Showing posts with label Conversion Therapy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conversion Therapy. Show all posts

May 17, 2020

Banning Anti Gay Conversion Therapy Is Not Just Enough

Ryan Thoreson


Lawmakers around the world have proposed new legislation to ban ‘conversion therapy’ – attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
In Canada, for example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said banning conversion therapy was a “top priority” for his government, while lawmakers in Australia, France, Ireland, New Zealand, and Spain have also called for bans.
The UN’s special rapporteur on torture has said that, in some instances, conversion therapy can “lead to severe and life-long physical and mental pain and suffering and can amount to torture and ill-treatment.” According to the American Psychological Association, ‘conversion’ or ‘reparative therapy’ for LGBT people has been linked to cases of depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
In 2018, the European Parliament called on states to ban these practices – though it did not give guidance on how conversion therapy should be defined or curbed. This is important because the details matter, and a rush to adopt punitive legislation, imposing criminal penalties on non-violent and non-coercive practices as well as abusive ones, has overshadowed the need to support survivors.
Countries are doing the right thing by regulating coercive and harmful ‘gay cures’. But these laws must be based on human rights and offer meaningful solutions for people who are harmed – rather than focusing almost exclusively on penalties for practitioners, which is the path that many countries seem to be following.
In 2016, for instance, Malta became the first country to ban some forms of conversion therapy. Practitioners face fines of up to €5,000 or six months in prison, with stiffer penalties for licensed professionals.
Germany’s parliament recently approved a ban on promoting or providing conversion therapy for under-18s, and made its practice a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment.
IrelandNew Zealand and France are considering criminalising advertising or performing conversion therapy on children and adults, with prison terms for offenders. In Ecuador, conversion therapy practices comparable to torture can be punished with up to thirteen years in prison.

Protecting human rights

While these responses are new, conversion therapy isn’t. It grew in popularity in the 1960s and ’70s, when homosexuality and transgender identity were considered mental disorders and ‘cures’ included counselling, physical punishment and even surgical intervention.
Since then, LGBT identities have been widely recognised as a normal form of human development; the World Health Organisation has declassified ‘homosexuality’ and ‘gender identity disorder’ as mental disorders; and ‘conversion’ attempts have been discredited as ineffective and harmful. Despite these changes, attempts to ‘cure’ LGBT people persist globally. A key challenge for lawmakers seeking to ban these practices is that they involve a wide range of activities including verbal and emotional abuse, restrictions on movement, physical and sexual assault, talk therapy and religious counselling.
Proposed bans in Ireland and New Zealand do not distinguish between different forms of ‘therapy’, all of which would be criminalised.
Backers of a ban in France have also signalled that they intend it to be sweeping, and for it to expressly regulate religious counselling.
These moves are potentially problematic. To be consistent with human rights principles, such bans must include safeguards for expression, so that speech that is not coercive or abusive isn’t criminalised. Penalties such as incarceration should be strictly proportionate to the harm caused.
Lawmakers certainly can and should ban practices targeting vulnerable individuals, including children. These activities also can be prohibited within therapeutic or commercial settings as fraudulent or unethical.
They can reinforce that message by requiring mental health professionals to learn about the dangers of conversion therapy, and by investing in public educational campaigns against these practices, including in schools.
But they must be clear and precise about what bans prohibit, and careful not to criminalise private opinions about same-sex activity or transgender identities. This would be bad for freedoms of belief and expression – and it could turn campaigners against LGBT rights into martyrs, giving them new platforms.

Supporting survivors

A human rights approach to conversion therapy would not be purely punitive. It would focus on delegitimising conversion therapy practices, holding practitioners accountable for damage they cause, and supporting survivors.
While criminal law is one tool, lawmakers could also expand civil liability for the physical or mental pain and suffering that conversion therapy can inflict.
Taiwan, for example, fines practitioners and suspends their professional licences, and similar penalties have been levied in Brazil. Most of the US states that have banned conversion therapy impose professional disciplinary measures on practitioners, not criminal penalties.
Effectively addressing conversion therapy requires training mental health professionals to affirm a diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities. It means creating and publicising systems for individuals to report abuse. And it means funding and expanding services for survivors, as Germany has.
Eliminating discrimination in practice as well as policy and law, would be a huge factor in reducing the numbers of conversion practitioners’ clients.
Ultimately, the most effective and rights-respecting approach is to bring about a world where efforts to change sexual orientation and gender identity are widely recognised and rejected as a harmful fraud.
Open Democracy

January 29, 2020

SNL Bowen Yang Explains His Coming Out and His Forced Gay Conversion Therapy

Bowen Yang

    Getty Images, Vulture Festival

The "Saturday Night Live" breakout star says his Chinese parents struggled with their discovery that he was gay: "Where we come from, this doesn't happen."
Bowen Yang, who has made a huge mark in a short time on "Saturday Night Live," becoming the show's first Chinese-American cast-member, opened up for the first time about his experiences with gay conversion therapy when he was a teenager.
The 29-year-old comedian first gained national recognition for his impression of Kim Jong-un -- stepping in from the writer's room last season -- before breaking boundaries and joining the repertory cast this season where he has continued to shine. 
But Yang showed a more serious and compassionate side in opening up about some of the darker experiences in his life with The New York Times, including how his parents found out he was gay and their drastic next move.
According to Yang, he never got the chance to come out formally to his parents because they discovered it on their own when they found a rather lewd AOL conversation he was having with someone. It's certainly not the kind of conversation anyone would want their parents to see at 17 years old, and it's even worse than he was outed this way.
To say it came as a culture shock to his Chinese parents is a huge understatement. "They just sat me down and yelled at me and said, ‘We don't understand this. Where we come from, this doesn't happen,'" Yang said.
He also said that he'd only ever seen his father cry at his grandfather's funeral, "and now he's sobbing in front of me every day at dinner." 
Yang said he was devastated to have thrown his parents into such turmoil and so desperate to do whatever he could to make it right that he even went along with it willingly and determinedly when his dad surprised him with gay conversion therapy sessions.
"I allowed myself the thought experiment of: ‘What if this could work?'," he said. "Even though as I read up on it, I was just like, ‘Oh, wait, this is all completely crackers.'"
Unfortunately, as Yang explained the process by which the therapist tried to work him through and away from his homosexuality, it was clear that he was much smarter than whatever this technique was, seeing through its circular logic and disjointed data.
"The counselor would go through the circular reasoning thing of, ‘Well, weren't you feeling uncomfortable a little bit when saw that boy you liked?' And I was like, ‘Not really,'" Yang recalled. "He goes, ‘How did your chest feel?' And I was like, ‘Maybe I was slouching a little bit.' And he goes, ‘See? That all stems from shame.' It was just crazy. Explain the gay away with  
He said he even tried his best to be straight when he first went away to college, even going so far as to almost convince himself he'd developed a crush on a female student. But it didn't last, obviously, and so he found himself having to have a second "coming out" with his parents.
This one, at least, was on his own terms. And as he was older, and had certainly been through some experiences by this point, he was able to deal with their lack of acceptance from a healthier and more self-aware place.
"Eventually, I just got to this place of standing firm and being like, ‘This is sort of a fixed point, you guys. I can't really do anything about this. So either you meet me here or you don't meet me.'"
Through it all, Yang continued to love his parents unconditionally and he was able to accept that this wasn't malicious on their part; it was just something they weren't able to deal with yet. And he says they're still working on it. "I can't rush them," he said.
Nevertheless, they were both there when Yang made his debut appearance on "Saturday Night Live," showing their support and love as he realized a dream.

November 23, 2019

American Medical Association Calls For Ban on LGBTQ Conversion Therapy, Nationwide

The American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's largest association of physicians, said Tuesday it officially opposed "conversion therapy" for members of the LGBTQ community and urged the federal government to ban such procedures nationwide.

"It is clear to the AMA that the conversion therapy needs to end in the United States given the risk of deliberate harm to LGBTQ people," Dr. William Kobler, a member of the AMA board, said in a statement. "Conversion therapy has no foundation as scientifically valid medical care and lacks credible evidence to support its efficacy or safety." 

Conversion therapy, according to the organization, is the discredited practice of trying to change a person's sexual identity from lesbian, gay or bisexual to heterosexual or attempting to make a transgender person identify with the gender assigned at birth. Usually, this is done through counseling. However, as previously reported by Newsweek, it can also involve methods such as electroshock therapy and deprivation treatments that are meant to cause "heterosexual adjustment." 

Medical professionals have dismissed conversion therapy as "patently false," saying it is based on the mistaken notion that same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria is "unnatural." The American Psychiatric Association made an official statement opposing conversion therapy in 1998 and has continually called for a ban on "the harmful and discriminatory practice."

Besides the lack of a scientific basis for conversion therapy, research has shown that it can be devastating to a person's mental health. A study of over 27,000 transgender adults, reported on by Newsweek in September, found that conversion therapy is linked with a higher likelihood of attempting suicide.

"The AMA agrees with medical experts that the lack of regulation on conversion therapy opens the door to fraud, harm, and trauma for many adults and children in the U.S.," the organization's statement read.

According to the Map Advancement Project, 18 states and the District of Columbia have officially banned conversion therapy. 

While conversion therapy remains legal in most states, there are movements across the country to officially ban the practice, particularly at the city level. The governments of such cities as Tallahassee, Florida, and Minneapolis have recently considered legislation that would restrict or outright ban conversion therapy.

In August, North Carolina's Democratic governor signed an executive order preventing the state's Department of Health and Human Services from using state and federal funds to provide conversion therapy to people under 18, CNN reported. The governor of Puerto Rico signed a similar executive order in March, according to The New York Times. 

{{Source: Newsweek}}

October 1, 2019

I Met a Conversion Therapist Then The Electric Shocks Came in Like Lightning in a Dark Night

 "Some electrical wires would be attached initially to my feet.
"They would give me a shock and would continue giving me a shock every 15 or 30 seconds."
John, not his real name, underwent electrical aversion therapy at Queen's University Belfast (QUB) while a student in the 1960s. He was shown pictures of naked men and given electric shocks if he was aroused. 
A spokesperson for QUB has expressed regret for the use of aversion therapy.
John had grown up in the 1950s in a rural Northern Ireland town.
"My church was a Presbyterian church, so that was quite difficult when I realized I was gay," he told BBC News NI. 

Dr Tommy DickinsonImage copyrightDR TOMMY DICKINSON
Image captionDr Tommy Dickinson said that use of electrical aversion therapy had been almost totally abandoned by the mid-1970s in the UK

"When I was about 15, I realized I am one of these people who are homosexuals and who are reviled really by the society I grew up in, so it was a big shock to me. 
"I felt totally alone."
John initially spoke to his GP who, although sympathetic, arranged counseling for him at a local hospital. 
However, when he went to QUB as a student in the late 1960s he was referred to the Department of Mental Health at the university.
"I was quite happy to go along with whatever they told me, I wanted to be cured," he said. 
The aim of electrical aversion therapy was for him to associate homosexual desire with pain or unpleasant feelings.
"I was shown a series of what, I suppose, one would regard these days as mildly pornographic images of naked young men," John said. 
"I was given duties and these were connected up with electric wires to a voltage and I would receive the shock in my feet.
"Incidentally, I found this quite horrible because I'm quite sensitive in my feet for some reason and I managed to persuade them instead to give them to my hands.
"So they then tied something to my hands and they then tied something to each hand and I would get a shock from that."

'It was pretty horrible'

John had to press a button when he felt aroused by the pictures of men.
"When I pressed the button that meant I was aroused, then after 15 or 30 seconds if I didn't press the button again they would give me a shock," he said.
"They would continue giving me a shock until I pressed the button again to say I was no longer experiencing any arousal.
"Yes it was painful, it was pretty horrible. 
"You would then associate any gay, homosexual feelings with something unpleasant - a conditioned reflex really."
John was also encouraged to date women while undergoing therapy.
In a research paper published in the Ulster Medical Journal in 1973, academics from the departments of Mental Health, Social Studies and Psychology at QUB said their use of electrical aversion therapy was rare by that stage.
But they did still use it.

No evidence treatment worked

"We have a particular interest in the use of methods for producing heterosexual interest in exclusive homosexuals," they reported.
"In fact we rarely use electrical aversion therapy, at least as a treatment of first choice, with any of the patients referred to our clinic."
According to Dr Tommy Dickinson - the Head of the Department of Mental Health Nursing at King's College London - electrical aversion therapy never became main-stream in the UK.
"Although they were administered free of charge on the National Health Service it's only been estimated that about 1,000 people ever received the treatment," he said.
"That might seem a relatively small number, but that's not to negate the negative impact that had on those people."
Dr Dickinson is the author of Curing Queers: Mental Nurses and their Patients, 1935-1974, which examines the use of aversion therapy in the UK by reporting the experiences of those who both underwent and administered it.
"There is no evidence that the treatment worked," he told BBC News NI.
"In fact, the only evidence I came across was that it had a lasting detrimental effect on these people."
Dr. Dickinson said that the use of electrical aversion therapy had been almost totally abandoned by the mid-1970s in the UK. 
"The most influential factor in reducing the use of these treatments was the growing gay liberation movement as queer men and women were uniting and refuting that sickness label that had been attributed to them," he said.

Belfast Pride 2019Image copyrightPACEMAKER
Image captionThousands attended the Belfast Pride parade in 2019

A spokesperson for Queen's University Belfast said that, regrettably, aversion therapy was used in a number of situations in the past. 
"There is no scientific support for this approach for behavior change," they said.
"The use of these techniques have for a long time not been supported by Queen's University or the NHS.
"While we cannot change practices of the past, Queen's University is fully committed to creating and sustaining an environment that values diversity and strongly supports its LGBT+ community."

'It wasn't working'

In the end, it was John who decided to call a halt to the treatment he was undergoing at Queen's.

Queen's University, BelfastImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJohn was sent for aversion therapy at the Department of Mental Health at Queen's during the 1960s

"Eventually after a couple years of trying my best with this treatment I realized it simply wasn't working, my feelings for men were as they had always been and I just hadn't been aroused by girls too much extent at all," he said.
"I suppose it is barbaric, what can I say really; I would have done anything to become normal as I saw it.
"I don't think I've been damaged by it, I haven't suffered post-traumatic stress - I got over it.
"Luckily, fairly soon afterward I did start to meet some gay people and my life changed completely then and since then things have been much better.
"I don't know how people will react to this knowledge.
"At the time it didn't seem as barbaric to me as it sounds now." 

September 16, 2019

What Happens When A UK Podcaster Signs Up For Conversion Therapy?

James BarrImage copyright

So-called "gay conversion therapy" may be condemned by experts but it is still permitted in the UK. So what happened when gay podcast host James Barr signed up for simulated "treatment"?
I'm sitting in a room in Northern Ireland opposite a man who says he offers "talking therapy" to people who don't want to be gay. And I cannot help feeling worried - despite all the evidence I've read to the contrary, a tiny part of me believes that he may actually convince me that I can choose to stop being gay. 
The man in front of me is Mike Davidson, he's originally from New Zealand and he's invited me into his home, about 30 minutes outside Belfast. It's in a very quiet close of small houses tucked away off a side road, the type of place where everyone knows your business. Do his neighbours know what happens here? I start to feel a little uneasy. It reminds me of my home town Eastbourne and of being in the closet, hiding my secrets. 
Mike welcomes me via a side door into his tiny office and beams: "This is where we do the work." 
It's small but includes a pretty sizable DVD collection. He tells me that he loves movies about war and asks me if I feel the same. I say: "Yes, kind of." We have something in common. 

Find out more

James Barr Dan HudsonImage copyrightCORRINE CUMMING

James Barr co-hosts the podcast A Gay and a Non-Gay with his (non-gay) friend Dan Hudson (right). The pair travelled to Northern Ireland for From Gay to Non-Gay? - a three-part BBC podcast series in which they meet people who have been through so-called gay "conversion therapy". You can download it here on BBC Sounds

Mike and I take our seats and it's a pretty tight squeeze. He's a relatively friendly looking man, glasses, a cute face - the sort of person who would help you carry your shopping to the car if he saw you struggling. He seems kind. 
He also runs a Christian charity called Core Issues Trust, which, he tells me, "takes people seriously who say they want to move away from homosexual practices and feelings". His technique, he says, is to explore their past experiences and find out more about their unwanted "same-sex attraction".
"What we do is we replace those feelings," he says. 
Just under half of those he sees are non-Christians, he says, and he only works with adults.
But despite all the certificates of his achievements at university on his office wall, Mike is not a qualified doctor, and neither is he a registered therapist.
The NHS and all major therapy professional bodies say that what he's doing is unethical and potentially harmful. The UK government has said it wants to ban the practice. However, Mike is still allowed to do it, and here we are. 

Mike Davidson
Image captionMike Davidson

It's been a long time since I had an "unwanted same-sex attraction", as Mike would put it. I'm an out gay man, a comedian, I co-host the UK's biggest LGBTQ+ podcast and regularly chat about sexuality and equality both on TV, on stage and to our international podcast audience - but I remember a moment when a 13-year-old me was less confident. 
We're constantly hearing theories as to why LGBTQ+ people exist and at 13, surrounded by straight people, our predominantly heterosexual planet sowed a seed of doubt and shame in my mind about being gay. I realised my life was about to be a lot more difficult as a gay man and, for a split second, I genuinely wished I could've been straight. 
Even in 2019, it's actually pretty easy to see why you might want someone to turn you heterosexual. Homophobic hate crimes in the UK are on the rise. Recently, a survey suggested 58% of gay men are scared to hold hands with a partner in public. A lesbian couple were attacked on a London bus in a suspected hate crime which shocked the country.
This is why I am interested in Mike. Is he motivated by homophobia, or does he actually think he's helping people who don't want to be gay? And if he is, is that OK? 
And so Mike simulates one of his therapy sessions with me. He asks me if I've had any past trauma. 
I reply that when I was younger I was bullied for being ginger, and as I grew older I was bullied for being gay. I tell him about a time when someone kicked me at the bus stop. 
Then I ask him if he has a theory as to why that would make me gay. 
He replies: "I don't think any one thing gives people same-sex attraction… but if that's your existence at school, it's bullying. And I'm not surprised that maybe you become distant from other males."
His voice is soft, he's sympathetic and for the most part this feels like a normal therapy session, but it isn't. I remind myself that he isn't a real psychotherapist. I know I'm here as a reporter but I'm vulnerable - this is all so personal.

The Northern Irish coast

In July 2018, the UK government published an LGBT Action Plan in which it says it wants to ban "harmful" gay conversion therapy across the UK. According to a national survey, 2% of British gay people have been through it and 5% have been offered it. 
The government says that over half of those that offer this are faith groups - not just Christian - and although Mike operates in Northern Ireland, it happens across the UK. 
Before I visit Mike, I meet a young man on the Northern Irish coast called Josh Lyle. He's gay and Christian - his granny used to be a preacher and the church is a huge part of life where he lives. He tells me that in Northern Ireland your religion isn't just a faith, it's part of your identity. 
He remembers how one day at his church he walked past a rack of pamphlets. "There was one called 'Bringing your child back to God' and it was essentially a book telling parents how to make their gay children straight." 
He's experienced a lot of homophobia. As he walks around town, people regularly shout abuse and he was recently spat at. So he says he understands, in a way, why someone might feel they want to turn to conversion therapy. 

Quote: "The doctors told me my body was at war with itself"

"It can be really tough to grow up as a gay kid and if someone came to you when you're feeling at your worst, coming to terms with who you are, and said, 'I have this magic wand that will make you better, do you want me to wave it?' You'd be very tempted to say yes." 
However, the consequences of doing so can be extremely harmful. Former Christian singer Vicky Beeching spent most of her life trying to suppress her own attraction to women and tried various forms of gay conversion therapy, from prayer and exorcisms to talking therapy. 
One day she noticed strange white patches on her skin. She went to the doctor and she was told she had developed an auto-immune disease called scleroderma.
"The doctors told me my body was at war with itself. They said they believed trauma and stress and specifically my journey with suppressing my sexuality and all the shame around that, they believed that led to all these problems with my immune system," she says. 
Vicky sold millions of records worldwide, including her hit, Above All Else, which she says in hindsight perhaps perfectly sums up her willingness to suppress her own sexuality for Jesus's love. She has since written a book explaining why she believes you can be both a Christian and gay. 

A man in a rainbow flag watches a Christian protest against the Belfast Pride paradeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

As I sit opposite Mike, I realise we're mirroring each other's body language. We both have our legs crossed. 
I'm curious to find out more about why Mike ended up doing this. 
He explains that he grew up in the Church, and when he had homosexual feelings he felt ashamed and wanted to move away from them.
"I always felt other - I always felt different and excluded. I wasn't great at sport." He says he was emotionally disconnected from his father - a war veteran who was great at rugby and cricket. "I said to myself, 'Well if that's being a man,' referring to my father, 'I don't want anything to do with that.'" 
For most young men, he says, "it's almost as though they're drawn to the mysteriousness, to the otherness of the female. Now for me, males felt other. Because I didn't feel like one."
He says he went through a form of conversion therapy himself and it helped him realise why he had those feelings.
It's at this point I start to challenge Mike.

Quote: "I have the right and the freedom to identify and to live as I choose"

I'm more convinced than ever that the reason I'm gay is not because I was bullied - and it's not because I chose to be gay. It's because I was born gay, and no-one needs to explain it or ask why. I just am. I love exactly the same way that everybody else loves.
The NHS and every major therapy body says that efforts to change or alter sexual orientation through psychological therapies are unethical and potentially harmful. Are they all wrong? "If you do research only from one point of view, and you can only get research money if you hold one point of view, then you're going to come up with one point of view," he replies.
But people who come to him are vulnerable, I tell him, and he's misleading them by telling them they can suppress their thoughts.
"I've never used the word 'suppression'," he says. "What I believe in is transformation." He admits he will sometimes see a man and think that he's attractive. "It may be my age, but I don't have that deep longing for an emotional attachment with a man, or a sexual encounter." 
Then I ask him: What if it's not true that the feelings gay people have can just be replaced? What if, in fact, he's still gay?
He looks into the distance for a moment, and for a second I wonder if I my words may have changed his thinking. He looks at me and says: "Even if that's right, I have the right and the freedom to identify and to live as I choose."

James Barr in Belfast
Image captionJames Barr in Belfast

Hearing that, I feel sorry for him. 
I tell Mike that I think he genuinely does believe he's doing the right thing. I hope that if he were brought up today, in a less homophobic environment, he would be comfortable being who he was. 
He offers me a coffee, and I decline. I'd like to leave as soon as possible, but part of me wants to give him a hug. I genuinely feel so sad that someone can be so misled - but I leave. I don't remember if we shake hands, even. In the car, I listen to Gloria Gaynor.

McKrae Game

The founder of one of the US's biggest conversion therapy programmes, McKrae Game, came out as gay earlier this year, and apologised for harming generations of people.
After struggling to suppress his own homosexuality, Game founded his Truth Ministry in 1999, in Spartanburg, South Carolina, rebranding it in 2013 as Hope for Wholeness. The organisation operated in at least 15 states.
"I was a religious zealot that hurt people," he told the Charleston-based Post and Courier newspaper
Seventeen US states have banned gay conversion therapy - most recently Maine, which took the step in May this year.

It's Sunday, and I meet Josh and his granny, Marie Hodgen, outside All Souls Church in Belfast. Josh was scared to come out to his granny, the former preacher. But she more than accepted him. She went back through the Bible and studied its words again. 
"When he came out, I couldn't say it was wrong," she tells her grandson. "I love you, Josh. There's no strings attached. I will always love you unconditionally." 
Their story overwhelms me.
This is their first time at church together since Josh read that "How to not be gay" pamphlet all those years ago.
As Josh and I walk inside, we both feel anxious. But the minister welcomes both of us. This is an inclusive church that believes in love of all kinds. Josh and his granny cry. I cry. 
We sit listening to the minister's words of acceptance. He's telling us that he's excited for his up-and-coming Pride service. Marie looks up and reads out loud a scripture inscribed across the idyllic church's wall: "Sing a new song to the Lord."

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