January 29, 2013

IconWho invited “ex-gay” activists to the House of Commons?

Beyond parody...

A debate on gay conversion therapy will be held in a Parliamentary committee room tomorrow.

Entitled “Sexual reorientation therapy: Freedom to change?”, the event has been organised by two right-wing Christian organisations: Christian Concern and Core Issues (“God’s heart in sexual and relational brokenness”).

Speakers include Core Issues director and “ex-gay” campaigner Dr Mike Davidson (who was stripped of his professional credentials in 2012) and Dr Joseph Berger, a consultant psychiatrist from Canada who denies the existence of trans people and advocates child abuse.

They will be debating “the legitimacy and freedom to offer sexual reorientation” with Professor Michael King of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The debate will be followed by an afternoon programme of talks from a variety of other middle-aged white men, including American evangelical preacher Professor Dale Kuehne and international litigation specialist Paul Coleman.

Both events are intended to critique the growing level of opposition to conversion (or “reparative”) therapy from professional bodies. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK Council of Psychotherapy, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and British Psychological Society have all condemned therapies aimed at “curing” same-gender attraction.

The very fact that these events are being held in the House of Commons is worrying. The implication is that the “ex-gay” lobby has support from MPs.

Lesbilicious talked to Dr Lyndsey Moon, chair of the British Psychological Society’s Psychology of Sexualities section, who shared our concerns. “I think we need to find out who gave it the go-ahead and who made those requests,” he said.

“I don’t know how such a meeting with such high-profile figures who seem to have all been mobilised so many months ahead has happened in a public arena without us knowing about it.”

It is also disturbing that the organisers are keen to portray conversion therapy as a “free speech” issue. Core Issues in particular are keen to hijack the language of liberation, defending their right to “support” individuals who “voluntarily seek change”.

This kind of argument can only hold up in a world that is a moral free-for-all: a libertarian world of relativistic values, in which it’s okay to be queer but it’s also okay to regard us as abhorrent. A world that is not truly safe for all.

It is important therefore that we fight for active acceptance of LGBT people within public life. And whilst Mike Davidson has every right to be an ex-gay, he does not deserve the right to promote intolerance in the House of Commons.


2 Responses to Who invited “ex-gay” activists to the House of Commons?

  1. Mervyn says:

    I went to the debate but still fail to understand why you oppose “sexual reorientation counselling”. If I am overweight then you can 100% guarentee that that “fat” gene was in my DNA in the womb – and if I want to loose weight I have the right to seek professional counsel. Isn’t this the same case with individuals that want to persue an alternative sexual preference? What is your problem with this?

    • Ruth Pearce Ruth Pearce says:

      Counselling should be about supporting individuals to explore their options. Reparative therapy isn’t about that: it’s about seeking a particular outcome on the basis of bigotry. You don’t need to read particularly far into the work of Core Issues (“relational brokenness) or Joseph Berger (let the bullies sort it out!) to see that bigotry at work.

      As a bisexual woman, I’m very much in favour of supporting individuals in their exploration of sexual fluidity and change over time – maybe someone who considers themselves “gay” now might regard themselves as “pansexual” or “straight” in a few years time. Meanwhile, other people’s sexual orientations may remain more rigid. In a sexually liberated world, none of this would be a problem.

      But reparative therapists do not seek a sexually liberated world – in their world, heterosexuality is the only desirable outcome. As such, yesterday’s “debate” was not about free speech – it was about closing down real choice.

Ruth Pearce


Lesbilicious Brighton Review – May 2012

Lesbilicious as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival 2012

May 22, 2012