AT the age of 13, when Blair Anderson sat down with one of his parents to tell them he thought he was gay, he was given a stark “choice”.

“The immediate response was words to the effect of, 'I don’t have a gay son,'” he said.

“The options were clear – I could be a member of the family, with everything that goes with that – a home, food, transport, a bed. Or I could be gay.

“But I couldn’t be both.”

Not knowing how he could leave his home, in the years that followed he was subject to a pattern of controlling behaviour that led to him contemplating taking his own life.

Having been brought up in a deeply religious household, notes were left on his bed telling him he would be going to hell, which he believed was a real place at the time . There was constant surveillance, with his movements and whereabouts monitored.

READ MORE: Conversion therapy ban Scotland: What will it look like and who opposes it?

As his mental health suffered, he wasn’t allowed to visit a GP in case he revealed what was happening.

Anderson said: "I prayed to God constantly to not make me gay. It didn’t work."

Even when he moved away to university, the control continued with letters opened, belongings examined and even his laundry being taken away and raked through to try to find out what he was doing.

“It started when I was about 13 or 14 and it went on until I was about 19,” he said.

“Throughout most of that time I had panic attacks, very severe anxiety disorders, eating disorders, very severe depression, periods of self-harm and fairly persistent suicidal thoughts.”

And it wasn’t until he had left home that he realised his upbringing was “not normal”.

He said: “I thought what was happening to me was the correct way to be brought up, because my parent was doing the right thing and trying to save my soul.

“So it was only after moving away when I explained what was happening and everyone was like, 'you are seriously ill and that is not an acceptable way for people to treat their children'.

READ MORE: Inside Scotland's 'groundbreaking' bid to ban LGBT+ conversion therapy

“That was the first time I had ever thought in those terms and even then it took another three years for me to be able to say it was abuse and it was conversion therapy.”

The Scottish Government has published proposals to ban the practice. The plans were launched by Equalities Minister Emma Roddick (below) last week.

Conversion therapy involves people attempting to change or suppress the gender identity or sexual orientation of another person.

The National:

Anderson, who is a Scottish Greens councillor and now lives with his partner in Glasgow, said an important point is that the criminality aspect means there has to be “actual harm caused”.

“If your kid comes out and you don’t throw them a party – that is what some people think conversion therapy is,” he said.

“It’s not that. You could come out to a parent and the parent could say I don’t believe in homosexuality, I think that is wrong.

“That isn’t illegal – what is illegal is when that is followed through with and therefore I’m going to do an act or series of acts to try to get you to change or suppress it.”

He said a ban would not only provide a legal right to be safe, but also provide vital “symbolic” value.

He said: “It's saying if you are gay or bi or lesbian or trans or asexual or queer or intersex or anything like that – that isn’t a deficiency, it isn’t a problem that needs solved.

“It’s not an illness that needs corrected, it’s not a crime that needs punished – that you are perfectly good as who you are.”

It’s not always the case that conversion therapy takes place in a religious setting, but according to charity Stonewall, just over half of those subjected to the practice say it was conducted by a faith organisation or group.

The National:

That was the experience of Justin Beck (above), from Glasgow, who grew up in a born-again evangelical Christian household and turned to the Bible when he realised he was attracted to other boys at the age of 13.

From the age of 17 to 23, he underwent conversion therapy in a church which included exorcisms, having demons “cast out” and being anointed with holy oil in a bid to rid him of his “sin”.

Beck described the experience as “torturous” but said he felt he did not have a choice in undergoing it.

He said: “I know what my mental headspace was like at the time, so I was very emotionally vulnerable, I was very naïve having been brought up in a very sheltered upbringing that everything was through the lens of Christianity, so I felt I did not have a choice and I had to put myself through conversion therapy.”

He went on: “Doing that for six years totally eroded and eradicated my self-esteem, my sense of self-worth and my own sense of self, really.

“By 23 I was completely suicidal, I had planned my suicide, I knew what I was going to do, I knew when I was going to do it and was a shell of a human being.

“I wouldn’t look in mirrors or windows as I hated my reflection as I thought I was evil. It was a very dark and lonely place, the overriding emotion I remember is not just feeling lonely, just utter loneliness.

“There was nobody in my life that would say, 'Justin, you are just gay – and you don’t need to do that'.”

Beck eventually sought person-centred therapy which he said resulted in a “decades-long journey to unpick 23 years of internalised homophobia”.

He turns 40 this year and is now happily married, but said it took from the age of 23 to 33 to process everything he had gone through.

“It’s only since I was in my early to mid-30s the first chat around a ban on conversion therapy happened and that’s when I realised, that’s what happened to me,” he said.

“Now that I know the damage that it did to me and how it has robbed people of life, for it to be worth me going through it, I have to speak out about it to stop it happening to anybody else.”