When Alex Cooper was fifteen years old, life was pretty ordinary in her sleepy suburban town and nice Mormon family. At church and at home, Alex was taught that God had a plan for everyone. But something was gnawing at her that made her feel different. These feelings exploded when she met Yvette, a girl who made Alex feel alive in a new way, and with whom Alex would quickly fall in love.
Alex knew she was holding a secret that could shatter her family, her church community, and her life. Yet when this secret couldn’t be hidden any longer, she told her parents that she was gay, and the nightmare began. She was driven from her home in Southern California to Utah, where, against her will, her parents handed her over to fellow Mormons who promised to save Alex from her homosexuality.
For eight harrowing months, Alex was held captive in an unlicensed “residential treatment program” modeled on the many “therapeutic” boot camps scattered across Utah. Alex was physically and verbally abused, and many days she was forced to stand facing a wall wearing a heavy backpack full of rocks. Her captors used faith to punish and terrorize her. With the help of a dedicated legal team in Salt Lake City, Alex eventually escaped and made legal history in Utah by winning the right to live under the law’s protection as an openly gay teenager.
Alex is not alone; the headlines continue to splash stories about gay conversion therapy and rehabilitation centers that promise to “save” teenagers from their sexuality. Saving Alex is a courageous memoir that tells Alex’s story in the hopes that it will bring awareness and justice to this important issue. A bold, inspiring story of one girl’s fight for freedom, acceptance, and truth.
In this affecting memoir, Cooper recounts the horrifying abuse inflicted on her at an unlicensed residential treatment program in southern Utah. After Alex came out to her parents as a lesbian, they sent her to strangers who subjected her to physical and emotional torture and an orthodox version of Mormonism in hopes of making her realize her sexuality was a choice. The last third of the book recounts how Alex, with the help of a dedicated lawyer, managed to swim upstream against the Utah court system and gain the legal right to refuse reparative therapy. It's harrowing to read how outsiders, including religious leaders, and her own parents ignored Alex's various attempts to escape and constantly sided with her abusers. Even with Alex's explanatory asides, some non-Mormon readers might be occasionally puzzled by cultural practices and terminology. The positive ending to her story (and the slim chances for such an ending in the first place) calls all readers to do more for vulnerable youth. Without offering any easy reconciliation between homosexuality and faith, Alex's story provides an example of how to not be consumed by anger and hate toward an abusive version of religion.
I read this and cried. Alex brings a raw and horrifying experience for many into a new, terrifying light. Would definitely recommend.
As the mother of a gay child, I can relate to many of the feelings of Alex's parents. With that being said, in no way was I not accepting of my child. I loved him 5 minutes before he told us. Nothing changed 5 minutes after. He was still the same person and we loved him dearly. When he came out to myself and my husband I cried and cried. But not because he said he was gay, but becuase I felt the world would view him as not normal. He IS normal, married, and has 2 beautiful adopted children. He is living his life as it was intended. Thank you Alex for sharing your story. The more people that accept everyone without regard to homophobic, racist feelings, the more peace they will have in their lives.
I enjoyed reading this book. It's amazing that Alex had the strength to get out of the situation she was put into.