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When conversion is abusive We all want others to change — but at what cost?

Members of a religious and anti-LGBT group praying outside St. Mary basilica during the annual Krakow Equality March 2020. This year's edition of the Equality March has been changed to a different format due to measures imposed by the government and the 'Yellow Status' zone for the city of Krakow imposed by the Ministry of Health just a couple of days ago. The annual march took place around the Main Square. The Far Right nationalists and Pro-Life activists organised a counter protest, against the LGBT, on the opposite side of the square, and next to St. Mary basilica. On August 29, 2020, in Krakow, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Members of a religious and anti-LGBT group praying outside St. Mary basilica during the annual Krakow Equality March 2020. This year's edition of the Equality March has been changed to a different format due to measures imposed by the government and the 'Yellow Status' zone for the city of Krakow imposed by the Ministry of Health just a couple of days ago. The annual march took place around the Main Square. The Far Right nationalists and Pro-Life activists organised a counter protest, against the LGBT, on the opposite side of the square, and next to St. Mary basilica. On August 29, 2020, in Krakow, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


March 18, 2021   5 mins

Some sermons fall to their death on the church floor. Others stay on in the memory for a long time afterwards. This one, from decades ago, remains with me, as emotionally vivid as the day it was preached. The priest was gay, but had long struggled to reconcile his sexual desire with the church’s historic teaching on homosexuality. So, as a young man, he sought out conversion therapy in the form of electrical aversion therapy. And understandably frightened at the prospect of being held down and given electric shocks he would down several G&Ts prior to treatment. “I’m still gay,” he explained “but I now hate the taste of gin”.

The practice of conversion therapy was overwhelmingly renounced by The Church of England in the summer of 2017. Leading the debate in the General Synod, Jayne Ozanne, described the breakdowns she had suffered as a result of it, of the periods she would spend in hospital. Conversion therapy, she said, is “abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting”. The Church agreed.

Four years on and the Government says it is going to bring forward plans to ban conversion therapy “shortly” — though last week three members of the Government’s LGBT+ advisors panel resigned because it wasn’t happening soon enough. But notwithstanding this slowness, and despite objections from the Evangelical Alliance, a ban is coming. And a good thing too. Conversion therapy combines quack science with homophobic bullying — and the sooner it goes, the better.

It is interesting that what makes conversion therapy so unpalatable to many is not just that it originates in a negative judgment on homosexuality, but also because the whole history of conversion can feel like a kind of violence committed against the integrity of other people. There’s the forced conversions of Jews to Christianity in the middle ages and — despite the Quranic principle that there must be “no compulsion in religion” — of non-Muslims to Islam in places such as Egypt and Pakistan. It feels like a fundamental breach of the idea that we ought to respect the integrity of the other, and of their beliefs.

But perhaps it’s not quite so straightforward. That’s certainly what a new book by Adam Phillips On Wanting to Change suggests, by offering the perspective of a psychoanalyst. For psychoanalysis — perhaps surprisingly, given Freud’s Jewishness — was invented as a kind of conversion therapy. So, for instance, in an early paper “The Neuro-Psychosis of Defence” (1894), Freud writes: “In hysteria the incompatible idea is rendered innocuous by its sum of excitation being transformed into something somatic. For this I should like to propose the name of conversion.” In other words, what psychoanalysis proposes, at least in this very early stage of its development, is that some deep inner psychological disturbance can be “converted” into a kind of physical expression (“something somatic”) that can thus be more easily managed. As Freud’s colleague Ferenszi wrote in 1912: “The neurotic gets rid of the affects that have become disagreeable to him by means of the different forms of displacement (conversion, transference, substitution).”

Whatever one makes of the difficult ideas that are going on here, it is clear that conversion has an appeal far beyond its employment by religious fundamentalists. Indeed, as Phillips notes, it can be seen as a part of the much wider, and increasingly secular, language of change and personal development that has become something of an industry among those who offer to help people address the things that make them unhappy. But what, Phillips asks, is conversion seen as an answer to here? What is it attempting to put right?

Conversion, Phillips proposes, is the offer of a life without complexity. What it is attempting to put right is the feeling that our life is somehow divided against itself. Early on, for instance, we develop deeply ambivalent feelings about those who care for us — our mothers especially. As a child, we are not in control of the sources of our own satisfaction. We rely on another for warmth, shelter, food and love. This reliance is both craved and resented — resented, because when it is not available on demand, we find ourselves furious at our need for another. Hence toddler tantrums.

At least in its most unreflective form, conversion is an attempt to rid one’s inner life of ambivalence — the idea that we can love something and resent something at the same time. As Kierkegaard put it: “Purity of heart is to will one thing”. The offer being held out by conversion is that there exists some way of being in the world that will quell one’s inner divisions. If only you became straight, if only you became a Christian, if only you could see the wisdom of socialism, then all your inner conflicts would fall away. Conversion is the promise of an inner unity built around some single guiding principle. It is the promise of peace.

But conversion is the promise of peace in just the same way that imperialism can also see itself as the promise of peace – of diverse peoples all united under a single form of government. Indeed, imperialism is the political version of conversion – and it can involve violence in just the same way, quashing difference in the name of some fully integrated vision of human togetherness. Indeed, you could pretty much say that “purity of heart is to will one thing” represents the spiritual origins of fascism.

Surely, though, there must be such a thing as “good conversion”? Isn’t that what debate is all about? Conversation? Of course, I want you to change your mind — about politics, about religion and so on. I just want you to see things from my point of view. Of course this must be done “without compulsion” — and compulsion can take many forms, including psychological bullying. But is the attempt to convert necessarily abusive, in and of itself? This is much more tricky.

Part of what Adam Phillips is doing in his book is to defend a version of analytic practise that is not in hoc to a conversion fantasy of release from complexity. And I would want to do the same with religion too. As Rowan Williams says about the difference between good and bad religion: “One of the tests of actual faith, as opposed to bad religion, is whether it stops you ignoring things.” Faith “is most fully itself and most fully life-giving when it opens your eyes and uncovers for you a world larger than you thought — and, of course, therefore, a world that is a bit more alarming than you ever thought”.

So the difference between good conversion and bad conversion is all about how much reality it allows you to suck up and deal with. Does it collapse your world so as to make things more psychically comfortable, or does it expand it, with all the dissonances that this may involve?

Indeed, part of the problem for many therapists is that the release from “alarming” complexity is often what their clients are seeking from them. To be a priest is often to be the object of very similar expectations. Indeed, when people say things like “I envy you, your faith. It must make life so much more straightforward” it says a lot more about them than it does about faith itself.

So while I absolutely believe we need to defend gay people from spiritual abuse, I fear we have now so taken against the idea of conversion, even non-coercive conversion, that we fail to recognise we are all at it.

Freud tells the story of a priest who is called to the deathbed of an atheistic insurance salesman. After an hour or so, the priest comes out of the bedroom, having failed to convert him. But the priest is now fully insured. It’s a great story. And the moral is clear: everyone is selling something.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Sharon Overy
SO
Sharon Overy
3 years ago

Don’t be fooled by the calls to ban supposed conversion therapy. It is not about gay conversion therapy at all, which hardly exists in the UK. Anybody trying to access it would find it pretty difficult to find.

The intent is to make it impossible for therapists to question the desires and needs of those who present themselves as possibly trans or gender dysphoric, especially children. It would mean that those demanding puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or even surgery couldn’t be dealt with in any way except with affirmation. Their underlying mental health issues couldn’t even be approached as being the thing that needs addressing first.

There’s a reason why the main backers of this proposed legislation are trans-advocacy groups.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I completely agree. In fact I would argue that the LGBQT lobby is itself a form of conversion therapy,

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

There is no such thing as LGBTQ. There’s an LGB movement that the T and Q and other alphabet peoples have taken over. The gay rights movement has been hijacked by trans activists and (even more so) by their straight allies who just want to prove how woke they are. Telling young gay kids that they either have to cut their private parts off or conform to gender stereotypes is not gay-friendly.

robert scheetz
RS
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I think you’d have to say we still treat pedophiles with a kind of “conversion therapy”.

Simon Cooper
SC
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

For the time being Robert, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of their long term plans. “Love has no age” is already a thing and with the influence and money behind the lobbying groups, as well as the lack of conservative backbone in the media, it’s not a case of if, but sadly when. IMO.

Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago

Having been involved in this issue and the debates and fights about it for many years, let me add my clarifications – because I agree that the article is verbose, rambling, and unclear.
As a ‘traditional’ psychodynamic psychotherapy double-board certified psychiatrist, author of published papers and many presentations, I have tried to explicitly separate religious conversion – the only valid conversion I know of – from so-called or misnamed ‘conversion therapy’, a term that was used by followers of the work of a psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, whose theories of the causes of homosexuality originating in a disturbed parent-child relationship should therefore be ‘treated’ by attempting to ‘convert’ those harmful relationships into more positive balanced adult relationships.
From that, certain gay activist extremists campaigned that those therapists were trying to ‘convert’ homosexuals to become heterosexuals.
As I said, I didn’t agree with those perspectives or ideas, but I also supported the very widely published data of people who had identified themselves as homosexual at some age in their lives – becoming comfortably heterosexual with good traditional psychotherapy. Denying this reality became a prominent feature of gay extremist activity, even at the highest levels of British psychiatry among others.
Along the road, various myths developed, that were publicized by gay activists, and supported by many ignorant people in the media.
Prominent among these, the notion that there is something called ‘sexual orientation’ that is present from birth, fixed, irreversible, presumably in the brain rather than the left or right knee.
No, untrue. The correct term scientifically speaking is ‘sexual preference’, the choice of sexual partner that each of us has.
Now some people can agree that obviously applies to adults who after being married, conceiving or bearing children with a partner of the opposite sex decide that they would be happier with someone of the same sex, any reasonable person can see that that is choice. But the activists claim “I’ve known since I was a child, it’s never been a ‘choice’ for me, it’s who or what I am.”
The problem with that is that it is an example of the ‘ad hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy, or in psychological terms ‘retrospective falsification’, because of what who I am today – therefore that is how I have always been.
There is in fact, after a HUGE amount of scientific research, no evidence for any biological – meaning brain, body, blood, genes, etc causation or aetiology of homosexuality. The ’causes’ of homosexual desires and preferences in any individual are personal, and may be hard to find out, and especially if the factors leading to that outcome were established early in life, which may indeed give many such people the conviction that they were ‘born’ that way and have no choice.
Sharon Overy is correct in pointing out that the clamour against so-called conversion therapy – which no reputable psychiatrist that I know of practices today – is really covering an attempt by gay activists to stop any exploration at all of people who go to therapists with feelings and conflicts about many aspects of their sexuality, their sexual desires activities and relationships.
A lot of the research and arguments about homosexuality occurred in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today the focus has switched to so-called ‘transgender’ and once again very loud lobby groups composed of small numbers of very demanding and angry people have been attempting to threaten and ruin people’s lives and reputations with some quite ridiculous allegations of prejudice and bias, and have been influencing even school boards to adopt quite bizarre policies.
Not long ago, I was asked to review a proposed guideline for a major city school board, that would take into account the ‘needs and sensitivities’ – my paraphrasing – of so-called transgender children.
What I found was that the document was totally biased in just one direction, the very few alleged such children, and totally ignored the feelings, needs, and perceptions of reality of all the other children.
I offered this scenario, ‘Johnny has been sent by his parents to school in girl’s clothes, because that is what he likes to wear at home and throws a tantrum if not allowed to go to school dressed like that, the children go for swimming lessons or to the gym, and in the changing room the little girls see that Johnny has a p***s, and tell the teacher. But the children are told – Johnny thinks he’s a girl, so that is why he is in the girl’s changing room, and you girls have to understand this is how he ‘feels’. The girls can’t understand. Their eyes are telling them something different, what is reality. They go home confused and tell their parents, who of course call the school the next day, and then the public school board, their member of parliament, etc”
The whole notion of giving hormones and considering radical surgery for youngsters, even teenagers, is a very disturbing minefield of its own, that is one of today’s unpleasant battle-fields, where some of the loudest voices may be the most ignorant and prejudiced – but it needs a different article to deal with.

David B
DB
David B
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

Excellent. Thanks.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

So you describe the article as “verbose”, then immediately write this one sentence:

As a ‘traditional’ psychodynamic psychotherapy double-board certified psychiatrist, author of published papers and many presentations, I have tried to explicitly separate religious conversion – the only valid conversion I know of – from so-called or misnamed ‘conversion therapy’, a term that was used by followers of the work of a psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, whose theories of the causes of homosexuality originating in a disturbed parent-child relationship should therefore be ‘treated’ by attempting to ‘convert’ those harmful relationships into more positive balanced adult relationships.

What are you trying to say?

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

“verbose” means to use more words than are necessary. It seems to me Joseph Berger has given us as much knowledge based information in as few words as he possibly could.

Joseph Berger
JB
Joseph Berger
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

thank you for your generous comment

Mark Preston
Mark Preston
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Did the big words confuse you sweetie?

Toby Josh
0
Toby Josh
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

It’s certainly a terribly-phrased sentence. What are you trying to say?

Philip May
PM
Philip May
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

Thank you for your post. I am an elementary school teacher in Northern Ontario (Canada) and I have seen the same disturbing trends in our schools. It has become a pandemic of its own. Should I share my concerns at a staff meeting on this issue I am reminded by Orwell’s observation that he who questions the prevailing orthodoxy will soon find himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. Gott in Himmel.
On another note, I would like to communicate with you directly. Is there a way to share contact information on this site without causing a fuss?

Arthur Holty
Arthur Holty
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

TL;DR

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

Thankyou. Very helpful indeed.

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

There are a number of gay men who do not identify as gay who have had one great relationship with a female that was sexual in nature, for a time. I think that real love and bonding, and having a focus other than one’s sexual urges can bond people into relationships they like and want to be in, whether or not they are the great fulfillment of their lives. To whit, even two old queens who are not sexual with each other and yet feel their need for their bond. More to the point here, a heterosexual couple, where one is gay, but they like their family life and commitments more. People self convert often, but not all do who want to.

Hardee Hodges
HH
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

Berger’s clarity is helpful. It’s very hard to sort personal preference causes and reasons once established. We can relationships that are quite complex and difficult to label. I can’t imagine allowing a teen to make irreversible choices as their hormones surge around confused signals.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

A trans person on can choose to become whatever gender they want. A homosexual cannot choose to become heterosexual?
Have I missed something?

Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

yes, your assumption about homosexuality is totally incorrect, what you stated is gay propaganda, not medical science,

Simon Cooper
SC
Simon Cooper
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

It does seem strange that given the HUGE amount of research, and NO EVIDENCE that many (if not all) of the arguments used to justify and that continue to protect the legitimisation of homosexual activity and relationships as normal, were based on this premise.
Ironically the argument that you can’t argue against science seems to have been thrown out of the window by the TG lobby who, presumably, having decided it no longer works for them, want nothing to do with it.
Having debased science to an opinion it is now feelings which must be honoured and protected.
I’m not sure how I feel about that 😉

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

What a confused article.
Yes, individuals integrity is important but another ban is not required, that will have dangerous repercussions, as Sharon Overy so clearly outlines in her comment above.
It is not the state’s business to interfere in how any individual chooses to manage their psychological well being.

I also think Giles is wrong to blandly talk about child psychology as if the mother/child relationship he describes is cut and dried scientific fact and universal, it is not, it is one theory, completely unprovable, often fondly adopted by parents confronted with an inexplicably cross baby.
There are contented, placid babies as well, children who do not have tantrums and grow up without angsty conflicted relationships with their mothers.
As the mother of two children (now grown up) I experienced just one tantrum; when my daughter was about 3yrs old, we were in a ladies shoe shop and she was delightedly examining the shoes (“without touching”), when it was time to leave all h e l l let loose, I had to carry her bodily up the high street screaming blue murder.
What is it about us women and shoes ? it’s a mystery.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

my favourite ‘tantrum’ story;
we arrived at Toronto airport and stood in very long lines waiting to be ‘processed’ by customs and immigration, before they installed the machines they now have. A child, probably 2-3 years old, lay on the ground, yelling, kicking, screaming, the young mother calmly ignored the tantrum until eventually the child stopped!
I was full of admiration for her calm, her lack of anger. Perhaps this had happened before and she knew her child very well, and her child didn’t know yet that mum couldn’t be manipulated so easily, just because hundreds of people were watching.

Alex Delszsen
AD
Alex Delszsen
3 years ago
Reply to  Joseph Berger

This reminds me of a more controlled tantrum of a young boy, whose “shamanic” incantations I can look back to self-soothe in later, similar situations: 5 p.m., dark, snowy and on an overheated, crowded bus, moving slowly in heavy traffic. A young boy wailing, not too loudly, “Zu-hau-se, Zu-hau-se…” or Hoome, Hooome!, crying out loud for the adults, crying inwardly in our hearts, finally to be home and comfortable and fed.
Those public tantrums I think are substitutions and transference for our adult emotions, and can serve a communal function.;- )

Last edited 3 years ago by Alex Delszsen
Judy Johnson
JJ
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

My daughter’s tantrum in a supermarket stopped when I lay on the floor next to her and drummed my heels. Thankfully I didn’t have to scream!

Kathy Prendergast
Kathy Prendergast
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

It is indeed a mystery. But not all women; I don’t give a toss about shoes. I would happily go around in flipflops all year round if the climate I lived in allowed for it. But then, maybe it’s a sign that I’m actually a man trapped in a woman’s body. Should I see a doctor about transitioning, so my non-shoe-obsessed “gender identity” matches my body?

D Thomas
DT
D Thomas
3 years ago

No transitioning needed Kathy. What you need to do is move to the top end of Australia where you can wear flip flops (thongs) every day of the year.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

The thing is surely, Western women’s fancy for shoes is a result of the market, ie, Capitalism, like all fashion. It lures us with all sorts of prettiness, colours, shapes etc, so that we can attract male attention (+ seek status). Not sure it’s necessary really. There are plenty of women worldwide who spend their lives either barefoot or in sensible footwear because of poverty, commonsense or inclination and they still find a mate with ease.

add on:
Nevertheless there does seem to be an innocent tendency in little girls to be fascinated by “pretty” things, which I personally find endearing.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
Claire D
CD
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

There’s also the moral point of view re vanity; the novel ‘Adam Bede’ by George Eliot/Mary Anne Evans is a wonderful, though tragic, examination of that.

Last edited 3 years ago by Claire D
Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Conversion therapy is criticized, but subjecting young boys or girls to medical experimentation including surgical intervention is hailed.

Guglielmo Marinaro
Guglielmo Marinaro
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Both forms of tampering should be off-limits for minors.

G G
GG
G G
3 years ago

While I do agree that gay conversion therapy is bad – although I know nothing about its current status in the UK – I must say, it is nothing like conversion. When one converts to a religion, or to christianity at least (to speak of my own experience), the world becomes much more complex, for then we must often make informed decisions on how to act when we could before simply ignore all nuance and do whatever’s individually comfortable. We aim, yes, for purity of heart – willing one thing – but any convert knows that brings, at least in this world, more suffering (as evident from the example of Christ), despite it bringing also a sense of purpose that’s supposed to be strong enough to withstand even death itself. Gay conversion therapy also aims for an undivided consciousness, however with the aim of suffering less in this world – gay conversion therapy is this the attempt to get rid of the cross instead of picking it up like Christ. It’s perfectly understandable why many gay people wish to drop the cross, but the modern world insists that they have the moral duty to rather enjoy their crosses without restriction. Indeed, the modern world also aims for purity of heart in the form of the boundless pleasure – Freud would have called it the Todestrieb, the pulsion of death. It seems like everyone is aiming for the purity of heart, but only Christianity tells us that the promise of peace is to be fulfilled only in a different world, telling us to hold on and be as virtuous as possible without promising that it will get easy.

Last edited 3 years ago by G G
John Brown
John Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  G G

You might enjoy this wonderful podcast on Christianity and how it has framed Western thought: https://www.spiked-online.com/podcast-episode/the-new-clerisy/
My personal view is that all three Abrahamic religions are little more than death cults. I find it disturbing that the same people who willingly criticise the barbarity of the Aztecs and Incas can still openly embrace the concept of human sacrifice.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

What is rarely said in relation to this subject is that many people want conversion in that they are dissatisfied with their lives and they want to change. They become aware that they don’t have to live with inner loneliness, guilt, despair, spiritual apathy and fear, etc. They want to turn from that to something better – they want to convert.
We’re told that we live in a spiritual age. Some are reacting against the emptiness and stultifying nature of secularism and atheism, and reaching out toward spiritual fulfilment and self transcendence. Church leaders are saying that in the lockdown thousands have logged into online worship – many more than the numbers that were attending services before. Also many churches have continued to run Alpha and similar courses online which cover the basics of the Christian Faith ending with an opportunity to commit to Jesus Christ and be filled with the Holy Spirit. In our parish in the Welsh Marches 4 men, all under 45 have completed the Alpha and course and 3 became committed Christians as a result.
As the article says “we are all at it”. Christians are at it because we have a mandate from God the Father to invite everyone to enter His realm of love, blessing and forgiveness through believing in His Son and being filled with His presence through the Holy Spirit. If people truly respond to this good news (Gospel), which has eternal consequences, it is not because they have been forced or persuaded by emotional buildup or intellectual argument. It is because God has been at work drawing them to Himself. It is God who does the converting , not the Church.
MPs debated conversion therapy recently. There is, I understand, a possibility that it could become illegal for a priest or other Christian leaders to pray with a gay person who has requested it, with a view to being changed. As with all spiritual ministry this must be exercised with great sensitivity and care and only in the context of an ongoing pastoral relationship. But there are those, including some on the General Synod of the Church of England who would like to see it criminalised.

John Brown
John Brown
3 years ago

“If people truly respond to this good news (Gospel), which has eternal consequences, it is not because they have been forced or persuaded by emotional buildup or intellectual argument. It is because God has been at work drawing them to Himself.”

So, nothing at all to do with people fearing hellfire, damnation and torture as “eternal consequences” then.
Thank God for that (no pun intended)!

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  John Brown

Actually the Judgement of God is an eternal consequence because He is a holy God and His Justice and Righteousness will be applied to everyone. No one would survive unless in His Love He provided forgiveness and salvation for us through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Mark Preston
MP
Mark Preston
3 years ago

Surely an adult has the right to choose any therapy they like – isn’t that freedom of choice? Yet somehow the state thinks it’s OK to help children to take puberty blockers?
This is simply a poorly veiled attack on the church.

Campbell P
Campbell P
3 years ago

‘Conversion therapy combines quack science with homophobic bullying — and the sooner it goes, the better.’
It really does depend on what you mean by the term and whether the individual is seeking change or if it is being imposed on them from outside agencies. Fraser’s blanket condemnation of it above reveals a very narrow-minded approach to this and and plays gay politics with a person’s human rights.
I attended a debate in a packed committee room of the House of Commons where the proposer, the head of a leading national psychological association, himself gay, was ready to refuse by law the right of his opponent, a man with wife and children, to seek counselling for his Same Sex Attraction. The overwhelming majority sided with the man, which then elicited abusive comments from the psychologist at those attending.
Of course the use of electric shocks and drugs should be outlawed; but under extreme, and it is extremist, pressure from gay organisations and politicians, the government will almost certainly give in. It seems that the idea of gays changing or changing back or becoming straight is, as Peter Tatchell discovered when a friend did, is anathema to the gay lobby because of course it undermines so much of their claims about homosexuality.
It is this demonising of helpful counselling and their playing of the persecution card that is so concerning. (The latter is the blame game of gay suicides – laying it always at the feet of the straight community, whereas my gay friends tell me that such suicides stem not from pressures outside but from disappointments and abuse within the gay community. But then the gay lobby is very good at burying that and other bad news.)

Joseph Berger
Joseph Berger
3 years ago
Reply to  Campbell P

you may have been at the same meeting in the H of C that I was, if so, the ‘gay presenter’ was a psychiatrist, the head of psychiatry at a major teaching hospital, and had a number of influential positions, and he did indeed deny the validity of numerous research reports of people who had undergone ‘normal’ traditional psychotherapy, and from self-identifying (there are no biological tests proving anyone is homosexual) as homosexual many had become comfortably heterosexual, no coercion, no electric shocks, just deeper examination of the person’s life, attractions, desires, fantasies, fears, relationships, etc.
it has been gay propaganda trying to convince people that homosexuality is an inherent, fixed, irreversible “orientation” except that there is zero evidence for any group of cells in people’s brains, or in their blood or even in their genes or chromosomes – in spite of many such claims – that is “responsible” for this alleged fixed orientation.
that is why “preference” is the more honest and accurate term, and therefore intelligent people should ask – why do gay activists seem so afraid of accepting that?

Barry Unwin
BU
Barry Unwin
3 years ago

So a straight church leader argues against conversion. Now here’s a gay church leader giving his perspective on it, in the Spectator.
(“What would a conversion therapy ban mean for Gay Christians like me?“)

Judy Johnson
JJ
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Barry Unwin

Vaughan Roberts, a homosexual minister, has also written an interesting short book called, Transgender.

Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
3 years ago

I rarely agree with GF about anything important. But I do think he is right to oppose forced conversion of any kind.
Non-forced conversion is more difficult. If X actually, genuinely, freely, definitely wants to change his character in some way (incljding but not limited toi sexual orientation) is it so terrible to try to help him? Although there must obviously besafeguards so that it is impossible to smuggle forced conversion in under the guise of non-coercive therapy, I canniot see this as so terrible.

Andrew D
AD
Andrew D
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew McGee

If someone wants to change his sexual orientation, to help him is terribly wrong. If someone wants to undergo ‘gender reassignment’, not to help him is terribly wrong.The difference? Search me

Guglielmo Marinaro
GM
Guglielmo Marinaro
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

I’ll tell you what the difference is. “Therapy” which claims to change people’s sexual orientation is a time-wasting con. “Gender reassignment” is an even bigger, crueller and more destructive con.

Last edited 3 years ago by Guglielmo Marinaro
Mark Gourley
MG
Mark Gourley
3 years ago

On a more frivolous note – how many psychoanalysts does it take to change a lightbulb? Just the one, but the bulb must want to change.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

That is as always a very interesting article. But bless me (in both senses) at the end I am still not sure what I think. Which is part of the point you are making.
But what seems very clear, and there are many other recent legislative intrusions which reinforce this feeling; whenever the state starts legislating, things have never been thought through

jerry lawler
JL
jerry lawler
3 years ago

There is irony in lumping gender Dysphoria with Sexual Orientation in conversion therapy bans. Since many (most?) of gender dysphoric youth are same sex attracted (SSA), affirming transition gets rid of the SSA by converting the individual to the other sex.

Guglielmo Marinaro
Guglielmo Marinaro
3 years ago
Reply to  jerry lawler

That’s one reason why all “transition” procedures (puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones etc.) should be strictly banned for minors: they are in fact a particularly pernicious form of conversion therapy – although by no means all gender dysphoric youth are or will be same-sex attracted. Another reason is that they don’t convert the individual to the other sex, which is impossible anyway. They merely make him/her into a fake member of the other sex, permanently distorting his/her physical development and often irretrievably destroying both fertility and sexual function.

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
3 years ago

A very strange ending to what is, as Claire comments, a confused article. I suspect GF may be afraid of upsetting those who are lobbying for the banning of ‘conversion therapy’ so gets into knots.

George Bruce
GB
George Bruce
3 years ago

when people say things like “I envy you, your faith. It must make life so much more straightforward” it says a lot more about them than it does about faith itself.

I always assume that one thing Giles and I have in common is that neither of us believes in the existence of God.
This article has not made me change that view.

Judy Johnson
JJ
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

It is interesting that you consider him an atheist. May I ask why?

George Bruce
GB
George Bruce
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Sorry, Judy, I dont have a very good answer to that one, just an impression Ive formed from various articles over the years.

JR Stoker
JS
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  George Bruce

I appreciate that bishops often seem to not believe in God (I’m joking), but most clergymen do, and Giles strikes me as a man who has a thoughtful and dedicated faith

Mark Ian P
Mark Ian P
3 years ago

I think some are missing the point entirely. Biblically as a baseline, all sexual activity outside of marriage between a man & a woman is sin. The Pope affirms this. So a homosexual person may have desires to have sex of their own sex, but that is not the problem. The problem is when that person acts on those desires. Jesus said “let a man deny himself, take up his cross & follow me”
So Christians should not be seeking to convert anyone but encouraging and supporting people to deny themselves and not act on their desires outside of that baseline.
Also in addition the Church should be standing on the Biblical principle that God made us to be the sex that we are, not what our disturbed minds think we should be at the time

Peter LR
PL
Peter LR
3 years ago

You might have made it clear that Jayne Ozanne did not have electro-convulsion therapy! Hopefully it was an accidental juxtaposition of anecdotes in your article.

Guglielmo Marinaro
GM
Guglielmo Marinaro
3 years ago

Such barbarous practices as ineffective and dangerous tampering with people’s hormones and aversion therapy (using either electric shocks or emetic) are now no longer practised in this country (if indeed they are anywhere in the civilized western world). 
You can, however, if you are really lucky, find a “conversion therapist” who will sit and talk with you and try to convince you that your natural sexuality can be “blamed” on a poor relationship with your parents – especially with your father, if you are a gay male; that you were sexually molested as a child, even if you know perfectly well that you weren’t, and explicitly say so; and that you are suffering from some sort of deficit in your “gender”, i.e. sex, identity. 
The therapist will probably deny that he/she practises conversion therapy, and call it something else, such as “change-allowing therapy”, claiming to help people to “move away from” homosexual attractions and behaviours. The advantage of such a claim is, of course, that it is so nebulous that it can never be falsified.
If consenting adults wish to waste their time on dabbling in such hocus pocus, entirely on their own responsibility, then they should be free to do so.

Tom More
TM
Tom More
1 month ago

I couldn’t finish reading this twaddle. The biggest lie… Sexual Orientation Change Efforts are not “Conversion” therapy. You deny people’s natural tendency to leave same sex behaviors as overwhelmingly naturally happens. And …let’s take Catholics like me as you hoist a rosary to advance your bigotry… We don’t hate “homosexuals” for instance, because first of all, there IS no such thing on this planet, nor “heterosexuals”, these invented terms.
Ganna has shown that there is no such thing as a “gay” . He is is genetically normal. More likely to have suffered a broken family or as in a friend’s family, death of a same sex parent. And lets not forget the one out of two in the NYC AIDS surveys who reported their first sexual experience as being from an older male at the average age of eleven.
Over a million young men have died from these behaviors while the utterly bogus study that purports to show “conversion” therapy caused suicide included those who were suicidal BEFORE SOCE. In fact … suicides went down 80% in adults who received therapy show as the work of Dr Paul Sullins proved.
I get the hate and bigotry, its the coinage of the west, but try to actually care about people struggling with same sex attractions. Enough have died though they are never mentioned.
https://sites.libsyn.com/20124/gays-deserve-freedom-of-choice-in-therapy