Garrard Clayton Conley was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 15, 1985. He spent his childhood in Milligan Ridge, Mississippi County, Arkansas.
Conley's family moved to Mountain Home while he was attending Lyon College in Batesville. He earned his bachelor's degree in 2007 and served in the Peace Corps in Ukraine after graduation. Conley taught high school in Bulgaria, instructed memoir-writing classes in New York City, and has lectured on gay rights around the country.
Conley is the author of Boy Erased: A Memoir , a 2016 book relating his experiences with conversion therapy. His book is the basis for the 2018 movie Boy Erased in which Conley is portrayed by Lucas Hedges. He continues to write and is an activist for LGBQT rights. He serves on the board of the Mattachine Society in Washington, DC.