Out 'Mean Girls' Actor Daniel Franzese Opens Up about Enduring Conversion Therapy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 29, 2022

Daniel Franzese in "Looking"
Daniel Franzese in "Looking"  (Source:HBO)

Daniel Franzese, who played an out gay teen in the hit 2004 comedy "Mean Girls," opened up about enduring conversion therapy in a fruitless bid to turn himself straight, according to IndieWire.

Franzese, now 44, related in an interview with Page Six that "he was 'brainwashed' into cutting ties with his mother and undergoing conversion therapy to 'convert' him to heterosexuality when he was 21 years old in 1999, five years before starring as out and proud Damian in 'Mean Girls,'" IndieWire relayed.

Franzese "explained that he forced himself to undergo the pseudoscientific practice of conversion therapy because he 'didn't want to be gay' and 'didn't know what to do' as part of his Catholic and Pentecostal Christian faith," IndieWire said.

UK newspaper The Independent explained that "Franzese said that while he was raised in a family that 'lovingly tolerated' homosexuality, it was the 'world around' him that made him 'feel like being gay was not OK.'"

The actor turned to a conversion therapy practitioner who claimed to be an "ex-gay" himself, and had been recommended by Frazese's grandmother's pastor, the article added.

The article noted that as part of the quack practice, Franzese was ordered to cut himself off from the supportive people in his life, including his own mother.

Explaining that the conversion therapy practitioner he was seeing was attempting to "make me pray the gay away and alienate all my allies," Franzese recounted how "They told me to tell my mom that my mom was the reason that I was leaning toward bisexual thoughts or whatever because she was so open."

"They made me come out to my mom, who was literally like my best ally, and say, 'It's your fault,'" the actor revealed.

Eventually, Franzese broke away from the counselor and reconciled with his mother, The Independent said. He received further affirmation after his turn as openly gay high schooler Damien, recalling how he got "a fan letter that thanked him for his LGBT+ representation in 'Mean Girls,' as it gave [the fan] 'something in the media' that they could point to and say, 'That's me, and I'm proud,'" The Independent detailed.

It was a deeply meaningful moment for Franzese, who reflected on the difference such representation in the media would have made to himself as a gay youth.

"Like, I was just missing one person that told me that I could... be who I want to be and do what I want to do," Franzese recalled.

All these years later, the openly gay actor has racked up a role on the gay dramedy "Looking" as well as a number of other television and film projects, and now co-hosts "the podcast 'Yass, Jesus!' described as 'a faith and sexuality affirming comedy podcast that believes you don't have to pick between gay and God,'" IndieWire said.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.