Gay conversion therapy or gay cure therapy is the named given to a branch of unscientific beliefs and practises in trying to change homosexual people into heterosexual people or gay to straight. It's also lead to the horrific and disturbing term ex-gay entering the world's language.
It probably should be said here, although this piece will be self evident, that we believe this therapy or treatment or whatever else you want to call it to be abhorrent.
Secondly, you'll further note we use 'inverted commas' a lot around certain terms, this is because we find these terms to be invalid when applied to gay cure therapy, not just akin to our person views but based upon scientific fact, including but not limited to the fact that all the way back in 1973, the USA removed homosexuality from a list of mental disorders, instead classifying it as a sexual orientation disturbance. At the time there was huge debate in the country between those believe the status quo that being gay was a mental condition and those who wanted to see the status of homosexuality classed as a normal sexual variety. The full text can be read here at the American Journal of Psychiatry.
PSA over and please read on.
These 'conversions' can take many forms including:
Using painful or comfortable stimulus with the aim of changing that persons thought process towards their sexuality. Examples include giving a person drugs which cause them extreme vomiting whilst forcing them to watch gay porn, or electric shocking a persons genitals (turn on for some we know) every time they become aroused towards the same sex.
Dictionary defined as the treatment of a mental disorder (sickening that the word psychotherapy has been hijacked in this way), it's sometimes referred to as talk therapy. You may be familiar with cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, this is a form of psychotherapy. Essentially brainwashing a person to believe their sexual orientation has changed, as opposed to using medicine.
- Medical or Pharmaceutical.
Most commonly using medication, sometimes bought illegally without prescription to change how a persons hormones or sexual arousal mechanisms may work.
- Not a type of therapy but just to address the different pseudonyms that this stuff goes by including: "reparative therapy," "reorientation therapy," or "ex-gay therapy". This is important later on, as the language us used in a court case by the State of New Jersey.
These so called therapies and treatments are well known in places like the USA as widely documented in television shows despite the comments of the American Psychiatric Association which in May of 2000, a full 19 years ago released a position statement on the subject which included the quote:
"based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation",
There's a lot more in the position statement which the excerpt above is taken from which you can read here.
What may surprise you just how many countries have not made this practice illegal, and we'll go on to detail 11 countries below further down.
The physical acts of converting are carried out by a host of different type of people and organisations, and they're often self-titled clinician or academic whilst some are actually bonafide doctors. It will also be unsurprising to hear that much of this 'treatment' or process as it's better labelled is untaken by those of a religious background, with those shouting the loudest to legitimise the practise being fundamental Christian groups with the not so catchy NARTH or National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuals. One good thing to note on the so called NARTH is that in 2002 US Tax Authorised, the IRS revoked the organisation's 501.c.3. tax exempt status, hopefully causing all sorts of financial headaches for the three founding members of the group, namely, Joseph Nicolosi, Benjamin Kaufman and Charles Socarides.
The reality is no matter how many official or scientific sounding names and titles are added like NARTH which was established in 1992 might try, gay cure / conversion therapy / treatment is pseudoscience, quite literally taken to mean, science methods and theories which are widely regarded as unscientific. The most senior Doctor in the US, Dr. David Satcher said in 2001 whilst United States Surgeon General stated:
"there is no valid scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed".
It's quite telling that Dr. Satcher uses these words. He's not condemning the practice, nor is he critiquing those who undertake it, he's simply saying that science says it does not work. He's not biased, he's just a logical thinking Doctor.
So we're not entirely surprised that this 'reparative therapy' is permitted by law in the United States of America, but where else is this happening freely, without fear of punishment by the state?
- United States of America - USA. There are some notable exceptions here such as a group of so far 15 states including California and New Jersey who have banned the practice in one form or another. Let's hope there are more to follow.
- United Kingdom. In 2018 a plan was announced to make such conversion or cure therapies illegal, however this has yet to make it on to the statute books as yet.
- Germany. This year (2019) Germany has announced it will make such acts illegal.
To top up point 1 above, and specifically to comment on New Jersey in the USA, which saw a significant court case progress all the way to the Superior Court of that state. Named 'Ferguson v. JONAH', it set an important legal president.
This court case in which a jury decided the verdict is instrumental when discussing the legality of this conversion treatment. The parties were the individuals who had founded JONAH, or Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality named Elaine Berk & Arthur A. Goldberg as well as a Mormon life coach named Alan Downing, who had worked with three of the five plaintiffs and Ferguson which is a group of five people (we are unsure if they were male or female) together and their case was brought forward and funded by an organisation called The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which is a non profit group who often dispute civil rights cases on behalf of those who might not be able to afford to themselves. A big part of their agenda is tackling what they see as hate groups, with their history linking back to tackling the Ku Klux Klan.
There is a lot to mention on this legal case, but jumping straight to the important part, and that's JONAH lost, and were forced to pay damages of $72,400 and a separate amount for legal fees, which were no doubt many many times higher than the damages paid to the claimants.
Not only did the religious organisation lose the case, the jury returned a unanimous verdict, meaning every single member of that jury came to the same verdict, and interestingly the legislation used by the claimants was consumer fraud, in that JONAH had violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
If you like you can donate in many ways to The Southern Poverty Law Centre here.
There are many hundreds more, too many to name, and if you live in one of these countries, and you need some help there are a few organisations and places that you can turn to for assistance.
* The Samaritans, charity based in the UK.
* Stonewall, also a UK based charity who's motto is: "Acceptance with judgement."
* LGBT Helpline, an Irish phone support service.
* GBLT Hotline, a US based toll-free helpline.
Thanks for taking the time to read here, if you feel compelled by what you've read, then please do get in touch with your local government representative and let them know. Democracy requires you to take direct action to facilitate change.