"A cure for homosexuality is a complete fantasy, an idea only entertained by homophobes, the ignorant... and my mum and dad."
— Paul Sinha
The occurrence in fiction of effecting a cure for, or attempting to cure, homosexuality.
Whether the homosexual character being "cured" is male or female depends more on when the work was written than on anything else. Before about 1970 (and dating so far back that it's Older Than Steam) lesbianism was thought of not as an active attraction to women but as a neurotic, unhealthy rejection of men or even of sex entirely ("sex" at the time being thought of as all about men). Works tended therefore to show only women being "cured" of their homosexuality - and the "cure" didn't need to be consensual either. (Male homosexuality, if even mentioned, was seen as irredeemable.) It's only in the last 30 to 40 years that the trope has changed (influenced by male appreciation of lesbianism) to being mainly about gay men being "cured" through the love of a good woman.
There are many variations on this theme, ranging from outright genetic reprogramming to just having sex with a member of the opposite sex. May draw on the Rape and Switch trope, in which homosexuality is a defense mechanism triggered by unwanted (and unpleasant) sexual contact.
Can be Truth in Television if the trope is merely alluded to, such as a homophobic character mentioning it as a possible response to a gay or lesbian character's sexuality, or if a gay or lesbian person tries it but fails. Can be inverted, commonly in erotica and erotic Fan Fiction, to have a character be "cured" of heterosexuality.
Once quite common, this trope is increasingly becoming a discredited one due to homosexuals in general being moved to the realm of Once Acceptable Targets as well as some cathartic backlash against the once common idea of "curing" homosexuality. There is also the growing body of research showing that homosexuality is likely to have a biological cause, and attempts to "cure" it with psychotherapy or other non-medical techniques are not only usually ineffective but can often be dangerous and the rejection of this trope by all major medical and psychological organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association and is now illegal to subject minors to in California, with other states following suit. However, the trope may soon be reborn due to the recent research on the epigenetic origin of homosexuality, which means it can be possible to change sexual orientation via epigenetic therapy or other similar means.
Does NOT include gay characters who turn out to have been bisexual all along (that is, still find the same sex attractive but are in a relationship with the opposite sex). Nor does it include If It's You, It's Okay. Nor does it include turning a gay character straight with no in-story explanation at all.
Double Subverted in Ranma ˝, Ranma and co try to cure what they think is Tsubasa's Les Yayinvoked crush on Ukyou by setting her up on a date with Ranma himself. However in the end it turned out that while Tsubasa was an extremely convincing Wholesome Crossdresserhe was totally heterosexual.
Discussed in Sekirei, and played for comedy. Benitsubasa states that her "pure love" and awesome boobs will cure Natsuo and make him fall in love with her. It obviously isn't going to happen, and Natsuo's other Sekirei realize and respect his true sexuality and lampshade how completely stupid this plan is.
Houou Gakuen Misoragumi is a manga about a girl who likes girls. But all her girlfriends breaks up with because they're both girls, even though they love each other. So her mother sends her to an All-Boys School to "cure" her... Digital Manga Publishing dropped the english release after 1 volume due to the Values Dissonance.
X-Men never had to deal with this... literally, anyway. Mutants are sometimes used as a metaphor for homosexuality, and there have been a number of storylines where someone tries to cure the mutant gene, which almost always backfires. Emma Frost discusses this trope with a scientist.
Emma: What's next, a cure for the gay gene? Scientist: Homosexuality isn't a threat to the human race. Emma: We are clearly watching different televangelists.
Stargirl: How do you feel, Todd? Obsidian: Pretty good, all things considered. Wonderful, in fact. I'm as powerful as ever. No discernible side effects of my disability, except that I'm no longer gay, of course. Green Lantern: Son? Obsidian: That's right, dad! I'm cured! Isn't that great! [The cast exchanges looks of bewilderment] Obsidian: Relax folks. Only kidding. Still gay. Seriously, I wish you could all see your faces right now.
Chasing Amy. Appears to be about this, with Holden "curing" Alyssa of her lesbianism - however, it turns out that she was bisexual all along. She identified as lesbian for a long time, but she had been involved with a number of men in the past. When Holden finds out that he didn't magically make her switch teams, he doesn't take it well.
Far From Heaven has Dennis Quaid's character seek out a psychologist to cure his homosexuality. It doesn't work, of course.
Aaron is sent to a camp to cure his gayness in Latter Days. Not only does it predictably not work, it's there that he hears the song Christian's friend has made using his diary and realizes Christian loves him, giving him the strength to run away from there.
John Waters' Female Trouble. Inverted, in which Aunt Ida begs her son Gator to "turn nelly", even trying to set him up on dates with flamboyantly gay men.
Aunt Ida: The world of the heterosexual is a sick and boring life!
Pillow Talk. Brad feigns being gay to attract Jan, to try to get her to "cure" him. The ironic subtext was that Brad was played by Rock Hudson, who even played this scene at parties for friends who knew he was gay.
Saved!. After a devout Christian teenager learns that her boyfriend is gay, she sleeps with him in order to cure him. It doesn't work. Then the boy's parents find out and send him to an institution with the intention of curing him, where he stays for most of the movie. And then turns up at prom with a boyfriend.
Velvet Goldmine. Teenage Curt Wilde is given shock treatments by his parents to cure him (based on the Real Life experiences of Lou Reed).
The doctors said the treatment would "fry the fairy clean out of him". But all it did was make him bonkers - every time he heard an electric guitar...
Save Me centres around a drug-addicted gay man who enters an ex-gay program at the request of his Catholic family shortly after an accidental overdose. Oddly, the ex-gay program itself is shown in a positive light, with the two camp runners being portrayed as well-intentioned but woefully misguided. They started the camp after their gay son committed suicide.
The film A Different Story is of a gay man and a lesbian moving in together and both suddenly stop being gay and fall in love with eachother.
In Maurice, the title character goes to an American hypnotist to cure his homosexuality. Somewhat subverted since the hypnotist is the most reaffirming character in the film, giving up and suggesting Maurice emigrate to a country more accepting of homosexuality.
In Prayers for Bobby, Mary's efforts to cure her son Bobby's homosexuality drive him to suicide. Mary realizes that God didn't cure Bobby because there was nothing wrong with him in the first place and she becomes a gay rights activist.
Sort of Broken Aesop actually. God doesn't cure schizophrenics, children with Down syndrome and other disabilities as well, though there obviously is something wrong with them.
In Kire can the huldra's curse men into falling in love with them. And men only, implying that there are no gays (whom can't be cursed) or lesbians (that can be cursed). The huldras are made so authentic as possible, but it had been better if it had been made a little more up to the times where they don't have to struggle that much.
The Black Magician Trilogy: A character has struggled against rumors about being gay which have ruined his reputation (in his home country at least - others are more open). Eventually, when he is completely out of mana it turns out that he was gay, but he blocked out the memories and has been reflexively using Healing magic to block any sexual impulse for years. The gay man he had been traveling with had already figured it out but didn't want to say anything, and they end up becoming a couple.
It's a bit better than the regular cases, since the man IS gay, but had tried to 'cure' himself, due to the great social stigma attached to it in his home country. It sort of works, since he forces himself — with magic — not to think sexual thoughts, because he doesn't want to admit that he is gay. So it is sort of an inversion of the trope. Since it is a curing that fails. Sort of.
This is essentially what a particularly Armored Closet Gay goes through, aided by magic. If a repressed homosexual had access to magic, this is what they would do. A 'cure' for homosexuality would not result in a functionally asexual person, but a heterosexual person, because the kind of people who think that homosexuality is a disease that needs to be cured are generally not going to accept asexual identities, either. The situation described above is not a cure, but merely good ol' repression, magically enhanced.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream has one of the human characters as having been once homosexual, but after so many years of torture from AM he now has sex with Ellen, the only female of the group. Also became a monstrous gorilla thing. This is a case where this clearly isn't supposed to be seen as a good thing and may in fact count as some form of dark social satire since it was published in 1967, when attempts at 'curing' gay men of their homosexuality were pretty much the norm. It might also be a subversion, since Benny's attraction to men was only "cured" by physically rearranging his body and breaking his mind, and the act of giving him his freakish, overly endowed body and changing his sexuality is considered a torture in and of itself.
In Julian Comstock, Adam (who is straight) manages to take advantage of this:
On more than one occasion his [Julian's] female acquaintances—sophisticated girls of my own age, or older—made the assumption that I was Julian's intimate companion, in a physical sense. Whereupon they undertook to cure me of my deviant habits, in the most direct fashion. I was happy to cooperate with these "cures," and they were successful, every time.
In E.M. Forster's Maurice, the title character goes to a hypnotist to try to change. Doesn't work.
In Oracle by Greg Egan, an alternate universe Alan Turing is locked in a punishingly cramped cage by the secret service in an attempt to cure him of his homosexuality. The No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Turing notices the Anviliciousness of the situation:
Quint was silent for a moment, then he replied with a tone of thoughtful sympathy. "It's unnatural, isn't it? Living like this: bent over, twisted, day after day. Living in an unnatural way is always going to harm you. I'm glad you can finally see that."
Robert was tired; it took several seconds for the meaning to sink in. It was that crude, that obvious? They'd locked him in this cage, for all this time ... as a kind of ham-fisted metaphor for his crimes?
His short story "Cocoon" also has the eponymous treatment for pregnant women that inadvertently prevents gay-making hormones from reaching the baby.
In Pat Barker's The Eye In The Door, some members of the British parliament see gays as a threat to society, and there's a lot of talk about curing homosexuality through therapy—it's a constant threat in the background, although it's never tried on any of the main characters.
In Love Drugged by James Klise, the main character attempts to cure his own homosexuality by taking an experimental pill that claims to be able to remove homosexual urges, even though it's currently untested and the side effects include nausea, rage problems and blinding headaches. It doesn't quite work as he hoped, however - the pills only help with diminishing his homosexual urges, but don't create heterosexual urges in their place, leaving him basically desexualised, angry and in pain.
In the short story The Crooked Man by Charles Beaumont, Jesse and Mina are a straight couple meeting in secret in a future where gay couples are the norm and politicians rail against heterosexuals. At the conclusion, they are caught by the vice squad and get taken away to be cured (Jesse forcibly; Mina has accepted it and decides it would be better than going underground).
In the dystopia in the Delirium Series, love is considered a disease. All people are required to have a surgery to cure them of love at the age of 18. If two "uncureds" of the opposite sex fall in love and get involved with each other, they're merely considered to have "amor deliria nervosa" and it's bad because it's considered an unnatural version of the usual husband-wife relationships. If the two "uncureds" are of the same sex, though, their behavior is labeled as "Unnaturalism." After the surgery, everyone is forced into heterosexual bureaucratically arranged marriages.
In The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, there is an actual CURE for being gay, and everyone gets it along with the cures for everything else.
Genome by Sergey Lukyanenko describes a world where most people are genetically specialized for some profession (be it janitor, pilot, geisha, executioner...). Many are also programmed to love their professions. Pak, a non-specialized secondary characternote a caviller, but otherwise a nice guy and a great specialist in his field to boot accidentally drinks an experimental drug that suppresses genetic predisposition to anythingnote "accident" being more of a collateral damage, the geisha was stuck in a loop of her programming and the captain couldn't think of anything better than spiking with the drug the wine all crew drank. Several hours later we see him experimenting with a woman for the first time in his life. The inventor of the drug predicts that if this becomes a habit, Pak would stay bi when the drug wears off in a few weeks. Note that the effect is completely unintentional as in this world any sexuality is perfectly OK.
Inverted in The Forever War, in the 24th century homosexuality is mandatory (as Population Control) and heterosexuality is considered a mental disorder that is easily cured. Though it doesn't work on oldtimers like Mandella. Though in the end in the 31st century, sexuality becomes a moot point on earth as it's now a Hive Mind of clones. But some of Mandella's surviving troops decide to become straight and join colonies of old-fashioned humans.
In the world of Replica, homosexuality is a tricky situation. It is considered acceptable for the two lower classes (Employees and the Basement) to express themselves in such a way. The powerful Executive class forbids it and any Executive who identifies as such are sent to a special place for reprogramming.
Pops up in Pretty Little Liars. In "PERFECT",the third book,Emily is outed by "A" and as a result her parents make her take part in a program called "Little Miss Treetops" in order to "cure" her(Emily only reluctantly agrees to take part after her mother threatens to send her off to her to her horribly stuck up and stuffy amish relatives if she doesn't). Suffice to say this fails miserably when Emily and her peer mentor Becka decide to go skating. They run into Becka's ex,Wendy,and things are a bit awkward. Emily excuses herself to go to the washroom,only to find Becka and Wendy making out when she returns. This convinces Emily not to take part in the program.THEN Emily's parents,upset with her for not trying to "cure" herself,try again by sending her to the afforementioned amish relatives but this also fails when Emily runs away. Fortunately Emily's parents and siblings do become more accepting of her sexuality in later books.
One episode features someone who went to a conversion camp and became so traumatized by it that he turned into a serial killer who targets gays. Given that the conversion methods involved calling them abominations and having a prostitute "rape them straight" it shouldn't be surprising it turned out so badly. This episode caused the uproar of many proponents of conversion therapy.
In another episode, a father tried beating the gay out of his son for most of his life, driving him insane and making him kill other gay men so he could steal their identities and live their carefree lives.
One episode of Boston Legal featured one of the recurring judges suing a Christian institution after their program failed to cure his homosexuality. Or, as he put it, the urges he kept having that in no way indicated he was actually gay.
Joked about on Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Willow points out to her girlfriend Tara that some guys were checking her out.
In American Horror Story: Asylum, set in 1964 in an insane asylum, we have Lana, a reporter who wants to investigate the asylum. When the head finds out, she has Lana imprisoned (with her partner's reluctant consent) because Lana is gay. One sympathetic psychiatrist has a plan to help her escape by proving she is "cured" of her gayness, and because it's 1964, he first tries aversion therapy. It didn't work.
The short-lived CBS drama Century City (the law firm OF THE FUTURE!) had its pilot shuffled around and eventually buried because it dealt with this trope head-on. A pre-natal procedure that reduces the chances of a child being born gay has become commonplace, and the law firm is hired by a couple of parents who are suing their doctor because their child has been born gay. At first they think it was a medical error... then they find out the doctor's been deliberately sabotaging the procedure because he hates the idea of homosexuality and the gay community just vanishing silently. The episode ends with a Gay Aesop, but it's understandable why the topic was a bit hinky,
Coupling poked fun at this in an episode that had a lot of fun with Steve's fascination with lesbian porn. In one of the typical misunderstandings, Patrick mistakes Jane's therapist Jill for a lesbian while she thinks that Patrick is gay. Both are unaware of it, both are surprised how open the other is to being turned by the right man/woman, and both end up in bed together. Final scene of the episode is Patrick sporting a happy "wow, I scored a lesbian" smile.
Degrassi The Next Generation. In one episode, Riley contacts an organization devoted to this sort of therapy, after entering "how to not be gay" in a search engine. He is frustrated when told the process will take years and involve considerable expense. He eventually comes to terms with his homosexuality.
Fans did it first. A lot of fanfic involved "curing" Marco. It didn't work out well, most of the time. Some of the time it did.
The New Transfer Student Becky tries to do this. First she gives Dave a pamphlet for curing gayness, even though Dave is just playing a gay guy in a play and is actually straight. She then has a crush on Adam, who is transgender, and when she finds out she tries to get him to change as well. The tables turn though while Becky is dating Adam and she tells her parents that he's trans, which ends up putting HER into "reparative therapy".
Ellen. Subverted in one episode, in which everyone wishes they could be gay because it's so chic in Hollywood, to the point in which Sean Penn comes out to increase his popularity. Being a Fake Brit is the real atrocity.
The patient in the House episode "The Choice" is engaged to a woman and insists that he has been 'cured' of homosexuality. Dr. House, full of disgust as a medical professional, calls his patient's treatment clinic "Dr. Liberace's He-Man Quackery Camp." Their cure turns out to be the cause of his illness.
Patient I am as straight as any one of you! Thirteen Oh, I don't doubt that even for a minute.
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. One episode involved a doctor that claims to be able to cure homosexuality who is suspected of murdering his son's (male) lover. He claims he had no idea his son was gay and thought he was being raped but he knew all along as his son's beard's mother told him. The victim was a former spokesman for an organization that supposedly cures homosexuality; when questioned, members of the group— a gay man and a lesbian who are married having been tragically brainwashed and warped by the group— acknowledge that there's no such thing as a cure for their orientation, and that choosing to suppress their sexual desires is as much a "lifestyle choice" as being part of gay culture— and just as much of a struggle. It's both pathetic and sad.
Lewis: "Life Born of Fire" opens with the suicide of a gay man who (as it emerges during the course of the episode) was a member of a Christian group that attempted to 'cure' his homosexuality.
Queer as Folk tried this on Emmett with a church organization called "See the Light". It culminated in a rather amusing scene in which Emmet and another "cured" lesbian have sex; they both try to envision a perfect, sexy member of the opposite sex, but end up fantasizing about those of their own. Both of them got better.
In the Seinfeld episode "The Beard", Elaine tries to make a gay man "change teams". She succeeds, but only temporarily.
Upon finding out about her daughter's lesbianism, Spencer's bigoted mother hires a "professional" to cure Spencer of her homosexuality. She and the therapist both get the smackdown from Arthur once he finds out.
Spencer isn't exactly a fan either.
Paula: I love you Spencer; you are sick... Spencer: I am sick?! Paula: ... And I want to help you. Spencer: Mom, Glenn was so addicted to painkíllers that he end up in jail, and I am the one that needs to get better?! Arthur: Give me a sec with your mother [Spencer storms off] Why are you doing this Paula? Paula: I am trying to help our daughter! Arthur: Well you are pushing her away. We are going to lose her! Paula: Oh open your eyes Arthur: We already have!
An episode of Sugar Rush has the protagonist going to a church group to "cure" herself - but instead ends up finding herself a date.
Devon Banks claimed he was "cured" of his homosexuality. It didn't work, as Devon remains infatuated with men, especially Kenneth.
Inverted in "Cooter", when a "gay bomb" weapon malfunctions, causing Jack and Pentagon brass to start hitting on each other. In a later episode, it is implied things went further as Jack fretted about meeting a general he'd had sex with under the influence.
Cooter: I feel weird. Jack:(hungrily) Let's do this.
30 Rock's writers were aware that this was an experimental weapon the military was actually working on, but it wasn't necessarily a gay bomb, more a pheromone gas that made people have sex with anyone nearby as a way of distracting the other side. They never actually got it past the planning stages, for the obvious reason of it being a ridiculously stupid idea.
One episode of Veronica Mars involved a high school boy whose parents sent him to a camp that was supposed to "de-gay" him.
Will and Grace. Subverted in one episode guest-stars Neil Patrick Harris (who was still officially in the closet at the time) as the leader of an ex-gay club who Jack gets a crush on and ends up showering with, after it is discovered that EVERYONE in the club was actually using it as a dating service.
Played horrifically straight in an episode of The Shield. A young girl is raped repeatedly by her bigoted father, brother, and others in order to cure her of her homosexuality. The trauma is enough that she acknowledges her orientation again.
The Shield also played it completely straight with Julian, a cop who struggled with the conflict between his homosexual desires and his devout Baptist beliefs. He eventually marries a woman and seems happy with her, but it is implied that his homosexuality may only have been repressed, not eliminated.
Dale of Greek tries to "cure" Calvin by giving him pictures of male models and then forcing him to smell rotten food (to create a connection between the two). Dale mostly drops it when Calvin points out that the same passage of the Bible that condemns homosexuality also condemns wearing clothing from different cloths (and is that a multifiber sweater?).
Played terribly straight in EastEnders, when Syed, in a desperate bid to get his parents to love and respect him again, goes to a therapist who claims he can make someone straight.
One episode of Glee features Kurt trying to be more masculine, and thus straight, because he thinks his father will love him more. His (very loving and accepting) father sees right through this, but humors his son anyway. By the end of the episode, of course, he accepts himself.
Kurt: Turned out we have a lot more in common. The flannel. The Mellencamp. The ladies.
Later mentioned in a far more serious context when Karofsky is outed at his new school and tries to hang himself; at the hospital, he tells Kurt that his mother thinks he has a disease and that maybe he can be cured.
On Malcolm in the Middle, Francis becomes an assistant to beauty pageant contestants. He finds out that they think he's gay, but goes along with it as it means they're comfortable flaunting their bodies around him and letting him help them change costumes. Eventually he tries to get together with one by saying he's wondering if he can be cured, but this lands him in a seminar where a stereotypical Southern preacher lambasts the audience to "pray away the gay." It's also implied that another man at the seminar only comes there to pick up guys.
In one Scrubs episode, Elliot claims to have convinced a man he was straight by sleeping with him. Of course, then he hung himself.
When her brother Barry came out, their parents sent him to hetero-camp.
She also loves doing a roleplay scenario with Keith where he plays the high school student and her the Lesbian Jock - and Keith 'turns' her.
Star Trek: The Next Generation had the Sci-Fi version of this in the episode "The Outcast" which featured the J'naii, a race of beings who pride themselves on being androgynous and view gender identity and gender attraction as taboo. When a J'naii called Soren begins to have feelings for Riker, Soren is forced to undergo therapy which, unfortunately, proves to be successful. The episode is infamous because actor Jonathan Frakes called out the producers for not having the guts to cast a man in the role of Soren.
During an episode of Top Gear guest-starring Michael Gambon, Michael said one of his favorite things was to give ignorant reporters interviews full of Blatant Lies. He recalls a story where one interviewer asked if he was uncomfortable playing Oscar Wilde in a film because of his homosexuality, Gambon responded by saying that he used to be gay, but "had to give it up" because it made his eyes water. The interviewer evidently took this seriously.
A Mr. Show sketch: The "Good News" program on the What-to-Think Network tries to do this. A man keeps coming back over the years claiming that he's been cured, only to "relapse" again and again. The host claims he'll be back again after his next "relapse."
In Grey's Anatomy, after Callie comes out to her father (a die-hard Catholic), he cuts her off. After a few episodes, he comes back seemingly to reconcile... then Callie notices a priest he brought with him. She immediately starts angrily telling him that he can't "pray away the gay". Interestingly, the priest barely gets to say anything, as her father is the one trying to Bible-stump his way out of this "problem" with the priest trying to act as a mediator and the voice of reason. Eventually, Callie's father accepts her but only after Arizona (Callie's girlfriend) has a heart-to-heart talk with him. In a later episode we find out that Callie's mother still has a long way to go before she can accept this (despite Callie pointing out that her own assistant is gay).
Shameless (U.S.), teenage Mickey Milkovich is caught getting it from his boyfriend Ian when his homophobicfather Terry comes home unexpectedly. Terry beats Mickey into unconsciousness and holds Ian captive at gunpoint while he calls in a prostitute to "fuck the queer" out of his son. Faced with himself and Ian being shot if he refuses, Mickey complies. The prostitute later turns out to be pregnant and Mickey is forced to marry her even though he has no desire to and still wants to be with Ian (including having sex with him literally right before he goes out to the altar).
Inverted in Tim Minchin's Five Poofs And Two Pianos in which he expresses the desire to get someone to do the same thing but in reverse because gays are cooler.
Lou Reed'sKill Your Sons was based on his electroshock therapy in an attempt to cure his bisexuality.
Poked fun at in a Doonesbury strip, where Lacey Davenport and Joanie visit a homosexuality-awareness meeting. Lacey, not very familiar with the homosexual community, kindly asks them "But have you really tried dating some nice girls?" One of the men replies "It doesn't work like that, ma'am."
Space 1889 In Canal Priests of Mars the John Douglas 9th Marquess of Queensbury is bringing his effeminite son Alfred to Mars to get him out of Oscar Wilde's influence and to 'toughen' him. Historically he would in 1895 trick Oscar Wilde into suing him -which ended up sending Oscar Wilde to prison. Historically Alfred didn't meet Oscar Wilde until 1891 and Canal Priests of Mars is persumably set in 1889 so this is slightly ahistorical.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse features Homogeniety Incorporated, a private firm that offers to cure your non-heterosexual urges. Good news: it works! Bad news: it also cures every single one of your other urges and turns you into a blank, featureless fomor that lashes out at the slightest bit of "abnormality."
The Boys in the Band. Michael and Donald both wish to be "cured" of their homosexuality; Donald is even seeing a shrink to help him. Other characters, like Emory and Harold, refuse to be cured, and in Harold's case, mocks Michael's self-loathing.
In the musical Only Heaven Knows, set in the 1940s and 50s, Alan sings the Tear Jerker "Where is the Love?" before going to get shock treatments to cure himself of homosexuality.
Peterson Toscano's one-man show Doin' Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House is about the utter failure of this trope in the real world.
From Book Of Mormon: The song Turn It Off starts off as various Mormon missionaries giving advice on "turning off" unpleasant feelings/memories (sister dying of cancer, physically abusive father) but once a 'formerly gay' missionary reveals his struggles with his "really strange feelings for Steve" the song suddenly concentrates on advice about how to stop having gay thoughts, even though this is not remotely related to the main character's problem. Its as funny as it is sad.
"Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes, then find the box that's gay and CRUSH IT!" "Boys should be with girls, that's heavenly father's plan. So, If you ever feel you'd rather be with a man, turn it off." "Being gay is bad but lying is worse. Just realize you have a curable curse, and turn it off!
Christine: When I first met my husband, he was a faggot, junkie, poet. Well, he stopped being a faggot, he kicked the junk, and he hasn't written a word since last spring.
In Grand Theft Auto IV, the arch-Conservative and anti-gay Deputy Mayor of Liberty City, Brice Dawkins, ends up getting outed after evidence is released of him having a relationship with Bernie Craine. He continues to deny his homosexuality, insisting he is instead going to "rehab" to correct "personal failings".
Sonichu. One of the more recent plot developments involves Chris-chan donating some of his "pure straight" blood to science so that they can create a vaccinethat erases homosexualityon a genetic level, which he uses to turn his arch-nemesis straight and "turned him good" and injects into the water supply with the help of Time Travel, eventually eradicating homosexuality off the face of the Earth entirely. It also cured Asexuality too. For some reason, they didn't use future Chris. And it raises some questions though: did the distribution of the gay vaccine in the past create a time paradox, or did the gay vaccine simply fail?
The fact that he terms it specifically as a vaccine brings some added lulz, as vaccines are made from the blood of someone who already has what you're trying to cure. Whoops.
To compound the ridiculousness even further, he then proceeded to legalize gay sex in CW Cville within the next few pages.
A reverse example occurs early in Something Positive when Monette insists she's a lesbian who just ends up sleeping with guys all the time, and wants help to become properly gay.
Peejee: You could always have sex with Davan. Aubrey: Plenty of his lovers switched teams afterwards. Davan: Hey! Fuck you! That's only happened twice!
The Dragon Doctors has devices that can change one's orientation easily, but it's only seen used to keep up when one's significant other switches gender (which can happen accidentally).
The "rape them straight" variant shows up in Misfile, when two rednecks overhear Ash and Missi's Les Yay conversation and decide to "fix" them. Luckily, a friend of the girls' chases them off by saying he's taken pictures with his phone and is ready to go to the cops. The rednecks let everyone go, but set up an ambush to get the phone and the pictures. Then an angel kills them both.
In Family Guy, Peter becomes gay after a medical experiment and leaves Lois. Stewie and Brian then take Peter by force to a Christian "Straight Camp." Doesn't work, but by the end of the episode his "gay gene" naturally wears off (just between an all-male orgy) and he's back as a "straight" man.
Peter, through the years, seems to be just as inclined towards Anything That Moves as Quagmire, so how much of this really was Peter being "turned" and then "cured" of homosexuality vs. something making Peter react much more strongly to male pheromones than normal combining with his penchant for self-delusion is anyone's guess.
American Dad! has an inversion of this. Stan tries to make himself gay, to prove by analogy that if straights can change, gays can too. He finds it doesn't work for him (as the guy he tried to sleep with said, "it's not a choice, either you're gay or you aren't"), and he uses the knowledge as a basis for inviting gays into the Conservative party, because... "otherwise they might become liberal." (gasp)
One of Stan's CIA co-workers (whose sexuality is confusing, to say the least) claimed he was once gay, but after he got out of real estate his "sodomy cleared up like that".
Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World. Subverted/played for laughs. In "Mom Fight", Evan encourages Chuck to get out and take better advantage of the fact that they have an open relationship, with one night a week when they're allowed to sleep with other people; Chuck ends up experimenting with a woman and enjoying it. Evan is deeply upset and decides to join the ex-gay movement so that he can have a night of revenge sex with Condi Ling. Of course, the effort fails epically — instead of making him straight it makes him Too Kinky to Torture — and of course, he has no serious interest in actually being meaningfully "cured" in the first place.
The Simpsons. In the episode Homer's Phobia, Homer panics that Bart might be gay after contact with kitsch memorabilia seller John. In order to prevent or cure any possible homosexuality, Homer takes Bart to stare at a billboard of a sexy woman (it just makes him want to smoke, since it's a cigarette ad), to a steel mill to see manly men at work (who all turn out to be gay), deer hunting, and finally just shooting at reindeer in a pen.
Homer: He (John) didn't give you gay, did he?
In Future-Drama, a Flash Forward episode, Bart sees Smithers with his female fiancee.
Bart: Mr. Smithers? I thought you were, you know— uh. Smithers: Haha, no, I'm straight - as long as I take these injections every ten minutes. (injects himself)I LOVE BOOBIES!
Ned Flanders once said the reason he was so in shape is because he "runs for the cure...of homosexuality!" Ironically enough, he wouldn't be the namer of Stupid Sexy Flanders if he wasn't fit.
Smithers explains his being photographed leaving a burlesque house: "My parents insisted I give it a try."
In the episode "Cartman Sucks", Butters' dad worries that Butters is bi-curious. Butters is sent off to a Christian conversion therapy camp, where the idea that the boys there are just "confused" is repeatedly reinforced. (If you weren't confused before you went, you will be afterwards.) At the gay conversion camp, the boys are miserable and suicide is common. As in, happens every five minutes. Meanwhile Butters doesn't have a clue as to what is going on (though it doesn't stop him from giving a Patrick Stewart Speech at the end).
In Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride, Stan tries to try to cure his dog of homosexuality, before Big Gay Al makes his debut and espouses gay civil rights for animals.
Averted, Subverted, Inverted, and possibly Played Straight with Mr. Garrison: he has gone back and forth between being a man preferring women, a transgender woman preferring men, a transgender woman preferring women, back to a cisgender man preferring women, and back to a man preferring men. Horses and other barnyard animals may have been sprinkled throughout. The general consensus is that Mr. Garrison has not so much "been cured of being homosexual" twice over as he is simply so psychologically depraved that he'll become sexually attracted to whatever is considered the most "deviant" thing to be attracted to at that very moment, just because it's considered "vile".
The Venture Bros.. The joke has been made at least a few times. In Season 2 Episode 3, Hank mentions that Dr. Venture had been working on a "cure for the gay gene," until stopped by protesters. In Season 3 Episode 13, Holy Diver (formerly Shore Leave) claims to have "banished the demons of homosexuality" and to have been "cured by the Lord." Of course, that was just part of his cover. His partner on the other hand, wasn't gay, and simply did him as part of his cover.
Parodied in a Saturday Night Live TV Funhouse short with "Heteroy", the Christian fundamentalist superhero whose powers convert gays to straights when they prove resistant to converting through other means.
On Archer, Gillette reveals that he was married for two years... to a lesbian. They met at a Pray-Away-The-Gay bible group.
It was a weird time in his life.
An episode of King of the Hill offers a more sympathetic take on this. Peggy admits that before she met Hank she slept with a gay male friend in an attempt to "fix" him. In this case, the man was the one who asked because (as Peggy puts it), being gay in Texas in the 60s wasn't exactly a lot of fun. When Luanne asks "Did you fix him?", Peggy responds "Oh, he wasn't broken. Just gay. Very, very gay."
In the Futurama episode "Proposition Infinity", "robosexuals" Amy and Bender are respectively subjected to being "cured" of their attraction, complete with Bender going to the robot equivalent of a gay curing camp.
And, in a bit of Dark Comedy, Morbo exasperatedly says "What's next? Gay robot marriage?'', implying that, even in the thirty-first century, there are still issues corcerning human(oid) rights.