We look at the myths being lined up to 'cure' gay and lesbian people of their sexuality
While many of us know homosexuality is normal, plenty of homophobes keep spreading myths that ‘gay cure’ therapies work.
More vulnerable gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are falling victim to these poisonous arguments, often used by their families, their church or even their country.
‘Gay cure’ or reparative therapy propaganda seems to be steamrolling, such as last month when religious activists booked an ‘ex-gay’ advert on London buses. Meanwhile, in the US, their main scientific advocate has withdrawn his support.
So we have decided to bust the top eight ‘gay cure’ myths used by homophobes who say they are only trying to help.
Myth: Prayer will turn you straight
If you’re religious, prayer can do wonderful things. However, it cannot change something as fundamental as which gender you want to have sex with.
‘Gay cure’ therapies are mostly only offered by religious people or groups, and they all say praying to God will help turn you straight.
If you pray every night hoping for success, the lack of results will only make you feel like you have failed your God and your family.
Pink Therapy UK’s Dominic Davies says the failure can actually make religious people ‘very depressed, and in many cases actively suicidal.’
Myth: All gay people need to get over the fact they were sexually abused
It may seem unbelievable, but some therapists believe the reason people have gay sex is because they were abused as a child.
Shrink Lesley Pilkington, who was exposed by journalist Patrick Strudwick for preaching ‘gay cures’ in therapy sessions, told Strudwick he must have been sexually abused.
When Strudwick replied he was not, she said: ‘It is something within you, but outside your mind. Is it ok with you if we ask the Holy Spirit to help you to bring these things to your conscious mind?’
If a child suffers at the hands of a paedophile, the traumatic event will likely interfere with their development. However, there is no evidence that a child ‘born heterosexual’ would have been straight if it was not for the abuse.
Myth: Homosexuality is a sickness, and that can be cured
If homophobes like to point out there has been little evidence of a ‘gay gene’, there is no science whatsoever that says homosexuality is a ‘sickness’ or an ‘addiction’.
France was one of the first countries to legalise homosexuality in 1791. In comparison, the UK declassified homosexuality as an illness in 1967, and the US followed in 1973.
If all the major world health organisations and governments now realise homosexuality is not a plague, or a mental aberration, then it is time the homophobes catch up to modern thinking.
Myth: Studies by psychiatrists have found reparative therapy works
When Pilkington was looking for arguments for her defence, she said in a Channel 4 News interview that pioneer psychiatrist Bob Spitzer had proven in a study that reparative therapy works.
Last April Spitzer said he now wants to retract his 2001 study which proclaimed that gay and lesbian people could change their sexual orientation.
He said: ‘I believe I owe the gay community an apology for my study making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy.
‘I also apologize to any gay person who wasted time and energy undergoing some form of reparative therapy because they believed that I had proven that reparative therapy works with some “highly motivated” individuals.’
Myth: Therapists will recruit you if they are gay, or convert you if they are straight
Sexuality is not like choosing which sports team you support. People can attempt to convince and cajole you as much as they like, but it is impossible to change a basic brain framework.
Paranoid reparative therapists often say confused patients should not be seen by liberal psychologists, otherwise they could be ‘recruited by the gays’.
A study by Professor Michael King at University College London Medical School surveyed 1328 non-religious counsellors who were asked if they would enter into a contract to change a patient’s sexual attractions, and one in six agreed.
Davies told Gay Star News: ‘A naÃ¯ve therapist will sit there and say “Of course I will help you with whatever you want to work on” and start trying, blindly, to try to do some therapy with that person. It’s not going to work but they will agree to the contract.
‘And that’s where the therapy training organisations have a duty of care to the community and to the people they’re training to make sure when a client comes in to that situation, the therapist can say with some authority there is nothing wrong with you.’
Myth: Ex-gays never feel any same-sex attraction again
After many years of blindly praying, attending church, and promising to never think about a person with the same genitals ever again, it still will not work.
Ex-gays preaching about their newly heterosexual lives are liars, unless they have found some vague latent bisexual functioning.
For example founder of ‘National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day’ Michael Johnston resigned in 2003 after he allegedly had unprotected sex with men he met on the Internet.
John Paulk was the chairman of Exodus International and founded the ‘Focus on the Family’ conference. He had appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America as well as appearing on the cover of Newsweek during a 1998 ex-gay ad campaign. In 2000 he was photographed in a Washington gay bar, and lost his job for his hypocrisy.
Myth: Electric shocks/Invasive surgery/Playing sports and cooking will turn you straight
There are many horrific ‘techniques’ gay people have used to try to change their sexuality, with all of them ranging from simply ineffective to highly dangerous.
In 1920s Germany, mainstream medical researchers implanted testicles from dead straight corpses into the bodies of gay men, usually without their knowledge, in an effort to boost their testosterone levels. Hormone therapy is still used today – hoping testosterone will boost a man’s ‘masculinity’.
In 1950s and 1960s Britain, behavioural therapy was used to try to cure ‘gay men’. Men convicted of homosexual acts were routinely given electric shock treatment, hallucinogenic drugs and subjected to brainwashing techniques.
In scenes similar to film ‘A Clockwork Orange’, men were shown pictures of naked men and given a series of electric shocks or drugs to make them vomit.
In 1994 the American Psychological Association said this dangerous practice did not work as aversion therapy often led to suicide and mental illness in the patient.
Patients who enter group therapy to cure their sexuality are often told that engaging in gender-specific activities like sports or cooking will encourage them to be straight.
Try telling that to hardman rugby player Gareth Thomas, who came out in 2009. Or to Cat Cora, a lesbian who was the first female winner of American television programme ‘Iron Chef’.
Myth: ‘Gay cure’ therapy cannot do any harm
It can, and it will. If someone tries to lie to themselves, and tries to convince their brain they are not gay, a likely result will be mental illness, depression, and thoughts of suicide.
A 2002 study by the clinical psychologists Shidlo and Schroeder found that 55% of people who go through conversion therapy are left with worsened mental health.
Sometimes when you are young and living in a religious family, coming out is not the right thing to do. Gay Star News reader Jimmy, who asked us to not include his last name, said when he came out at 14 his mother told him he had to go to a priest to ‘fix’ him.
Jimmy backtracked out of fear, and said: ‘From that moment our relationship changed and damage was done that can never be repaired.’
Sometimes people are blinded by their beliefs, even when it comes at the cost of their own children.
If you are confused about your sexuality, then the answer is not to repress your feelings. Go and see a therapist who is trained and can give impartial, valuable advice.
Pink Therapy’s Davies says: ‘It is important patients ask their therapist what their attitudes and what their experience and what their training has been.
‘That way, they don’t waste their time and money on someone who has had no training or has negative attitudes, or think that homosexuality is an aberration. Clearly, that is not going to be a healthy path for them.’