DOWNRIGHT dangerous, discredited, stupid and irresponsible. That’s the only way of describing persistent attempts by fundamentalist groups to change human sexual orientation. Well, to change gay people “straight”, to be more precise.
Just days after the Melbourne’s Sunday Age carried a damning expose of “reparative” treatments to Australian homosexuals, it was announced that London buses would be carrying ads advocating gay cures. Behind the ad campaign were two crackpot outfits: the Core Issues Trust (motto: God’s heart in sexual and relational brokenness …) whose leader, Mike Davidson, believes “homoerotic behaviour is sinful”, and Anglican Mainstream, a worldwide orthodox Anglican group whose supporters have equated homosexuality with alcoholism. The advert was due to say:
Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!
Such was the outrage that to the planned campaign that London Mayor, Boris Johnson immediately crushed it.
Johnson, who contacted the Guardian to announce he was stopping the adverts within two hours of their contents becoming public, said:
London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.
His main rival in next month’s mayoral election, Ken Livingstone, said Johnson should never have allowed the adverts to be booked.
London is going backwards under a Tory leadership that should have made these advertisements impossible. They promote a falsehood, the homophobic idea of ‘therapy’ to change the sexual orientation of lesbians and gay men.
The campaign was an explicit attempt to hit back at the gay rights group Stonewall, which as part of its lobbying for the extension of marriage to gay couples is running its own bus adverts saying:
Some people are gay. Get over it.
The Christian groups used the same black, red and white colour scheme as Stonewall and in a statement announcing the campaign accused it of promoting:
The false idea that there is indisputable scientific evidence that people are born gay.
The gay ex-vicar, Labour MP and former minister Chris Bryant, said the advert was cruel for promoting the idea that you could become “ex-gay” and he said it would particularly hurt teenagers struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
The emotional damage that is done to the individuals who try to suppress their sexuality, the women they marry and the children they might have is immeasurable. Most sane Christians believe that homosexuality is not a lifestyle or a choice but is a fact to be discovered or not. The pretence that homosexuality is something you can be weaned off in some way is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of creation.
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said the adverts were “clearly homophobic” and added:
The only reason some gay people might want to stop being gay is because of the prejudice of the people who are publishing the ad. The promotion of this voodoo therapy is hugely irresponsible given the damage that it appears to do to some people.
Both men said the advert should not be banned, however, because they believed in freedom of speech.
Attempts to “treat” or alter sexual orientation have been strongly condemned by leading medical organisations. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has warned that “so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish” and concluded in 2010:
There is no sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.
The dotty Rev Lynda Rose, a spokesperson for the UK branch of Anglican Mainstream, said her group adhered to scripture that all fornication outside marriage is prohibited and believed that homosexuals were:
Not being fully the people God intended us to be.
She said therapies endorsed by Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues were not coercive and were appropriate for people who wanted to change their sexual attractions, for example if they were married and worried about the impact of a “gay lifestyle” on their children.
Hat tip: Remigius and BarrieJohn