Cameron, (Chloë Grace Moretz) a teenager in the early 90s finds herself at a gay conversion therapy center after getting caught with a girl in the backseat of a car. The ironic name of the film comes from the troubling dynamic of those running the center, Dr. Lydia Marsh (Jennifer Ehle) and her brother, Reverend Rick (John Gallagher Jr.). Although their hope is to enlighten youth through religious instruction, youth at the center become conflicted about their own understanding of sexuality and gender identity. Like Cameron, who feels disgusted with who she is.
Cameron begins her time at the center with an “iceberg” assignment where she is told her sexuality is the tip of the iceberg, but there are deeper reasons she is attracted to women. She considers how the loss of both her parents and her enjoyment of sports could have contributed to what the center calls SSA (same-sex attraction). Although these reasons as to why Cameron is attracted to women are acceptable to Dr. Lydia and Reverend Rick, she herself is not satisfied because, before she was sent to the center, Cameron was a normal teenager with a supportive family and growing feelings for a girlfriend.
In order to return home, the youth must rid themselves of their gender fluidity, sexuality and grow in their religious faith. With the iceberg activity and one on one sessions, youth are taught that their gayness is the root of all of their problems. At the facility, Cameron feels that she is being forced by the staff and peers to change all parts of herself and that her life has stopped. She is even told that her name is masculine sounding and instead she should be called Cam.
For Cameron and others at the facility, they try their best to overcome their sexuality and find any way to survive without stripping every sense of who they are. To some youth, survival means conforming to the religious lifestyle asked of them in the facility, but most were unable to escape their internal reality. Cameron’s roommate, Erin (Emily Skeggs), appears to have changed since entering conversion therapy until one night she climbs into Cameron’s bed for a quick makeout session.
While Cameron processes her own past, she finds acceptance in two other “outcast” youth, Jane (Sasha Lane) and Adam (Forrest Goodluck). Although the trio does not engage in outbursts with their peers, they find ways of coping through frequent hikes, smoking weed and eventually burning their iceberg activity.
Despite the 90s setting, the film becomes a reflection of how youth in society find ways to survive in an environment dominated by heterosexual norms. One of the most pivotal scenes comes when authorities are investigating the facility after Cameron finds Mark in the restroom, covered in blood, having just tried to cut off his genitals.
Cameron is asked about abuse and begins to deny any until she asks, “how can a place that makes you hate yourself, not be emotional abuse?”
Shortly after this scene, the films ends with Cameron, Jane, and Adam running away from the conversion center to begin new lives in Canada. Viewers don’t find out if the facility is shut down, but they are able to see Cameron looking her happiest, riding in the back of a truck with her friends.
The facility is symbolic of society and its quest to change or “fix” LGBTQ youth instead of accepting who they are. It depicts not only the miseducation of Cameron Post but of every youth told their sexuality is wrong. In this way, Cameron is not much different from teenagers today.
She is funny, awkward and just trying to understand herself in relation to who the world tells her to be.