffered. Thankfully, Jake didn't kill himself and has grown into a wonderfully caring young man who's helping other survivors of these conversion camps.
A few members of our cast and crew had also been directly affected by failed gay conversation therapy attempts in their own families. I knew this topic was important, but during this process I learned how relevant gay conversion therapy is today. It's a very lucrative business that, despite some people's best intentions, is driving many LGBTQ youth to suicide. And even though legislation has been passed in different parts of the world to close these camps down, they often rebrand themselves and stay open.
When I finished the video, I showed it to some friends and was surprised that most of them didn't believe these places still existed. I get it. It's 2016 and with the access to information we have, it astounds me that people still think homosexuality is a disease. Jeffrey recounted the time when, as a child, his mother saw a gay man on TV and said, "That's disgusting. Thank God none of my kids turned out like that." See, adults don't realize that the "perverts" they're talking about in their living rooms are often their own children...or their spouses who have been told by society that if they just find the right man, or woman, they can change.
The belief that someone's sexual orientation is a choice is insidious. The implication is that if you "choose" to be gay, then whatever happens to you is your fault. If people admit that it's not a choice, then they have to take responsibility for their bigotry.
Many of us are blessed with parents who love us unconditionally. Jeffrey's mother even accepted him when he came out to her. But the streets are filled with homeless LGBTQ youth abandoned by their families. We see happy gay couples on TV, and in real life, and forget how demonizing gay people destroys families and ruins lives. We have made amazing strides for equal human rights, but we still have a long way to go.
It's important to me as a person, and an artist, to use my voice to positively impact humanity. I want to speak for those who are afraid to speak for themselves. "Divine Cure" is sadly a reality for so many people.
But there is hope. The people who came together to make this video did it out of love.
As much as I love to transport my audiences to fantasy worlds with my music, "Divine Cure" is different. It's about what's happening in the real world. With this video we wanted to say loud and clear that LGBTQ people are born exactly as God, or nature, intended. They are loved. They are a beautiful part of the rich tapestry of humanity. The real "Divine Cure" is self-acceptance and self-love. It's not something you can get from someone else. It's inside of you.