Why the Government’s knee-jerk ban on gay conversion therapy fails to understand the real issues

Jul 5, 2018 by

by Peter Ould, Premier:

Three gay Christians walk into a therapist’s waiting room.

It’s not the start of a joke but rather a serious conversation about whether particular counselling practices should be made illegal.

Reports in the media over the past 48 hours, combined with opinion and comment pieces from observers and those who claim to have been through such therapy, have put this subject back on the agenda again. But when people call for a ban on “conversion therapy”, what exactly is it that they want to prohibit and on what basis?

Let’s go back to our therapy centre. The first gay Christian sits down with the therapist and says, “I’m unhappy being gay – can you help me be straight?”

“Of course”, says the therapist as she opens the drawer of her desk and brings out a list of options. The menu of therapy is dazzling – it contains everything from strapping electrodes to genitals and administering shocks while viewing gay porn, full on exorcism sessions after a cleansing ritual, assertiveness and “manliness” courses, cognitive behavioural, gestalt, Jungian based and other such talking therapies. Right at the bottom is “Ignatian Retreat”.

Our therapee looks up bewildered. “You mean all these count as conversion therapy?” “Well yes, they’ve all at one point been referred to as conversion therapy, but they’re all very different therapeutic approaches. Some of them involve techniques that are used for other interventions very effectively”.

When people call for banning conversion therapy, what exactly are they asking? Is it a particular method that they want banned? Well if we look at our list we can see that some of the things are potentially illegal in and of themselves. Electrocuting someone for aversion therapy? That’s been abandoned by all psychiatrists and psychologists decades ago, though interestingly electro-convulsion therapy is still used to treat some forms of major depression.

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