Gay Student Tells Homophobic Mental Health “Counselor” To Go To Hell

For years, Tennessee native Nephi Niven tried keeping his sexual orientation a secret. But over time, it started to wear on him. He became physically ill and depressed. So he did what a lot of young gay people do: He sought help.

Niven made an appointment with a mental health counselor at his college.

“I told [the therapist] I was gay and I was thinking about coming out of the closet,” he recalls in a new video produced by I’m From Driftwood, a nonprofit archive for LGBT stories. “He listened thoughtfully and said he was glad that I had come.”

“Then told me that I would need years of therapy.”

“I didn’t really understand what he was saying at first,” Niven continues. “He made it clear that gay people come from violent backgrounds and are likely to be violent and abusive people and needed lots of therapy.”

But Niven wasn’t having it.

“I started yelling at him,” he says. “And I told him that there was nothing wrong with gay people, and they weren’t sick, and they weren’t gay because they came out of abusive families or situations, and they weren’t abusers.”

“I grabbed my coat and ran out of the office,” he says. “And over the course of the next couple of weeks, I started to summon the courage to tell my friends and my family.”

Now he’s sharing his story with the world. He hopes it will inspire other young LGBT people to speak up against homophobic critics.

“When confronted with any situation like that, standing up for yourself will give you strength in moving forward,” Niven says.

Hear Niven tell his story in the video below.

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  • tdx3fan

    There should never be a situation like that… PERIOD! Granted, Tennessee did try to pass a law making it illegal for a university to dismiss a counseling student for being anti-gay. I did not follow rather it passed or not.

  • Cam

    The bigots keep trying to make claims that aren’t founded and that they can’t back up.

    When they know they are lying like that and that they have no evidence backing up their claims, it seems that their hatred must most likely be caused, as we have seen numerous times, because they are self hating closet cases.


    I ran into this in college 40 years ago, but I think the counselor wanted to put the moves on me. Besides him being a troll, I wasn’t ready for that. I never went back and it made it more difficult to come out, but I did later that year. I wish I had reported him to the university, but I was too nervous about my own situation and I’m not sure they would have believed me or done anything. Now I would burn his ass for that.


    Kudos to this man. I think the counselor should be reported to the school or the licensing board, but it is TN, so it may be okay down there.

  • Palmer Scott

    With the name Nephi it’s almost a certainty he’s from a Mormon family.

  • barkomatic

    This “counselor” needs to be dismissed immediately. Who knows how many poor young people he’s messed up for life with his hateful advice.

  • OzJosh

    Do Americans actually realise how backward and intensely f*#@ed up their society is? This situation simply wouldn’t occur in most other western countries today. Even if a gay kid from some extreme religious nutcase community was made to feel sick to his stomach he’d at least get reasonable help and understanding from a professional counselor.

  • toberlin

    It is unbelievable…I don’t know what to say.Even as a child I never heared something like this .Homophobia will probably never run out here but the whole connection/accusation between being gay and abuse/violence does not exist here.Sure people say here a lot of shit too but this is so extreme.And in schools Students get sexual DIVERSITY education in Berlin now and Acceptance Education .They learn in school that there are other normal ways to live together than just in the traditionell “straight” way.So if the Kids have no support at home they have someone to talk to.And it is so important in my opinion to do something in schools for gay kids that they feel more integrated and the other kids can catch up on where their parents failed.

  • tdx3fan

    Just to follow up… The ACA (the body of accreditation for counselors) has strict codes against educating this type of “counselor” and student counselors do carry malpractice insurance. This is unlawfully going against ethical standards. The”counselor” should be sued in this case.

  • Throbert McGee


    Do Americans actually realise how backward and intensely f*#@ed up their society is?

    I didn’t realize that, and I’m immensely grateful when foreigners point this out to me!

    P.S. Don’t look now, mate, but there’s a dingo eating your baby.

  • Throbert McGee


    The”counselor” should be sued in this case.

    Probably, yes — whether there’s also a case for action against the school, I’m not sure. (It probably should’ve been mentioned in the main Queerty article that he attends a public university — Middle Tennessee State U. — and not a private “Bible College”, so there’s no 1st-Amendment defense for the counselor in this situation.)

  • toberlin

    Mc Gee:
    Would you prefer if I wouldn’t write it that this is not normal?
    I don’t think that you don’t know this but maybe someone else think that.And I think there have to be a positive alternative to that misbehaviour.Or not?
    Do People like that get fired in the U.S?

  • Throbert McGee


    Would you prefer if I wouldn’t write it that this is not normal?

    America is a culturally diverse country — not only are there regional differences, but individual states have a great deal of political/legal autonomy.
    I don’t mind a bit if someone says, “Wow, that American counselor is totally f*#@ed up,” but writing “American society is totally f*#@ed up” is something different.
    If there were an article about human sex-trafficking in Thailand, and an American commented “Thai society is totally f*#@ed up”, many people would object to such a generalization and would say that the commenter is behaving like an “ugly American.” And, in my view, OzJosh was being an “ugly Australian”.
    (At least, I assume that’s where he’s from, unless OzJosh is an actual Munchkin or Gillikin logged in from a server in the Emerald City…)

  • Subaru

    That counselor should be sent back to school.

  • ChgoReason

    Wait. Niven alleges that “[his therapist] made it clear that gay people come from violent backgrounds and are likely to be violent and abusive people and needed lots of therapy.” And his natural response is to begin shouting at the therapist, grab his coat and storm out of the session? Niven’s response seems couched in projection, a self defense mechanism, when a person gets upset with someone when something goes wrong, but that person could not possibly have anything to with his thoughts, feelings, or impulses. Niven was already having issues coming to terms with his own self and projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. Hard to make any further judgements without the POV of the therapist, there’s always two sides to every story.

  • masc4masc

    hahaha someone tells u ur innately violent… to which u respond violently. that’s showing em! lol he seems like a real melodramatic bitch too. wouldn’t be surprised if he made this all up.

  • Mezaien

    @Throbert McGee: Man you couldn`t say it better!. Even in RSA, Republic of South Africa, American are get beating up just for being fucked up American, whites. Most be shit to be an American.

  • Dakotahgeo

    I am so happy for this young man, Nephi. There are HUNDREDS of Christian churches that are GLBT supportive and walk the talk of acceptance of their sexual orientation. Never, ever, take negative crap from a “counselor” from anywhere… report him/her immediately to their Supervisor and it wouldn’t hurt to contact the State Board of Counseling that certifies counselors either. This needs to stop…NOW!
    Pastor Dak!

  • Wes

    Speaking as a graduate student of Webster University from Orlando, FL, with a master’s degree in mental health counseling, the concept of “curing” homosexuality quite honestly flies in the face of the ethics that govern my field, as a helping professional, through the American Counseling Association. In the entire history of my own profession, no other form of therapy has been under this level of scrutiny and criticism. At the very best, it is my professional opinion that attempting to “cure” a person’s sexual orientation is damaging to their core identity and cripples their ability to function as fully actualized human beings. At the very worst, attempts to invoke this kind of fundamental change in a person’s sexual identity has led many people to experience sever clinical depression, self-destructive behaviors and attempted suicide. The often grim statistics regarding self-hating LesBiGay youth should be enough to make anyone, with an ounce of compassion, reconsider their attempts to “cure” anyone’s homosexuality. Pseudo-religious forms of conversion therapy and even “modern” attempts to perform exorcisms on LesBiGay Americans are more of a service to the homophobic elements of our society, not the marginalized individual. No one calling themselves a true helping professional should ever feed into the forces of ignorance, fear, and hatred with the use of this form of therapy (or any variation). Spiritual leaders and helping professionals should advocate for the rights of everyone seeking their care, help them to adjust to the more intolerant elements of society, and seek to make the world a safer place for human diversity, in all of its forms. Any attempt to “cure” homosexuality builds walls within a person and between different people, in the world. We need compassionate individuals who are committed to building bridges, not walls in our world. Homosexuality is a variation (not a deviation) of human sexuality.
    To seek this kind of cure, makes about as much sense as curing someone of their natural ability to walk, smell, taste, touch, or see the rich beauty of this world. Having the capacity to love someone of the same sex is a way for many people to “see” and appreciate another human being with their heart. Just because someone was born to see the world differently doesn’t justify another person’s often damaging attempt to make them see and move through the world as they do. I’m seeing a flashback of The Borg from Star Trek…only with a warped religious twist…”You will be assimilated or you will burn in Hell. Resistance is futile.” From everything that life has taught me, different things are good for different people.
    This form of sexual expression is very much a part of the natural world, in many diverse species of life across the planet. With this in mind, I would like to point out a quote by Saint Thomas Aquinas: A MISTAKE ABOUT NATURE RESULTS IN A MISTAKE ABOUT GOD. I think it’s time that people quit trying to “play God” and should just concentrate on being (humane) human beings. Supporting a cure for homosexuality goes against the grain of Creation (and by association to many truly “good” Christians…God). With an eye on the past, World War II was fought against a radical German leader with his own warped vision of assimilation. I call on everyone with a public interest in our youth to stand on the right side of history and the diversity of all young people in our communities.
    Throughout the majority of my high school years I did contemplate suicide. If I had been exposed to conversion therapy it is very likely I would not be alive today. I would have probably served the more homophobic elements of society by becoming a “grim” statistic. A Gay friend of mine, from my youth, took his life. His parents found him hanging from a tree in their front yard as they arrived home one night. Conversion therapy is a part of this problem and this is its legacy for LesBiGay youth.

    The very idea of “conversion therapy” offends me on every conceivable professional and personal level. I hope laws get put into place across the country that strictly bar such a barbaric practice by any so-called helping professionals. There is no place for this kind of “help” in our world. As a die-hard ‘Trekkie,” I have to say “Resistance is NEVER futile.” Together, WE CAN stop them…We don’t need anyone to force us into their idea of perfection. I would love to have some alone time with that Tennessee gentlemans mental health counselor from college. By the time I was done with that lovely person they would be gnawing off their own fingers to get away from me.


    Wes Tattinger, MA, RMHC
    Saint Cloud, FL

    • Dakotahgeo

      WOW!!! We need hundreds of more counselors like you… thank you so much! Pastor Dak!

  • sejjo

    @Mezaien: What the hell are you talking about?! Please provide a link.

    I’m sure the best you can do is a single isolated incident. There is xenophobia in South Africa to be sure, but I have never heard of it being targeted to Americans – it’s mostly other Africans who may or may not be seeking asylum or are in the country illegally, in other words, not very well to do black Africans.

  • toberlin

    Mc Gee:
    I think I only can do it wrong .I think if I say I there are so many people in the U.S. who are not like that (and that is my opinion) you will feel offended too.320 million people live in the U.S. and they are all different.I know that the country is political divided.And foreign policy is nothing I discovered yesterday.And I speak as ONE person to ONE case I read here.And I am open to discuss a topic.If it makes you happy to generalize everything I say I have to accept that.If I talk to/about ONE person and and everybody feels offended I have to accept this.

  • Merv

    @OzJosh: When it comes to same-sex marriage, the US is behind Canada, but ahead of Australia.

  • Merv

    Seeing how this incident was the catalyst for significant progress in his personal life, it made me wonder half-seriously whether this was a deliberate strategy of reverse psychology by the counselor. Probably not, but it seemed to have that effect.

  • Ben Dover

    @ChgoReason: “Wait. Niven alleges that ‘[his therapist] made it clear that gay people come from violent backgrounds and are likely to be violent and abusive people and needed lots of therapy.’ And his natural response is to begin shouting at the therapist, grab his coat and storm out of the session?”

    LOL – Maybe his natural response was to get violently abusive with the therapist. He was keeping his naturally violent and abusive gay temper under control!

    Seriously, it’s hard to keep up with the stereotypes. For decades the stereotype was that gay men aren’t aggressive ENOUGH. And there were always “scientists” trying to prove that we had feminine brains & stuff.

    Now all of a sudden there’s a NEW stereotype that we’re all naturally “violent”? Frankly, I’ll take it. I’d rather have them be scared of us!

  • Ben Dover

    @sejjo: Mezaien’s electricity & internet access are very sporadic. The wildebeests keep escaping from the treadmill and running off into the veldt.

  • Ben Dover

    @Throbert McGee: Australians drink a lot, you know. That’s a stereotype and you know that stereotypes are always true!

  • toberlin

    I think people overestimate my english. If I say helpful to a topic this do not implying I can help or want to or even can.It means I want to say something constructive if it is about political Things and if a topic is personal like pics of men /culture etc. I just say my personal opinion or not.Sometimes it is hard for me here to determine the difference between politics and personal Things.Maybe there is no difference.But for me there is.Often I just enjoy to read an article and I see nothing political in it.I am ONE person.And here are tons of different people.I try to get the big picture in topics from all the opinions of people together and make a conclusion out of that.From my point of view.And if it HURTS ME if people hurt each other here or the reason behind HURT ME than it is MY decision how I handle that.I try to find a SOLUTION or defend people or myself.Is this something therapeutic?Not for me.It is the same what I do in personal life.And if this makes ME unhappy I need to do some thing else.But sometimes I am just so focused to find a “solution” or a “conclusion” in a topic that I do not find the right moment to step out or keep distance.And some “discussions” between people here were pretty violent in my book.Also from my side.So like I said.I learned and learn a lot here.But I did not see DISCUSSIONS between adult people as a therapeutic relationship.And I never saw see or will see the people here as ONE person.

  • tdx3fan

    @Throbert McGee: It would make no difference, and this is not a statement of the first amendment to begin with. When you agree to work in a function, you agree to allow yourself to be governed by the laws and ethical codes that govern that function. I do not know how TN law reads, but I know that the ACA which creates counselor education programs throughout the entire country has ethical codes to prevent what this student did.

    I would say that the school should not be liable as long as they dealt with the case in matter in the appropriate way. If they disciplined this student correctly and made end roads to the client in the case, they should not be held liable. If either of those things have failed, they should be sued as well.

  • tdx3fan

    @ChgoReason: You need to refine your definition of what projection is. Its when someone gets upset with someone for no reason because of something they do not like about themselves. That is the reason it is classified as DEFENSE MECHANISM. This was an appropriate outburst given the stimuli.

  • Throbert McGee


    It would make no difference, and this is not a statement of the first amendment to begin with.

    It’s potentially a “First Amendment” issue in that a private religious school presumably cannot be compelled by state law to ensure that its “counselors” are ACA-compliant. (Counselors who aren’t ACA members to begin with can’t be reprimanded by the ACA!)

    The question of whether a “counselor” or “therapist” is officially licensed is an important point when it comes to bans on “ex-gay therapy” for minors — such bans only apply to state-certified therapists, but do not affect counselors who have no state certification. Or, in some states, the terminology used may be reversed — “counselors” must have state certification, but “therapists” don’t have to.

  • Throbert McGee

    @tdx3fan: “This was an appropriate outburst given the stimuli.

    Assuming that the student, Mr. Niven, accurately described the conversation between himself and the counselor — but in fact, ChgoReason is correct that we have only Niven’s perceptions of what occurred, and not the counselor’s.

    HOMER: Marge, you KNOW that I don’t like foreign movies with subtitles.
    MARGE: But you liked Rashomon!
    HOMER: That’s not how *I* remember it…


  • sfcarlos65

    Nephi Niven is my new hero! Carry On!

  • Suburban

    I would expect that behavior in a High School but in a college?, I hope that counselor was at least disciplined…

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