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Gay Conversion – Trying To ‘Cure’ Homosexuality

By Matty Silver, Sex Therapist on July 28, 2015 in Other

Photo: Duncan Gay

Photo: Duncan Gay

It’s probably difficult to believe there are still people and organisations in Australia and around the world that believe they can ‘cure’ gay people who struggle with same-sex attraction.

Conversion therapists or ex-gay practitioners believe homosexuality is an affliction or disorder that can be fixed by praying and psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as ‘pray away the gay’.

Reparative or conversion therapies are offered by ex-gay groups whose philosophy is based on the premise that homosexuality is an illness and unnatural. They maintain that people are born straight and only become gay when some trauma interferes with their sexual development.
Conversion therapy aims to repair the ‘trauma’ and teach people how to perform ‘normal’ gender roles. It offers support groups, individual counselling and prayer meetings to overcome a person’s unwanted same-sex attraction, help increase their attraction to the opposite sex or encourage them to abstain from acting on their feelings.

There is no evidence that this therapy is effective and it is condemned by major health, psychiatric and psychological organisations around the world. The so-called therapies have been proved to be ineffective and harmful, especially for minors, and most of the groups are not run by accredited counsellors or therapists.

Young people are vulnerable. If they come from a religious family and are told that God doesn’t love them if they are gay and that it’s a sin, they become fertile ground for the ex-gay movement to convert.

The American Psychological Association conducted the world’s largest sexual orientation-change efficacy study, which found that conversion and reparative interventions caused harmful mental health effects such as increased anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and sometimes loss of sexual functions.

In the US the largest ex-gay organisation in the world, Exodus International, announced in June 2012 that it was closing after 37 years. One of the longest-running conversion therapy programs in Australia, Living Waters, also ceased operations this year. Unfortunately there are still some anti-homosexuality ministries and individuals practising in Australia, as well as churches that preach that homosexuality is a sin.

Many Australians have a gay or lesbian family member, friend or work colleague and most know that sexual orientation can’t be changed. To have churches or religious organisations label them as sick, dysfunctional and broken is abhorrent, offensive and ignorant.

One of my clients who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian household was told that the Bible was very clear about homosexuality and that his sexual orientation was shameful and a sin. His parents found a psychotherapist who promised that he could ‘make’ him straight. He only decided to give it a try because he wanted desperately to be accepted by his family and God. After he realised he couldn’t be changed, he experienced depression and shame, and feelings of isolation, failure and rejection. It took years of therapy but he is now in a loving relationship with a man.