David Cameron appeared to promise before the last election that he would do something about the damaging practice of gay ‘conversion’ therapy, but the government is now backtracking on this , despite members of parliament (including Conservatives) stating time and again how damaging and wrong it is. What we need now is not more strong words, but real action to ban it. It is only by making it illegal that its power to hurt people will be diminished.
The practice of ‘gay conversion’ basically consists of fundamentalist Christians convincing gay people that they need to be ‘healed’ of their sexuality and that it can be changed through prayer and other ‘therapies’ (including exorcism) . It is not only founded on a lie, which is why it is discredited by psychology in the UK, but it is also incredibly harmful to the (often) young people who fall into being ‘helped’, because of the church background they’re brought up in. The actor, comedian and biblical scholar Peterson Toscano spent around 20 years in the ‘ex-gay movement’ trying to alter his sexual orientation and has somehow managed, despite that long and hard experience, to have the strength to transform it into humourous show called the ‘Homo No Mo Halfway House’ – well worth checking out if you haven’t seen it already.
In the US, many states have already banned the practice, and Barack Obama recently expressed support for a possible federal ban . It’s too early to measure, but I’m sure that in those states where it is banned, there will be fewer mental health problems and less suicide amongst gay Christians. It is a form of spiritual and mental abuse, which encourages self-loathing and an unhealthy attitude towards one’s own sexuality (an integral part of who we are). It shouldn’t be legal any more than attempts to change people’s skin colour should be legal.
So why is the government holding back on banning it? This is a very difficult question to answer. It’s difficult to say why the government lacks the will to ban the practice with legislation- it may be the mistaken belief that discrediting it is enough to protect vulnerable people. However, as we have discussed at Changing Attitude trustee meetings, there are many things which certain churches and so-called ‘charities’ (like the True Freedom Trust) get away with despite the fact that any attempt at changing someone’s sexual orientation has long been discredited by mainstream psychology and is now also rejected by the Association of Christian Counsellors . People with extreme religious views about homosexuality are not going to stop inflicting their vision of the world on others just because parliament and the UK Council for Psychotherapy tell them it’s wrong.
A more important and pressing question is: What can we do to put pressure on the government to ban it? I think the key is in educating the public about what still goes on, and how it affects vulnerable people’s lives, thereby encouraging outrage in the general public that this barbaric practice hasn’t been banned here already. Alongside this, we need to have a campaign to pressure our members of parliament to propose and support a vote on banning it. Changing Attitude trustees will be discussing what our next steps should be at our upcoming meetings. I would encourage you to email or facebook message us if you have any good ideas. Together we need to stop this ‘abhorrent’ practice once and for all.