Great Britain may be the next place where the damaging practice of ‘conversion therapy’ could be banned. Conversion therapy is also known as reparative therapy or ex-gay therapy and often involves attempts to force children to stop being gay. The therapy has been shown to not only be ineffective, but also damaging and even dangerous.
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Labour MP Diana Johnson and Tom Stephens wrote about how banning ex-gay therapy should be the next step in gay rights for Parliament.
The two note that, despite the passage of same-sex marriage rights in the House of Commons (it is still working its way through the House of Lords), that “it won’t alter the shocking prevalence of homophobic bullying in our schools which affects half of the UK’s openly gay students, or the fact that 73% of trans people in Britain report having been publicly harassed. Nor will it stop intolerant parents throwing their children onto the streets when they come out – a tendency which means a disproportionately-high 25% of Britain’s homeless in urban areas are LGBT.”
Much of the battle over homosexuality and transsexuality is rooted in issues surrounding gender. It is a battle over what some would call the binary mode of gender identity and the multi-gender mode of gender identity.
In the binary mode of gender identity, it is said, there are ‘men’ and ‘not-men’, and being a man is superior to all and anyone attempting to leave the ‘men’ portion of the societal structure is dangerous and should be punished. Often times, ex-gay therapy relies upon gender stereotypes and sexuality stereotypes to try and force children into the gender construct that fits this binary. Women, of course, being among the ‘not-men’. The binary mode of gender identity relies upon the idea that gender and sex are identical.
The multi-gender mode of gender identity says that there are about five or maybe even six gender types and that all are equal, and that gender and sex are not identical. What is more, gender is seen as a societal construct rather than a biologically determined ideal.
Johnson and Stephens wrote that:
With marriage equality on its way, there’s now a need for Parliament to move beyond talking about rights which simply empower those already confident enough to be openly gay and look into the social forces which continue to pin down those who lack the self-assurance to be happy being themselves. Ending gay-to-straight conversion therapy – something which has virtually never been discussed in Parliament – is one way of tackling these underlying issues.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the removal of homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental illnesses (DSM). But you don’t have to look further than the website of the Core Issues Trust – those same people who appealed against Transport for London’s refusal to advertise their anti-gay messages on London buses – to realise that a form of therapy predicated on the assumption that homosexuality is an illness is still carried out.
Despite what Core Issues say, this is not at all a debate about the right of individuals to offer conversion therapy to those who “choose” it. First and foremost, this is about what, if you’re in a professional field and a gay person approaches you expressing uneasiness about their sexuality, you are obliged to do. If doctors, psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and psychiatrists decide to offer conversion therapy or forward their client onto conversion groups externally, all the evidence suggests that they’re potentially consigning their patients to a painful spiral of self-abuse, self-doubt and self-criticism, possibly ending in suicide.
But despite the fact that numerous professional organisations have condemned conversion therapy as ineffective and potentially harmful, there is not a clear dividing line between professionals and conversion therapists. A 2009 survey of 1300 British psychiatrists, therapists and psychoanalysts revealed over 200 had attempted to change at least one patient’s sexuality. In February 2010, Patrick Strudwick in the Independent pretended he wanted to change his sexuality to gain access to some British conversion therapists. His findings were troubling.
The rest of the piece can be read here.
To date, the proponents of ex-gay therapy have been unable to provide solid evidence that anyone, anywhere has been truly helped by ex-gay therapy. Quite often, those who claim to be proponents of ex-gay therapy end up being the same ones who claim to be cured by the therapy and have not been. In fact, in recent months, several proponents of ex-gay therapy have been ended up having to come out of the closet as it turned out that they were not as ex-gay as they claimed.