Today 10 December 2020 marks Human Rights Day and on this day, we examine the insidious act of gay conversion therapy. Administered by many respected religious organisations in first world countries like Australia, this type of therapy has lasting effects on young vulnerable members of the LGBTIQA+ community who are told they are ‘broken’, ‘sinners’, ‘deviants’ and are effectively ostracised from their families, friends and churches due to their differing sexual identities.
Currently in Victoria, Australia, Premier Daniel Andrews is debating this bill before parliament outlawing gay conversion therapy practices across the state.
The Premier said he didn’t speak often of his faith as it was a deeply personal matter but he was quoted to say that bigotry disguised as religion was an “insult”.
“To be told you are broken, you are wrong, you are a sin, you’re unwell, infected even, just for being who you are is deeply offensive – most of all it is cruel,” Mr Andrews said.
“This is not kindness and love, or the protection of the vulnerable and persecuted. This is not something to be proud of. This is not what I pray for.”
Amnesty International Western Australia welcomes the strong condemnation from the Victorian Premier’s views of so-called ‘conversion therapy’.
The conversion practices movement make pseudoscientific claims which tell LGBTIQA+ people they can change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Depending on techniques used, LGBTIQA+ conversion therapy has been found by the United Nations to be unethical, unscientific, ineffective and, in some instances, tantamount to torture. The Australian Psychological Association and the Australian Medical Association have condemned conversion therapy as harmful and ineffective.
In early 2020, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination had collated data from 130 submissions from victims of conversion therapy practices to inform his latest report to the Human Rights Council.
Through these submissions, Mr Madrigal-Borloz heard conversion was attempted through beatings, rape, electrocution, forced medication, isolation and confinement, forced nudity, verbal offense and humiliation and other acts of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.
Gay conversion therapy is a human rights violation and an attempt to suppress a person’s sexuality and instil a deep sense of shame in who they are as a person.
Up to 10% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Australians are vulnerable to harmful so-called conversion therapy practices, according to a 2018 report from La Trobe University and the Human Rights Law Centre.
Time to stand strong
Long-time LGBTIQA+ advocate, Tasmanian man Rodney Croome has rallied for gay rights for three decades and over that time he fought countless prejudice and hate through his battle for equality.
“Ultimately, for me it’s about belonging and that you will belong and there will be a people and a place for you,” he said.
“Trans and gender diverse people aren’t just our friends and family members, they are members of our rainbow community, they are allies in our struggle for freedom and equality and we in theirs.”Rodney Croome
“We must continue to stand with them, especially now when they are under greater attack than ever. Anything less is a betrayal of our own long struggle.”
Same-sex relationships and religion
In the Anglican parish of St Andrews in Subiaco, the Reverend Peter Manuel welcomes a LGBTIQA+ crowd to his services and hosts same-sex friendly services for the local community who simultaneously identify as same-sex and love their religion.
“I believe that marriage is a stable form of relationship and I’m thrilled that same-sex-attracted people really want the stability that marriage symbolises,” Rev Manuel said.
“In our society things that build up relationships and commitment are good things. In the face of a world where people fight each other and divorce is very easy and all the other things, this is a symbol of hope.”
“The Church is a very conservative organisation and from our foundational document, the Bible, our history, and, of course, the history of the Western world, marriage has been between a man and a woman — so that’s been a big jump for many people.”Rev Peter Manuel
Western Australian Greens MLA the Hon Alison Xamon said there was simply no place for this abhorrent practice [gay conversion therapy] in this modern-day world.
“Any intervention claiming to ‘treat’ something which is not a disorder is absolutely unethical and should be banned immediately,” she said.
“We know that LGBTIQA+ children and young people experience poorer mental health outcomes and have greater risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the terrible impacts of conversion therapy.”
“Worryingly, LGBTIQA+ children and young people from religious backgrounds, and often with no power to resist, are most vulnerable. This is in direct conflict with community expectations that LGBTIQ children and young people be nurtured and protected from physical and psychological harm.”
On this Human Rights Day, we reflect on the year that has passed, unlike any other, and the egregious human rights violations that still exist to this day all around the world and in our backyard. Love is love and individuals don’t choose their sexuality, nor should they feel ashamed or not valid in society if their sexuality does not ‘fit’.
Let’s stand together with our friends, family and community and unite as allies in this common fight against equality and gay conversion therapy, on Human Rights Day and every other day until this treacherous betrayal of human rights is abolished.
Words by Jacqui O’Leary