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Joseph Nicolosi, a man whose life was defined by the gay and lesbian people whose lives he ruined, is dead now. He was 70 and died on Wednesday of complications from the flu. For his sake, I hope that didn’t involve any suffering.

If only the same could be said for his patients.


Nicolosi is considered the father of gay conversion therapy. Instead of accepting the reality that people are born homosexual, he believed it was a choice — one that could be altered for people who “suffered” from same-sex attractions. He even founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality in order to promote his discredited, unscientific beliefs. His “reparative” approach is now considered so harmful, it’s been banned in five states and multiple cities.

This was a man who wrote in 1991, “I do not believe that any man can ever be truly at peace in living out a homosexual orientation.” In 2002, he wrote a book called A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, as if there was something parents could do about their child’s sexual orientation.

What’s especially disturbing is how far and wide his false beliefs were accepted. Many conservative Christians and evangelical churches perpetuate the idea that being gay is a choice. And as so many LGBT will tell you, that’s utterly false.

Who knows how many people hated themselves — or were driven to suicide — because Nicolosi ignored all the evidence that contradicted his beliefs?

He may be gone now, but his ideas will unfortunately live on among Christian bigots who insist homosexuality is a sin that can be cured.

What a shitty legacy to leave behind.

As always, I’m sure there are people who mourn his loss. I’m sure you could mine his life for happier stories. But no obituary of the man can be complete without pointing out the countless people he hurt. To paraphrase several commenters online, there are people who improve the world through their existence. There are others who improve it by leaving. Nicolosi is in that latter group.

The world is a slightly safer place now for LGBT people. It’d be even safer if more Christians would denounce the ideas that Nicolosi spent his life promoting.

At least one Twitter user had the right idea:


(Top screenshot via YouTube)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.