While starring in beloved Disney shows such as Shake It Up and Sonny with a Chance, actor Matthew Scott Montgomery revealed that he underwent gay conversion therapy in private, primarily to satisfy his parents. In a recent appearance on Christy Carlson Romano‘s podcast Vulnerable, Montgomery shed light on this challenging chapter of his life, emphasizing the need for understanding and change in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights.
Conversion therapy, as Montgomery explained, involves the belief that a specific form of therapy can alter one’s sexual orientation from gay to straight. Notably, as of 2018, over a dozen states in the US had passed laws designed to protect LGBTQ+ youth from the harmful effects of conversion therapy, a stance supported by GLAAD.
Looking back at his upbringing in North Carolina, Montgomery described an environment dominated by sports, academic performance, fear, and guilt. Raised in a conservative household, he felt unable to express his true self and often found himself living a double life, closely observing how straight people behaved.
Montgomery’s life took a turn when he enrolled at New York University for college. After six weeks, he received life-changing advice from two teachers who urged him to leave the school and pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. It was during this period, while performing in Del Shores’ Yellow, where his character faced abuse and rejection from his parents due to being gay, that Montgomery decided to come out to his own parents.
The initial revelation to his mother left her in shock, causing her to collapse. Subsequently, his father enrolled him in conversion therapy. Despite being legally of age to make decisions regarding his own life, Montgomery reluctantly agreed to undergo the therapy to appease his parents. During this time, he landed roles on Disney sitcoms but secretly attended conversion therapy, feeling that he deserved to be “punished on my days off.”
The facility he attended specifically catered to gay men seeking to change their sexual orientation, promising them a chance to succeed in Hollywood. His therapy sessions evolved from simple discussions with a therapist to assigned homework, including solving equations in a textbook. Additionally, he was required to apologize to his parents for “being a sensitive little boy.”
It was his role in Yellow, where his character found acceptance and love from neighbors, that inspired Montgomery to embrace his true self. He realized that he should not be punished for who he was but should instead live authentically.
Throughout this challenging journey, Montgomery found support in Demi Lovato, who remains his “very best friend” and “soul mate,” as well as fellow Disney star Hayley Kiyoko. These friendships played a vital role in his journey towards self-acceptance.
In sharing his story, Matthew Scott Montgomery highlights the importance of creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals and raising awareness about the damaging effects of conversion therapy. It serves as a reminder that everyone deserves love, acceptance, and the freedom to be their authentic selves, free from fear and prejudice.