Imagine Dragons frontman slams 'conversion therapy' at Billboard awards

During his band's acceptance speech for top rock artist, Dan Reynolds called out the harm so-called conversion therapy can have on LGBTQ youth.
Image: Imagine Dragons
From left, Daniel Platzman, Ben McKee, Dan Reynolds, and Wayne Sermon of Imagine Dragons accept the top rock artist award at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on Wednesday. Kevin Winter / Getty Images
By Alexander Kacala

Dan Reynolds, the frontman for the rock group Imagine Dragons, used his band’s acceptance speech for the top rock artist award Wednesday at the Billboard Music Awards to advocate for the LGBTQ community and speak out against conversion therapy.

"I just want to take this moment to say that there are still 34 states that don't have laws banning conversion therapy,” Reynolds said. “On top of that, 58 percent of our LGBTQ population live in those states. This can change, but it’s going to take all of us talking to our state legislature, pushing forward laws to protect our LGBTQ youth.”

“And lastly,” he added, “we have seen with conversion therapy that our LGBTQ youth have double the rate of depression, triple the rate of suicide after conversion therapy. It’s not working and needs to change.”

Conversion therapy is a medically discredited practice that aims to change one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, talk therapy is the most commonly used therapy technique, according to a 2018 report by UCLA’s Williams Institute, but some practitioners have also combined this with "aversion treatments," such as induced vomiting or electric shocks, the report said.

At least 16 states currently have measures in place that prohibit the practice of conversion therapy on minors, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ think tank.

Reynolds has been an outspoken ally for the LGBTQ community. In 2018, he produced “Believer,” a documentary that examined the “intersection between LGBT people and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Reynolds, who describes himself as a “fourth-generation Las Vegan raised in a very conservative Mormon family,” told Deadline at the time that he hoped the film would open church leaders' eyes to how they treat LGBTQ members.

“I don’t feel a need to denounce Mormonism. I do feel a need as a Mormon to speak out against things that are hurting people,” he told The Los Angeles Times last year. “If the leaders of the church aren’t going to change the doctrine, then the culture needs to change. That’s the goal.”

In 2017, Reynolds began the music festival Loveloud to "fight against teen suicide and encourage acceptance of LGBT youth.” The concert donated its profits to various LGBTQ organizations including The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide prevention organization, and the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD.

The annual festival, now in its third year, takes place in Salt Lake City. Utah, a Mormon stronghold, has seen an alarming spike in youth suicides, according to a report by the state's Department of Health

This year’s festival takes place on June 29 and will be headlined by Kesha and include Martin Garrix, Dan Reynolds, Tegan & Sara, Daya, Grouplove, K. Flay, PVRIS and Laura Jane Grace.

"We need to make sure that all LGBTQ+ people feel accepted and supported and that families have the support that they need," Kesha said in a statement. "It's important to try to keep families together and having positive open-minded conversations.”

Speaking of the festival, Reynolds said he and his band are “excited to celebrate our LGBTQ youth through music and spoken word.”

"My hope is that they feel loved, accepted and perfect just the way they are,” he added. “I invite all the political and religious leaders of Utah to join us as we show our LGBTQ youth that they are not just loved, but truly accepted and appreciated."