It’s been more than three years since Alyson Stoner first opened up about her sexuality in a poignant essay for Teen Vogue, but the time she spent struggling with her true self was fraught with challenges. 

Stoner, who is pansexual, spoke to Insider this week about her new memoir, “Mind Body Pride.” She revealed that she briefly attended reparative, or “gay conversion,” therapy sessions in hopes of reconciling her sexuality with her religious faith. 

“I felt like everything was wrong with me, even though I, in my heart of hearts, only desired to be a devoted follower of God,” said the actor, whose credits include “Step Up” and “Cheaper by the Dozen,” as well as Missy Elliott’s “Work It” video. “So to hear from people you trust, from people you respect, from people you might even aspire to become, that you at your core are ‘rotten,’ ‘abominable,’ that the devil has a target on your back because of your position in Hollywood … it just sends you into a spiral, at least for me, because I just wanted to do the right thing.”

The American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have discredited so-called conversion therapy, which attempts to end or reduce people’s same-sex attraction or sexual activity.

Stoner, who was raised in Ohio, didn’t disclose details of the conversion therapy sessions, other than to specify that it was an “outpatient” program. Still, she said she continues to feel the painful weight of the experience to this day.

“My mind doesn’t want to even go there,” she told Insider. “My legs started shaking at the thought of reliving some of it. … It severs the mind-body connection because I see the body as something that is shameful, that is not to be trusted. It actually ends up messing with my ability to foster genuine relationships with others and myself, because now I’m suppressing a voice. I’m trying to change something that is what I now understand very natural.”

“The dangers are measurable,” she added. “They are measurable. Even if someone comes out of it on the other side and says, ‘Hey, no, I’m living a great life,’ there are scars there. There are shadows. So yes, I’m not capable yet of going back and recounting specifics, which is an indicator of just how difficult that chapter was for me.”

At present, 20 U.S. states have passed laws prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from practicing conversion therapy on minors. The most recent state to adopt such legislation was Virginia in 2020. 

The controversial practice, however, continues to be promoted, often by members of conservative religious groups. In 2019, the Williams Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law published a report that found that 698,000 LGBTQ Americans between the ages of 18 and 59 had undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives. 

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