The extended family of a 17-year-old girl in East Texas has raised more than $40,000 to get her out of a gay conversion therapy “camp” where she was placed by her parents. The family says that Sarah, whose last name they haven’t released, was punished by her family after trying to take her girlfriend to the prom.

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The GoFundMe for Sarah was created on June 4 by Joey Jordan, the girl’s cousin and a student at University of Texas at San Antonio. It got widespread attention after a story ran about it in the Houston Chronicle. Jeremy Jordan, who stars in the show Supergirl, is also a cousin of Sarah’s and has tweeted about the situation.

Jordan writes on the fundraising page that Sarah is bright and ambitious, but is being harshly punished by her religious family for her sexuality:

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Meet my cousin Sarah. At 17, her future looks bright. She is in the top 10% of her class, runs cross-country and belongs to the National Honor Society and the debate team. She is also gay. Like any high school kids in a relationship, Sarah and her girlfriend wanted to go to prom together. But when they did that, Sarah’s parents, who believe that homosexuality is a sin and abnormal, sent Sarah away against her will to an East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens to “pray away the gay.”

Jordan writes that the facility is exceedingly restrictive, that Sarah has already been prevented from escaping, and that she is supposed to stay there for a year:

Not only does this type of “therapy” not work, mental health professionals from organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have found it to be psychologically damaging, especially for minors. And Sarah has been told that she must stay in this facility for a whole year. So instead of being surrounded by friends and extended family who love and support Sarah for who she is, she’ll be isolated in a place where the fact that she is gay is treated as a sin and an illness. Instead of preparing for college and competing in the state debate tournament, she’ll be doing forced labor every day and enduring Bible-based “therapy” for her “disease.”

She is not allowed phone calls or email or any form of computer communication. She is also not allowed visitors and cannot leave the property. She is completely cut off from the outside world. She tried to run away, but was caught by the staff and returned to the facility.

The Chronicle said they spoke to Christine Andresen, a lawyer representing Sarah, and that Andresen said the information on the GoFundMe is accurate. Jezebel also called Andresen’s firm, the CHA Law Group, a family law practice that focuses on LGBT issues; an assistant said that while they can’t comment on pending litigation, they believe the background information provided by Sarah’s family is accurate. They declined to tell us when Sarah will turn 18, to protect her privacy. There are certainly Christian boarding facilities in East Texas designed to save “troubled” teens from themselves, including a residential facility in Longview, Texas, run by an outfit called Heartlight Ministries.

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In an update to the GoFundMe, Jordan said the money is being used to pay for a legal appeal in a Texas state court, one designed to get Sarah out of the facility. Jordan says any leftover money will be placed in a college fund.


Screenshot via Save Sarah/GoFundMe