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'I was secretly hating myself': Movie director suffered through conversion therapy in Louisville

Director Zach Meiners says he is among the nearly 700,000 survivors of conversion therapy.
Credit: Chronicle Cinema

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Zach Meiners is unafraid to tell his own story. That fearlessness coupled with his classical training as a film maker has turned into a project that’s changing lives on a national level.

“I am really lucky because I’ve been able to reclaim my story and my trauma and work through it and a lot of people don’t have that opportunity,” Meiners said.

Meiners is the director and an executive producer of the movie “Conversion.” It’s a feature film documentary that follows five survivors of conversion therapy as they shed light on the practice. 

Meiners, who started conversion therapy at the age of 14, isn’t just the film’s director and EP, he’s also one of the 5 featured survivors.

“Conversion therapy is any attempt to change one’s sexual or gender orientation or identity through psychological or spiritual intervention,” Meiners explained. “That can look a lot of different ways for a lot of different people. For me, it was talk therapy and basically teaching self-shame, and even in some instances, hurting or inflicting pain on yourself.”

Meiners calls the experience traumatic. “As I got older,” he said, “I realized, this was not working and it was not sustainable, and I was secretly hating myself.”

Today, Zach says he is among the nearly 700,000 survivors of conversion therapy. The film “Conversion” debuted first in Oregon at the Portland Film Festival, and will make it’s east coast debut in New York City later this month.

Credit: Chronicle Cinema

“I think because it was a survivor lead film,” Meiners said, “the conversations we were having were deeper and coming from a more sympathetic place because we were talking to each other. They were not being interviewed by some outside producer who had no concept of what we’ve been through.”

According to the Williams Institute, more than 40% of conversion therapy survivors have attempted or seriously considered suicide in the past year. That number rises to nearly 60% for trans and non-binary survivors.

“I hope when people hear my story or see the film or any of our stories,” Meiners said, “they are able to help someone else or even share their own story and feel empowered to be able to do that because I really think that’s how positive change is going to happen.”

Zach Meiners is the President and Creative Director of Chronicle Cinema. He attended The Academy of Individual Excellence in Jeffersontown after being homeschooled, then attended Asbury College where he studied film.

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