Former Disney star Matthew Scott Montgomery has opened up about his heartbreaking experience with conversion therapy.
In the 2010s, the Smoosh actor starred in an array of Disney Channel shows, including Shake It Up, Austin & Ally and So Random!
While Montgomery cultivated a successful career on the network, his life behind the scenes was far from perfect.
In a recent interview on Christy Carlson Romano’s podcast Vulnerable, the Howdy, Neighbor star reflected on his conservative upbringing and rough coming-out experience.
“My parents are very, very conservative. How I grew up is: you find what sport you’re good at, you get a scholarship for that,” he explained.
“If that doesn’t work, you get a scholarship for grades, go to college, find a woman to get married [to] and then get a house and that was the only option I was told or saw.”
While his childhood was extremely restrictive, Montgomery was able to explore his queer identity when he moved to Los Angeles.
After starring in the LGBTQIA+ play, Yellow, he came out to his parents – which didn’t go well.
“My mom collapsed sobbing when she found out. My parents were really upset, and they left town. My dad hit me up like the next day, and he’s like, we feel like we don’t know you. We’re going to come back in town, and we want you to introduce yourself to us,” he said.
Montgomery went on to say that his father signed him up for conversion therapy.
So-called conversion therapy refers to any attempt at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and often involves cruel techniques such as electroshock therapy or prayer.
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He added that while he was over 18, he felt pressured to participate in the harmful and dangerous practice because of his religious upbringing.
“You have to understand that in the environment that I grew up in, you were taught that you deserve to be punished all the time,” he said.
Due to his parents’ reactions and pressure, Montgomery secretly went to a conversion therapy camp on his days off, without his friends or execs at Disney Channel knowing.
“At the time, my career stuff is going so well [but] I was still in this broken prison brain of thinking ‘This is too good, I should be punished on my days off,'” he said.
Elsewhere in his interview, Montgomery revealed that the place he went to “prided itself on being a Hollywood place”.
“Their selling point was, you look at any billboard in LA and see any male actor they’ve been through these halls. This place specifically was for gay men who wanted to be turned from gay to straight and make it as a straight movie star in LA,” he added.
Towards the end of his sitdown, Montgomery reflected on the moment he stepped away from the harmful facility.
“Something happened to me one day where I was like, ‘I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t have to be here. There’s nothing wrong with me,'” he said.
He also credited his longtime friends, Demi Lovato and Hayley Kiyoko, for helping him realise that he didn’t need to punish himself over his queer identity.
While countries like Canada, New Zealand, Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Germany, France, Malta, and Cyprus have banned conversion therapy, other places like the US and the UK have failed to take universal action against the dangerous practice.
Check out Matthew Scott Montgomery’s full interview below.