The Disney Channel put Matthew Scott Montgomery on the road to stardom more than a decade ago, but privately, the actor was grappling to come to terms with his true self.
Appearing on Tuesday’s episode of “Vulnerable With Christy Carlson Romano,” Montgomery recalled his decision to seek out so-called gay conversion therapy during his early years in Hollywood.
“In the environment that I grew up in, you’re taught that you deserve to be punished all the time,” said the North Carolina native, who appeared on “So Random!” and “Sonny With a Chance,” among other Disney Channel series.
“At the time, the career stuff was going so well that I was still in this broken prison brain of thinking: ‘I’m on red carpets. I’m on TV every week. This is too good. I should be punished on my days off.’”
He added: “Disney had nothing to do with it. It was not their idea. They didn’t know; no one knew. My cast mates did not know at the time.”
Matthew Scott Montgomery is shown on Disney Channel's "So Random!" in 2011.
Montgomery said he visited a center in Los Angeles that was known for working with men in entertainment, though he didn’t identify anyone by name.
“Their selling point was, you look at any billboard in LA and see any male actor — they’ve been through these walls before,” he said. There, he was subjected to both electroshock therapy and hypnosis as part of his supposed treatment.
“They would kind of do a hypnosis-y kind of thing where you would imagine scenarios,” he explained. “You imagine the world is post-apocalypse and it’s a decimated Earth, and the only person left on Earth is a straight man. ... You go and you walk up and hug a straight man. And when you hugged the straight man in my mind, they would zap my hands, like the electric shock.”
Conversion therapy, sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” is an unfounded and harmful practice that attempts to change an LGBTQ person’s sexuality or gender identity. It has been explicitly discredited by the American Psychological Association and other top medical groups.
At present, 22 U.S. states have banned conversion therapy ― which has been known to treat LGBTQ identity as though it were an addiction ― on minors. Last year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to “explore guidance to clarify that federally-funded programs cannot offer so-called ‘conversion therapy.’”
However, as Montgomery’s remarks demonstrate, the practice continues to be promoted by some, especially within conservative religious communities. The actor described his parents as “very, very conservative,” and said they “were really upset” when he came out as gay at 18.
“My mom collapsed sobbing when she found out,” he said, adding that his father told him, “Being gay is a choice.”
Montgomery (left) described his Disney Channel co-star Demi Lovato as “my soulmate” and “the person who loves me the deepest.”
Ultimately, Montgomery came to the realization that he could live as his authentic self after appearing in a production of Del Shores’ “Yellow,” in which he played a queer teenager who is taken in by a loving family after being rejected by his birth mother, a conservative Christian.
“That was the therapy I actually needed because I got the experience of what it was like to have a family not only love me, but celebrate me and really accept me,” he said.
These days, Montgomery’s career is once again on the upswing. Last year, it was announced that “Howdy, Neighbor!” — an LGBTQ-inclusive horror film featuring a script he’d written — had been picked up for production. He also recently reunited with Demi Lovato, a fellow Disney Channel veteran, on the Peacock documentary series “Unidentified.”
In his “Vulnerable” interview, he described Lovato as “my soulmate” and “the person who loves me the deepest,” and he credited the pop star with helping him “curate a life that was filled with love and art and expression.”
Check out Matthew Scott Montgomery’s appearance on “Vulnerable” below.