The Trouble with Conversion Therapy

Mar 18, 2021 by

Letter to the Church of England Newspaper March 19 from Dr Peter May

The current debate about Conversion Therapy for sexual orientation and gender identity seems immersed in a confusion of myths and falsehoods. A major confusion concerns the assertion that such therapies are harmful. In the past, they included hormone therapies, castration, aversion therapies with enemas, drugs or electrodes, and attempts at curative treatment such as electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) and even surgical lobotomies. All these were administered by the medical profession.

Prior to 1967, when homosexual acts were illegal, people were coerced into having such treatment. That is no longer the case. These dreadful therapies did not work, and have not been used by health professionals in the UK for over 50 years.

Today, the only therapy on offer is Talking-Therapy. Whether it is counselling for bereavement, marriage breakdown, post-traumatic stress disorders or addiction to pornography, these are not “illnesses” which can be “cured”. They are emotional problems, which can be managed, though they are all at risk of relapse. While some may not benefit, others are grateful for the insights they gain and for the supportive help they receive in managing them.

Counselling for unwanted sexual desires is similar.  Some many not benefit and some will relapse, but others are helped to move away from homosexual behaviour and culture. A growing number now gladly call themselves Ex-Gays, whose identity is constantly being overlooked (LGBTX?).

The people most likely to gain benefit are those who are:

1). Young, especially adolescents, whose neurological pathways are still developing

2)  Highly motivated, whether driven by loneliness, depression, promiscuity, risk of sexual

infections, their desire to have children or by conscience and religious beliefs.

3)  Those who have significant degrees of Sexual Fluidity.

It is not true to say people are born gay or that orientation cannot change. Extensive genetic research has completely failed to identify a ‘gay gene’. When someone walks out of a 20 yr. marriage, leaving a partner and three children, it is not because they are exclusively homosexual but because their sexuality is fluid and they have made a choice.

Sexual Fluidity is the biggest neglected factor in all this. A recent Ipsos Mori poll in USA and UK has shown that many people, at different stages of their lives, experience attraction to people of the same sex. This is especially true in the 18-23 year old age group. Why should such sexually fluid people to be allowed help to move in one direction only?

Many adolescents, experiencing Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, are actually experiencing any of a number of problems – peer group pressure, body dysphoria, mental health issues and confusion about their sexual orientation. They should be able to discuss all these issues without censure and be given the help they need.

The main criticism of the Gender Identity Clinic in London is that these young people have not received adequate counselling to identify their problem. If their confusion is about sexual orientation, they need to understand why they feel like this, and then consider what they want to do about it. They may well request counselling to help them.

To criminalise such counselling is to criminalise Free Speech, Freedom of Conscience, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Behaviour and Freedom of Therapeutic Choice. The current vigorous campaigning to ban counselling therapy has serious implications for society and the Government needs to handle this matter with care.

Dr Peter May, Southampton

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