"You have to understand that in the environment that I grew up in, you're taught that you deserve to be punished all the time," Montgomery said of seeking conversion therapy after coming out as gay
Matthew Scott Montgomery is sharing the truth about his harrowing past.
The So Random! alum opened up about his painful experience coming out to his parents, and subsequently attending conversion therapy, on Tuesday's episode of Christy Carlson Romano's PodCo podcast, Vulnerable.
Growing up largely in North Carolina, Montgomery, 34, described his parents as "very, very conservative" and said his upbringing fostered heteronormative standards for men.
"How I grew up is: you find what sport you're good at, you get a scholarship for that," he recalled. "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. That was the only option that I was told or saw. Which sounds like my first nightmare. No offense to anybody."
Once he moved to Los Angeles, the actor appeared in the play Yellow, in which he played a teen physically and emotionally abused for being gay. The experience of being in the production, however, encouraged him to come out to his parents, which he says happened after his 18th birthday and went horribly.
"My mom collapsed sobbing when she found out," he explained. "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."
During his days off from work as a Disney Channel star, Montgomery enrolled in conversion therapy, a dangerous practice that attempts to change LGBTQ+ youth's sexual orientation or gender identity through a mix of harmful physical and psychological therapies.
He emphasized that Disney "had nothing to do" with the decision but he felt it was necessary after his parents' reaction to his coming out.
"You have to understand that in the environment that I grew up in, you're taught that you deserve to be punished all the time," he explained. "At the time, the career stuff was going so well that I was still in this broken prison brain of thinking, 'I'm on red carpets. I'm on TV every week. This is too good, I should be punished on my days off.'"
He ultimately started visiting a center that he believes was intended "for gay men who wanted to be turned from gay to straight and make it as a straight movie star." For three hours each week, he engaged in activities like filling out worksheets about his feelings for other men and apologizing to his father for being "a sensitive, artistic little boy."
Later, Montgomery said, he underwent electroshock therapy and a type of hypnosis.
"I would have these silver rods that I would have to hold in my hands and they're really kind of like covert and tricky about how they got you to do it, because they were like, 'We're gonna try something a little bit different,'" Montgomery said, adding his practitioners would tell him to "just try holding these."
"So you're like, holding the metal rods and then the next week they would do like light buzzing when you held them when we talked about certain things and then they would try to build up your tolerance for like the electric shocking until it was like painful," he explained.
Montgomery described one specific example of electroshock therapy, which paired the procedure with psychological conditioning.
"They would kind of do a hypnosis kind of thing where you would imagine scenarios," he recalled. "You imagine the world is post-apocalypse and it's like a decimated Earth and the only person left on Earth is a straight man ... you go and you walk up and hug a straight man. And when you hugged the straight man in my mind, they would zap my hands. Like the electric shock."
The actor ultimately came to the realization that "there's nothing wrong with me" after working on a play that closely resembled his own life. It was then that he decided to remove himself from conversion therapy for good.
"I think that was the therapy I actually needed because I got the experience of what it was like to have a family not only love me, but celebrate me and really accept me," he explained.
"Demi's family, that's my family," he shared. "That's my soulmate, that's like the person who loves me the deepest and at that point, I was able to begin to carefully curate a life that was filled with love and art and expression that was satisfying me making me so happy in a way that I'd never been before."
Today, Montgomery said he still deals with some "side effects" related to his time in conversion therapy, but hopes that by sharing his story, it will help someone else going through a similar situation.
"If you're listening to this and you either have been through conversion therapy or thinking about it, there's nothing wrong with you," he said. "There's not a thing in the world wrong with you. You are loved. You deserve to have a perfect beautiful life."
This isn't the first time that Montgomery has opened up about his traumatic past.
In a January 2022 Instagram post, the actor revealed he was once in conversion therapy and said of the experience: "It's really damaging and feels really terrible when you're in it."
Alongside the video, which featured footage of him appearing happy and playful on Disney Channel shows at the time he was in conversion therapy, Montgomery emphasized, "You have no idea what people are going through behind the scenes."
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He said he hoped the videos would "increase empathy" before reminding anyone who has attended conversion therapy "that there's nothing wrong with you."
"Nothing needs to be fixed, nothing needs to be changed. God loves you. God made you exactly how you are on purpose. And you know what? I love you too," he concluded.
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