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Australian churches persist in efforts to ‘cure’ homosexuality

Australian churches persist in efforts to ‘cure’ homosexuality

Last year Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy, above, promised parliament that legislation would be introduced to outlaw quack therapies used almost exclusively by Christian organisations to cure gay people – and this week a powerful new watchdog will be launched to in Victoria to crack down on dodgy health practitioners.

According to this report, the current Health Services Commissioner will be replaced by a new Health Complaints Commissioner (HCC) who will have greater powers to investigate unregistered health practitioners and can receive a complaint from anyone, not just the person treated.

Researchers have found that this form of treatment is more widely practiced in Australia than people thought, because practitioners have gone underground.

The HCC, Hennessy said, will have the power to:

Investigate and crack down on anyone making dangerous and unproven claims that they can ‘convert’ gay people.

This move will particularly please Geoff Ahern, a clinician within a specialised Victoria police unit for mental health emergencies. Ahern, 46, deals with people who are suicidal, acting erratically, or in a state of crisis.

But 10 years ago, he was in a mental health crisis of his own.

Geoff Ahern

Years of gay conversion therapy, which began when Ahern was just 15, had left him in a state of inescapable self-loathing.

Convinced he could be “straight” if he tried – and prayed – hard enough, Ahern underwent numerous counselling sessions at a Sydney Christian Life Centre, part of a group of churches associated with today’s Pentecostal Australian Christian Churches.

In his early twenties, he married a woman, encouraged by the idea that if he settled down and got married, everything would be OK.

But it wasn’t, and Ahern crumbled into a “state of despair”.

He would get home from work and cry himself to sleep in a similar mental state to the people he had just spent hours helping.

I became suicidal myself. I thought, this has got to stop. I can’t do this any more. If you can work so hard and ask God to change you and fix you and he doesn’t, there are two outcomes of that: one, he’s a cold-hearted bastard; or two, there’s actually nothing wrong with me.

Counsellor Matt Glover, who specialises in treating LGBTI people from church backgrounds, said the underground nature of ex-gay ideology is particularly concerning when young people are involved.

Glover said Victoria’s expanded powers to tackle conversion therapy will “knock off some of the rougher edges”, but that the insidious nature of ex-gay therapy is tougher to tackle.

It will help, but I don’t know that there’s any way to get into the core of religious communities that place their belief in ideas that are anti-gay.

Victoria’s crackdown on conversion therapy is unprecedented in Australia, and comes after calls in recent years to make the practice illegal.

Conversion therapy is opposed by the Australian Psychological Association, the Australian Medical Association, and the United Nations, among numerous other professional health and human rights bodies. It is deemed ineffective, unethical, and actively harmful.

A Columbia Law School project collating conversion therapy research found that among people who had undergone such treatment, there was a prevalence of depression, anxiety, social isolation, decreased capacity for intimacy, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

The researchers concluded:

There is powerful evidence that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation can be extremely harmful.

Ahern is well-acquainted with the problems that can manifest from stoking this particular inner shame – even if there’s no formal conversion therapy involved.

I assessed a young man a couple of years ago who comes from a conservative, typically Aussie, blue-collar family. When we got to the bottom of his alcoholism and other issues, it was because he was gay and hadn’t told anyone. He said to me, ‘If I told my dad, he would beat the shit out of me.’

Timothy Jones, a researcher at La Trobe University in the final stages of a study into conversion therapy, said he was surprised by how common the practice is in Australia.

It is much more widespread than we thought it was, and much more pervasive than we would have expected.

While most formal conversion therapy groups – such as Exodus or Living Waters – have closed, Jones and co-researcher Liam Leonard found the practice of gay conversion therapy in Australia has continued, mostly in Protestant churches.

The study found a range of therapies, including pastoral counselling, sessions with professional psychologists, online counselling, and group activities. One study participant received electroshock therapy.

What we actually found was that a lot of groups have reorganised themselves, renamed themselves, so looking at them from the outside you wouldn’t know they are doing conversion therapy.

People growing up in the church, at some stage realise they are attracted to people of the same sex, or realise they identify with the gender they were not assigned and want to transition. They will seek advice from a pastor, and the pastor will know someone to refer them to.

18 responses to “Australian churches persist in efforts to ‘cure’ homosexuality”

  1. Newspaniard says:

    Not before time.

  2. Rob Andrews says:

    ‘If it’s not broken, you can’t fix it’…..They need to understand that homosexuality is no longer considered a disease at least not the U.S.

    I don’t know about the Australian Medical authorities..

  3. Angela_K says:

    Let’s hope the Australian authorities will stop these dangerous charlatans and prosecute them. There is no cure for homosexuality because it isn’t a disease, it is something you are born with, just like eye and hair colour. I wish there were a permanent cure for the contagious mental illness that is religious belief.

  4. Matt says:

    Gayness cannot be cured. It is an inherited natural condition. Simple.

    But christianity, like many diseases, can be easily prevented … but to cure someone so infected is not so easy.

    Prevention … keep the pious away from kids and keep religion out of schools.

    Some people have been cured of christianity but only those who are willing and grown up enough to let jesus out of their hearts and admit that they were duped.

    To be cured of islam though is life threatening … if you stop believing in allah and his squalid prophet, then you are very likely to be murdered.

    And islam is life threatening even for those not infected … such as those who criticise it, mock it and resist it … and even the disinterested such as those say … having say a quiet coffee at a christmas market.

  5. Matt says:

    Islam eliminates homosexuality by tossing gays from high places and other brutal means.

  6. AgentCormac says:

    @Rob Andrews

    If Trump carries on like he is I’m sure it will be considered a disease in the US. And probably some time in the next 48 hours.

  7. 1859 says:

    Yes, of course, ‘being gay’ is not a disease, but it’s also not a ‘condition’. Expressing your love and affection for someone has nothing whatever to do with gender.People have every right to belong wherever they feel most comfortable on the spectrum of emotional attraction. We need to move on from the mindset that different-sex and same-sex attraction are ‘conditions’ – they aren’t. Love has no gender.

  8. barriejohn says:

    1859: The problem is that to the religious mindset everything has to fit a simple pattern – it’s as if anything else makes the world so confusing for them that their brains might explode. They actually believe that God created “male and female” (nothing else, despite the evidence of nature); that males are meant to have authority ; that a master/slave relationship is acceptable in society; that there should be “rich” and “poor” – not as the result of industry and thrift, but entirely as the result of privilege; and of course, that old canard about every species reproducing “after its kind”. Anything else, I often heard it said, causes “confusion”, and of course it is the devil who is the instigator of that. All this might have made sense two thousand years ago or more, but how anyone can cling to such ideas in the modern era is quite beyond me.

  9. Matt says:

    A bit of conditioned Hair Trigger sensitivity there 1856?

    I used the perefectly good word “condition”in an attempt to be neutral and empathic but it seems to have rankled with you.

    Ordinary people these days have to tip toe ever so lightly around every human condition lest people take things the wrong way.

    And I am worried that you will think me patronising claiming empathy towards non heterosexuals.

    Maybe its better to say nothing … then no one will then be offended.

  10. Matt says:

    Or 1859 may say that I am too sensitive of correction by someone I perceive as too sensitive. Who knows? Who cares?

  11. Daz says:

    “Yes, of course, ‘being gay’ is not a disease, but it’s also not a ‘condition’. “

    Uh, yes it is a condition. It’s the same usage—referring to a state of being, with no qualitative judgement implied—as “human condition.”

  12. 1859 says:

    No, I’m not over sensitive, I just don’t like woolly thinking that belongs on history’s scrap heap.

  13. Seff says:

    Dr Paul Cameron about same sex marriage

    http://www.biblebelievers.com/Cameron1.html

  14. Angela_K says:

    @Seff. Fuck off with your links to grubby christofascist web-sites. The FRC is a hate organisation.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Paul Cameron has been totally discredited; he has been shown to have deliberately lied on numerous occasions. How could anyone on their right mind…oh, just answered my own question there!

  16. Seff says:

    As far as I know the last facist died in May 1954. I will appear again on Shrove Tuesday. Bye

  17. 1859 says:

    This ‘Dr’ Cameron is a smoking arsehole. I just tried to read the crap on the link. If you interchange the words ‘homosexual’ and ‘gays’ with the words ‘heterosexual’ and ‘straights’, then every so-called deviant ‘crime’ committed by the former group, also fits exactly the latter. He’s also fond of such vacuous phrases as ‘a huge body of scientific evidence shows that….’ without ever citing or examining this overwhelming ‘evidence’. Sick stuff that’s best avoided.