Anthony Quintal, a 21-year-old YouTuber best known for his teenage antics under the name "Lohanthony," has returned to his channel with a shocking update.
Quintal has become a devout Christian and along with committing to Jesus, he says he's trying to abandon his same-sex attraction and commit to "Christian celibacy."
Insider spoke to two LGBTQ and Christian conversion therapy experts who agree that Quintal's new rhetoric is harmful to his audience, and his reasoning echoes language used in conversion therapy, a dangerous and ineffective practice that is prohibited in 20 US states.
Warning: This article contains topics related to sexual assault.
Anthony Quintal was a beloved YouTube star, known for his pop culture commentary and liberal politics that he excitedly talked about from the floor of his childhood bedroom. As a young gay teenager, Quintal, better known as Lohanthony, became a mainstay among YouTube's elite for years through his authentic videos, often filmed from his laptop camera.
Now, Quintal, 21, once an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a role model for gay children and teens around the world, has renounced his own sexuality, saying in a recent YouTube video that he has chosen a life of "Christian celibacy" and moved on from the "sexual immorality" of his past gay relationships.
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In a 41-minute video posted Friday to his channel, where he has since hidden nearly all of his past videos, Quintal said that coming out as bisexual and then gay earlier in life was like "trying to fit a circle into a square."
Quintal compared his sexual and romantic relationships with men to drug and alcohol use, saying that he was "trying to find God's love" through those paths.
"It's no coincidence that through pursuing my same-sex attraction I was also addicted to alcohol, I was also addicted to weed, I was also trying hallucinogenics, I was also addicted to money, I was also addicted to views, I was addicted to attention," Quintal said.
He also said that he was molested by a man as a child, and he believed it led him to "sin against other people" by engaging in consensual sex with other men throughout his teenage years.
Insider spoke to two LGBTQ advocates who warned that Quintal's message was rooted in harmful homophobic sentiment in the Christian community, which can be dangerous to young LGBTQ people and their families. Quintal didn't respond to Insider's request for comment.
It's unclear whether this kind of religious anti-gay language is permitted on YouTube, per its most recent policy on hate speech. YouTube says it removes content and penalizes creators when they promote "violence or hatred" against individuals or groups based on attributes that include sexual orientation. Insider did not immediately hear back from YouTube for comment.
Advocates for LGBTQ inclusion in Christian churches say Quintal is echoing 'ex-gay' stigmatization that is ideologically similar to conversion therapy.
While Quintal has not referenced conversion therapy — a widely discredited and ineffective type of program that attempts to "convert" LGBTQ people to heterosexuality — by name, many fans of the creator, as well as at least one other prominent YouTuber, have questioned whether he underwent and is encouraging such a program.
Quintal specifically said he was choosing "Christian celibacy," and although he never stated he had thought he was no longer gay, Quintal said he is choosing not to partake in same-sex relationships.
Matthew Vines, executive director of the pro-LGBTQ Christian organization The Reformation Project and author of "God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-sex Relationships," says Quintal's video reflected a modern movement within Christianity that replaces common conversion therapy language with a new way of grappling with sexuality.
"It's no longer popular, even in a lot of conservative churches, to uphold a true gay-to-straight narrative, the idea that all gay people could do that if they just tried," Vines told Insider.
"But there's kind of been a reconstructed ex-gay movement that acknowledges that maybe you can't actually flip the switch from gay to straight, but you can still have a more vague kind of transformation of your sexuality. It could be lifelong celibacy, it could be a mixed-orientation marriage, it could be any number of things."
Vines said that the idea of conversion therapy being a forced "brainwashing" practice doesn't typically reflect what real 'ex-gay' experiences look like for Christians.
He said that Quintal may be conflating negative experiences like childhood trauma, drug addiction, and addiction to social media fame with same-sex attraction, something that could have been taught to him by an authority in his church or by other Christians.
Vines told Insider that it is unlikely Quintal himself would say he underwent "conversion therapy," but teachings that could have instructed him would still resemble what is prohibited for children under the age of 18 in 20 US states.
Mathew Shurka, the co-founder of the anti-conversion therapy advocacy organization Born Perfect, told Insider that Quintal's rhetoric echoes lessons taught in conversion programs and that conflating addiction issues with same-sex attraction is common in such programs.
"The way he spoke about it, you can tell he's adding the filter" that he must have learned from some source supporting an end to his gay relationships, Shurka said.
LGBTQ advocates say the messaging in Quintal's recent videos is dangerous and can be harmful for LGBTQ youth and their families.
Whether or not Quintal has been involved in a religious or therapeutic program resembling conversion therapy, advocates for gay rights say his language is potentially damaging for his viewers to hear.
"It's incredibly dangerous and it's so upsetting," said Shurka, himself a survivor of a conversion therapy program. "That scares me, because a lot of teenagers to 20-something-year-olds are definitely watching him."
NBC reports that conversion therapy usually takes the form of talk therapy and is associated with an increase in suicidal thoughts, drug abuse, and depression among teens. The American Psychiatric Association has said that conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, and increased suicidal ideation and is "unlikely" to be effective in changing same-sex attraction.
Nearly every major health association, including the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association opposes conversion therapy, along with "ex-gay therapy," "reparative therapy," and any type of therapy that seeks to repress, reverse, or eradicate same-sex attraction.
Vines told Insider that many young adults who have promoted ex-gay Christian pathways go on to have same-sex relationships later in life, although it can take decades to unlearn the harmful ideologies Quintal is currently espousing.
"My hope for him would be that he would be able to meet LGBT Christians in time and find people who share his love and his passion for God but who also have done a lot of study of scripture on this topic and who have come to a place of peace around their sexual orientation, and that they might be able to help share that with him," Vines said.
Given the jarringly disparate nature of his current comments with his previously pro-LGBTQ identity and stance, along with videos Quintal has publicly bookmarked on his channel, it appears he has been influenced by anti-gay Christian online sources.
In a public playlist on his channel called "God" that he updated as recently as Sunday, Quintal has saved videos from sources like Jackie Hill-Perry, an 'ex-gay' Christian thought leader Vines referenced as having similar views to Quintal. Hill-Perry formerly identified as a lesbian and is now married to a man, and Vines says her memoir is popular among Evangelical Christians.
Quintal also highlighted a video from PragerU, a conservative and far-right non-profit that creates educational videos from a far-right standpoint, including videos that dispute climate change science and deny the existence of homophobia.
Quintal's YouTube rebrand attracted social media attention from former fans the day his 'surviving sexuality' video debuted.
The response to Quintal's video has been largely negative, with former fans who saw him as inspirational at the height of his YouTube fame responding with a mix of shock and sadness.
Another majorly outspoken gay YouTuber from Quintal's era, Tyler Oakley, appeared to comment on Twitter buzz around Quintal's "surviving sexuality" video.
"Being queer is a gift," Oakley wrote on Twitter, following up with "For context, there was a famous gay YouTuber going viral on Twitter advocating for conversion therapy yesterday, & this was how I responded."
After the "surviving sexuality" video debuted, critical responses went viral, including a compilation of Quintal's old Vines with the caption "I just can't believe he went from this to where he is now."
"It actually makes me laugh when people are like 'God hates gays.' Bi-ch, do you know him personally? Exactly. You're excused," a much younger Quintal said in the Vine.
"I think it's really hard to develop a following like that when you're still figuring so much out about yourself and who you are and what you believe," Vines told Insider. "That's got to be challenging, but it's also the case that this type of rhetoric, however well-intentioned it may be, is damaging to LGBTQ people."
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