Editor's Note: Guest blogger Mike Airhart is a founder and contributor to exgaywatch.com and a veteran newswire editor. Mike has written about the Christian Right since the 1980s, as well as rape prevention, hate crimes, and HIV/AIDS; his work has appeared in Sojourners magazine, Newsweek, and community publications.
The U.S. "ex-gay" group Restored Hope Network and the Christian Post falsely reported this weekend that British Christians solidly oppose a proposed ban against abusive and ineffective "ex-gay" therapy. CP added, again incorrectly, that doctors find no scientific support for regulation or suspension of such therapy.
But mainline British Christians and most British mental-health experts do support a ban on conversion therapy, based on solid evidence.
Just last week, the leading body for Christian therapists, the Association of Christian Councillors, instructed its members to stop trying to turn their gay patients straight. As The Bilerico Project reported, the ACC said reparative therapy "implies that sexuality can be 'repaired' and so introduces the idea of treatment or cure... it suggests that a specific outcome is possible and appears to make an a priori assumption that it should happen." The ACC added, "Such models have the potential to create harm and therefore [we] view them as incompatible within the ethos of counselling."
Meanwhile, Britain's major professional health organizations had already agreed that conversion therapies are unethical and waste government funds with ineffective treatments that unearth alleged childhood traumas that do not, in fact, cause homosexuality. Instead, unearthing the traumas in this fashion reopens old wounds and traumatizes families.
In 2007, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:
"A small minority of therapists will even go so far as to attempt to change their client's sexual orientation. This can be deeply damaging. Although there are now a number of therapists and organisation in the USA and in the UK that claim that therapy can help homosexuals to become heterosexual, there is no evidence that such change is possible."
According to The Guardian, research by U.S. clinical psychologists Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder "has shown such treatment routinely led to worsened mental health, self-harm, thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts."
This extreme harm has, according to media reports, spurred recent British parliamentary support for a ban on conversion therapy, with "cross-party backing with MPs from Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru." According to other sources, the proposed British ban "is part of a larger measure to regulate personal mental health counselors and psychotherapists."
Due to lax oversight of the mental-health profession in the United Kingdom, Labour Party MP Geraint Davies (left) fears a general increase in unmonitored malpractice and exploitation. Davies has also warned that taxpayers are being scammed by unscrupulous profiteers in the ex-gay industry who cash in on Britain's generous public health benefits.
Resistance to regulation comes from British evangelicals who are "partly aided by special interest groups with strong links to the United States, a small but vocal group of so-called ex-gays who have made their presence felt in the UK," according to Care2.
The website of Northern Ireland's antigay Core Issues Trust borrows substantial content from its discredited U.S. counterpart, the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality.
NARTH's founder, Joseph Nicolosi, famously blames parents for their children's homosexuality -- causing harm to parents' esteem and parenting skills. Nicolosi then encourages those parents to force gay youths (who are wrongly assumed to be either sissies or tomboys) into stereotypical gender-role activities to toughen them and turn them straight. Nicolosi defends antigay bullying as a necessary learning experience, and opposes violence prevention.
While heterosexism and antigay malice are receding among British churches, the antigay Trust remains well-funded enough by the antigay industry to have hired Restored Hope board member Andrew Comiskey to speak at conferences this weekend in England and Northern Ireland.
The Core Issues Trust, Restored Hope Network, and Christian Post appear determined to misrepresent Christian psychiatric views against conversion therapy; to cause spiritual harm and medical malpractice against sexual minorities and their parents; and to silence the increasingly outspoken families that have endured ex-gay abuse.
Photo via Flickr user exgaysurvivordan.