I'm a christian, and conversion therapy repulses me
LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and the legality of conversion therapy in the UK goes against my personal faith.
By Harriet Clifford / 10 August 2020
A few weeks ago, a screenshot was going around amongst the people I follow on Instagram. It was of an account called Core Issues Trust, a ‘British Christian organisation, which focuses on issues of homosexuality, challenging gender confusion and upholding science and conscience.’ When I saw people’s angry reactions and comments, I felt angry too, but also slightly panicked.
As a Christian, I worried that people would assume that all followers of my religion condone conversion therapy, the pseudoscientific practice which attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or their gender identity. I quickly took a screenshot of the account and pinged off an Instagram story with the text: ‘I’m a Christian and I can confirm that this is not what Christianity is about.’ I knew that this wasn’t enough, but I couldn’t just stay silent.
When it comes to something as polarising as conversion therapy, it is easy to adopt an ‘us and them’ mentality. There are people who condone it – mostly fundamentalist Christians – and those who are whole-heartedly against it. The latter group are likely to be angry as they struggle to understand why anyone would support a practice which makes people feel ashamed, fundamentally ‘wrong’ or sinful. It’s unsurprising, then, that many people feel anger towards all Christians and consciously or subconsciously affiliate conversion therapy with the entire religion.
Although I haven’t conducted a survey, making this claim is almost as pseudoscientific as the practice itself, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that plenty of Christians would be equally as horrified by conversion therapy as the 232,677 people who have signed the official UK government petition to make it illegal. I have been an active Christian for most of my life and have signed the petition, because I believe that not only is conversion therapy unscientific, unethical and dehumanising, but it is also unbiblical.
Conversion therapy, reparative or ‘gay cure’ therapy is a practice which uses psychological, physical or spiritual methods to change someone’s homosexual or bisexual orientation to heterosexual, or their gender orientation to cisgender. And it is STILL legal in the UK.
LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall’s 2018 survey found that one in 20 LGBTQ+ people in the UK have been pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation when accessing healthcare services. Although currently legal in the UK, the Royal College of Psychiatrists states that ‘there is no sound scientific evidence that sexuality can be changed’, while there is evidence that conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness and suicide.
While a quick Google search brings up thousands of calls to have it banned, horror stories from ex-Christians exposed to the therapy, and help pages written by mental health or human rights charities, it’s very difficult to find anything written by a Christian which unequivocally denounces conversion therapy. The Inclusive Church network, which works with churches to explore and embrace inclusivity, supports the campaign to have the practice banned and on their website they state that, ‘Many believe that unwillingness to include LGBT&I people as full members of the church, or even listen seriously to the arguments for inclusion, is contrary to the Gospel.’ Inclusive churches, of which there are at least 100 in London alone, support gay marriage and welcome people of any gender identity or sexuality.
As a millennial, perhaps my views are more ‘progressive’ than Christians of older generations, but whether or not someone accepts open homosexuality within the church is almost besides the point. Instead, it’s about whether someone is willing to condone a practice which evidence has shown causes harm. The UK Council for Psychotherapy states: ‘It is exploitative for a psychotherapist to offer treatment that might “cure” or “reduce” same sex attraction as to do so would be offering treatment for which there is no illness.’ This, it seems, is the nub of it. No stranger to mental illness, I know exactly what it’s like to have someone tell you that the ways you behave and feel are fundamentally linked to disordered thinking. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to have a healthcare professional say this about something as uncontrollable as my sexuality.
As part of my research for this piece, I spoke to a gay Christian who has recently moved to an LGBT+ affirming church in London. He tells The Release, "Sometimes as Christians we end up doing more damage than we intend to, despite having the right motives and simply wanting to do the right thing by God. Over the last few years I have heard testimony after testimony of the damage gay conversion therapy has done to people’s lives – people being forced into heterosexual marriages despite being gay, enforced celibacy for the entirety of their lives, depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, a loss of faith, rejection from the community."
"I am a gay Christian and for once I am seeing good fruit in my life. I now go to a church that accepts and affirms gay people and gay relationships. I feel closer to Jesus than ever before. It seems that God doesn’t distinguish between straight and gay couples; He seems to be at work in both, just like Jew and Gentile."
"Gay conversion therapy isn’t the answer. The church needs to return to scripture and its context and consider if the current treatment of gay people fits into the overarching narrative of the Gospel of Christ; like they did for slavery, like they did for the role of women."
The recently set up organisation Ban Conversion Therapy, has gained huge momentum with the support of many celebrities, showing that change is possible. But the work is not done yet, follow their instagram: https://www.instagram.com/banconversiontherapy/, and use their links to petitions and open letters to help.
The point of this article is not to convert anyone to Christianity. That would be as ineffective as conversion therapy itself. I’m not asking you to come to church or change your entire outlook on sexuality or religion. I’m simply amplifying a voice which tends to stay quiet, perhaps for fear of causing upset or of being rejected. Of course, denounce the damaging organisations that provide conversion therapy, but remember that differences in opinion still apply, regardless of religion.
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