By David-Elijah Nahmod, April 2018 Issue.
Jonathan Fernandez, a breakout star on season 8 of VH1’s “Love and Hip Hop,” credits Vice President Mike Pence for inspiring him to go public with his story.
Pence has long been a supporter of gay conversion therapy, the now debunked “treatment” which has been said to “cure unwanted same-sex attractions.”
Thousands of LGBTQ-identified youth are routinely subjected to these practices. Fernandez was sent by his mother to gay conversion therapy in the Dominican Republic when he was 10 years old.
Like many gay kids, Fernandez’ childhood was not a happy one.
“I was bullied every single day,” he recalled. “I would come home defeated and sad. I don’t recall one day when my mom and grandma weren’t hurting because of me.”
Unlike other kids in his school and around his neighborhood, Fernandez was displaying many feminine characteristics.
“No child at 10 is thinking about sexuality,” Fernandez recalled. “I didn’t realize what it was … I knew that I was different and that it would help if I was more like other boys.”
It was his mom who made the decision to send him to a doctor in in the Dominican Republic where he was subjected to hormone therapy treatments against his will, left in a room alone and repeatedly attached to a lie detector, during which time he was interrogated. If he gave the “wrong answer,” Fernandez was zapped with electricity.
“I’d rather be beaten up at school then go through this with that man again,” he said of the doctor who treated him. “If you’ve ever seen documentation of people who’ve been interrogated and admitting to things they did not do – that’s what it was like. I totally get that he was trying to alleviate my hell, but he created a worse hell.”
For two decades, Fernandez was haunted by the horrific memories of this experience that he was forced to live with. But a few months ago, he decided that it was time to heal his wounds. He told his mom that he wanted to discuss what had happened to him for the first time on “Love and Hip Hop,” a choice he not only made for himself, but also for others.
“I think if we have this conversation on camera we can possibly change the lives of others and make a difference,” Fernandez recalled telling his mother.
As the cameras rolled, Fernandez tells his mother and sister how much they mean to him.
“Getting bullied was by far some of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through,” he explained to them. “I would come home sometimes in tears and I could see the pain in your eyes. I could see that you’d want to cry when you would see me hurt.”
“That is why, when you were just 10 years old I had to send you to DR,” says Fernandez’ mom. “It was so much pain for us.”
“I know why you did it,” he tells her. “But that was a nightmare for me.”
As part of the episode, Fernandez tells his mom how painful the hormone therapies were. He recalls being attached to the machines which zapped him with electricity.
“I didn’t know,” his mother replied through tears.
In a one-on-one clip with the camera, Fernandez explains that he will no longer let this obstacle stand between his relationships with his mother and sister.
“I don’t resent my mother anymore,” he says. “I’ve heard her side of it. It must be difficult to be the mother of a child who’s picked on every day. Talking about all of it helped my relationship with my mom.”
Today, Fernandez has a wonderful rapport with his family.
“I hope that any parent who is considering subjecting their child to this will reconsider,” Fernandez expressed to Echo. “Because the pain that I endured will never go away.”
Additionally, Fernandez shared that he has tried to find the doctor who treated him but has been unsuccessful.
“I would love to have a conversation with this doctor,” he said. “I want to face the person who did this to me.”
Fernandez intends to continue speaking out and sharing his story.
“[Conversion therapy] destroyed my childhood,” he said. “I’m not going to let it destroy my manhood too.”
To learn more about the dangers of conversion therapy and how you can stop it, visit action.vh1.com.