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Here’s What It’s Like To Go Through Gay Conversion Therapy In Australia

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Conversion therapy is all but dead in Australia – but what will it take to kill it?

Candelight

“Please take this from me, I don’t want to be gay.”

Brisbane man Johann De Joodt knows first hand the horrors of gay conversion therapy.

A participant in numerous programs designed to purge his homosexuality during his twenties and thirties, De Joodt adopted a traumatising routine of church, sin and repentance that looped on repeat every week for 15 years.

“Sunday, I was going up to the altar, crying out to God,” he said. “Monday, I would sin by having sex with another man, and then beat myself up to a pulp so by Saturday I was suicidal. I’d manage to get myself to church on Sunday and then do it again, every week.”

“That was basically my life.”

“When a church leader says being gay is an abomination, people say, ‘you’re talking about my uncle who I love very much.’”

The question of whether conversion therapy works was answered long ago: it doesn’t. Leading psychological associations in Australia and around the world have denounced therapy that attempts to change sexual orientation. Earlier this year, a report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for nations to ban the practice, describing it as “unethical, unscientific and ineffective and, and may be tantamount to torture”.

Partly as a result of these strident denouncements, the prevalence of such therapy has significantly declined in Australia. Around 40 providers across the country in 2000 have dwindled to just a handful still in action today.

“There’s very little left. It’s in disarray,” says former pastor Anthony Venn-Brown. Venn-Brown, who has himself been through reparative therapy, is the most prominent voice on conversion therapy in Australia. He now works as the founder and CEO of Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International (ABBI), a group that works to combat ignorance and hostility between the LGBT community and churches.

Anthony Venn-Brown. Hadden Motion Pictures

Speaking to BuzzFeed News at a cafe in Waterloo, Sydney, Venn-Brown suggests another part of the decline is due to a growing acceptance of gay people in wider society – which, of course, includes churches too.

“More people are out, churchgoers have got gay sisters, brothers, colleagues, friends,” Venn-Brown says.

“When a church leader says being gay is an abomination, people say, ‘you’re talking about my uncle who I love very much.’”

The most thriving ex-gay programs are in Queensland, where Liberty Incorporated runs alongside the smaller Triumphant Ministries Toowoomba. Sydney-based Living Waters, one of Australia’s longest-running ex-gay programs, closed down last year.

There are also groups that advertise themselves as providing pastoral counselling on dealing with same-sex attraction, but clarify they do not attempt to change sexual orientation. These groups include Liberty Christian Ministries in NSW, and Renew Ministries in Victoria.

However, perhaps due to the stigma now attached to conversion therapy, there is little public information available about the funding, treatment methods and numbers of clients for each of these organisations. While Venn-Brown estimates that the programs would get “very few referrals” these days, their relative invisibility serves as a shield to such information. “We’ll never know the exact numbers,” he says.

At the heart of religious conversion therapy is “a strong belief in an all powerful God”, says Venn-Brown. Programs use a number of methods to exploit this belief, convincing participants that homosexuality is not what God wants for them. Venn-Brown went through dramatic exorcisms, where he convulsed on the floor for hours as pastors gathered around him, screaming for the demon of homosexuality to exit his soul.

Other methods include group and personal counselling, where homosexuality is posed either as a shameful habit that can be broken or an affliction, harking back to the days when it was considered a mental illness.

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Johann De Joodt bristles at the description of gay conversion therapy as “nearly dead”.

“Conversion therapy hasn’t ended in Australia,” he says. “It is alive and well.”

De Joodt came to Australia from Sri Lanka in 1984. A few years later, he found himself heavily involved in the Assemblies of God Pentecostal church movement – now known as Australian Christian Churches – and struggling with his sexuality.

“I went to confess my sin of homosexuality to my pastors,” he says. “I was pretty involved in church life, and the pastor recognised that there were a few other people in the church who were struggling with their sexuality as well.”

De Joodt started the Living Waters ex-gay program in 1990. This was the first of many programs he went through, and when his weekly routine of church, sin, and self-loathing began. It wouldn’t end until 2005.

For years, De Joodt prayed the gay away as various pastors attempted to cast the demons of homosexuality from his soul. He was told his sexuality was a habit that could be broken and changed, that he was gay because he had been sexually assaulted as a child and lacked a decent father figure. He enrolled in courses on self-esteem, and learning how to say no, and did hours of counselling. He prayed, week after week after week.

Unsurprisingly, Johann stayed gay. But the years he spent in therapy ate away at him in other ways. “My health…” Johann starts, then pauses. “I am on antidepressants. Everything I’ve been through has stuffed up my mental health.”

 

Since 2000, twelve peer-reviewed, primary research studies have found conversion therapy is harmful to mental health. A Columbia Law School project collating conversion therapy research found that among people who had undergone the treatment, there was a prevalence of depression, anxiety, social isolation, decreased capacity for intimacy, and suicidal thoughts and behaviours. “There is powerful evidence that trying to change a person’s sexual orientation can be extremely harmful,” the researchers concluded.

“People have taken their lives, they are now on pensions because they can’t function in everyday life,” says Venn-Brown. “There are PTSD issues, they’ve been harmed mentally, they’re traumatised.”

This manifest trauma and pain is why Venn-Brown has devoted his life to combating ignorance between the LGBT and faith community through ABBI. His daily grind is a softly-softly approach that coaxes people of faith and the LGBT community closer together. “The biggest challenge is fear,” he says without hesitation.

In the past – and in conversion therapy – being gay and being a Christian were seen as incompatible. Venn-Brown says that when he was going through therapy in the 1970s and ‘80s, there was “nobody who believed there was such a thing as a gay Christian”.

“You were either Christian and heterosexual or you were gay and going to go to hell,” he explains. “The gay Christian movement was just beginning to grow then.” After coming out in 1991, he left the Christian faith for six years – but then returned to it after realising being a gay Christian was possible. “There are things [in Christianity] that I can take, that are very real for me,” he says. “Forgiveness, sowing and reaping, having purpose.”

As attitudes have changed and churches become more permissive, many LGBT Christians have been able to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and gender identity. However, a damaging rift still exists between the two communities, with years of betrayal from religious organisations leaving LGBT people fearful and unwilling to engage. Those hurt most by the hostility are LGBT Christians, who are often left feeling as though they belong in neither camp.

“Just as Christians have stereotyped all LGBT people, some LGBT people have stereotyped all Christians,” says Venn-Brown. “We get called perverts, abominations, they get called bigots and haters. And that doesn’t get us anywhere, just sitting back in our camps, our tribes, throwing barbs at each other.”

It’s obvious the division is unhelpful – but is being called a pervert really on par with being called a bigot? Venn-Brown pauses before answering, in short, no.

“It’s about the perception – we will often hear, a Christian like [Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director] Lyle Shelton or [Christian Democrats leader] Fred Nile say ‘I am not homophobic’. But everything that comes out of their mouth is completely homophobic. They just don’t understand what homophobia is, because they’ve never experienced it,” he says.

“We come from our own hurt, and our own pain. And we react, as any human would, when cruel and nasty and insensitive things are said by these people.” He switches into the second person, speaking directly to those who have hurt him. “You don’t know what that does to us, because you’ve never experienced that. You don’t know what it feels like.”

But matters of blame and hostility aside, Venn-Brown is convinced his approach of “dialogue and respect” is best. He knows both the LGBT and the faith community intimately, and says church communities do not respond to “aggressive” activism.

“I introduced [Hillsong Pastor] Brian Houston to a guy in his church who had been referred to somebody [for conversion therapy],” says Venn-Brown. “I got him and his parents to write a letter, Brian met with him.”

Later, it emerged that Houston had issued a directive to all Hillsong staff to never refer anyone to these programs.

“I’ve talked with people who are major religious leaders in Australia. It’s been a journey of ten years for some of them,” Venn-Brown says. “I’ve seen progress, but not where I would want it to be. In every human rights movement, it’s taken decades to shift. If you’re not in it for the long haul, it’s not going to work.”

 

However, politicians involved in LGBT law reform say a legal approach to ending conversion therapy is complex.

“There’s not much that can be done to target these organisations specifically at a federal level, other than continuing to tighten anti-discrimination legislation and look at the applicability of consumer law,” Greens senator Robert Simms tells BuzzFeed News.

If providing the therapy was considered a breach of the Sex Discrimination Act, it’s likely that the religious exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act would protect conversion therapy providers. Under Australian consumer law, the religious and not-for-profit aspects of most conversion therapy programs would mean they are not considered “commercial in nature”. While such laws could be tweaked, says Simms, it’s unlikely they could be used as a mechanism to eradicate the therapy altogether.

Graham Perrett, a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of LGBTI People Working Group, says a federal law banning conversion therapy may be unconstitutional.

“In terms of section 51 on the powers of the parliament, I can’t see any head of power that would give the federal parliament any capacity to make gay conversion therapy illegal in Australia,” he says.

There are some legal avenues under state and territory law as well, with acts in all jurisdictions outlawing advertising of health services that are deceptive or misleading. It could also be possible to lodge a complaint with the Australian Psychological Society that their code of ethics has been breached.

However, there is no black and white policy solution to immediately ending conversion therapy.

“It’s all just prejudice welded onto quackery packaged by a religious organisation,” says Perrett.

“I think education is the best antidote.”

Sebastien Bozon / AFP / Getty Images

De Joodt’s conversion journey reached a fork in 2005. His conversion counsellor at the time, CEO of Liberty Incorporated Paul Wegner, told him “I can help you suppress your sexual desires, but I can’t help you change your sexual orientation”.

“I was like, ‘Well, what’s the point?” says De Joodt. “If you take a ball and try to push it in a bucket of water and let go, it’s going to eventually pop up.”

He came out, lost “a lot of people”, and left his Pentecostal church. He went to the LGBT-friendly Metropolitan Community Church for a few years, and then stopped that, too. But God is still in his life.

“I have days where I feel like a Christian, and there are other days where I feel like I hate God,” he says.

“I think I’ve resolved my sexuality with my faith. If people want to be so small-minded as to think that you have to be straight to get into heaven then I think they’re going to get a big shock when they do get to heaven.”

A pause, and then: “I think God is bigger than the box you put God into.”

It’s because of this new understanding of faith, says De Joodt, that he doesn’t relapse into wanting to be straight again. “I’ve come to a point where I believe I need to be honest before myself, and before my God.”

“There’s a famous saying, isn’t there?” He thinks aloud. “Change what you can change and leave the rest to God? Or something like that. Accept the things you can’t change?”

A quick Google search later, it becomes apparent De Joodt was trying to recall the words of the Serenity Prayer, brought into popular culture by its widespread use in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change / The courage to change the things I can / And the wisdom to know the difference.

It took years of anguish, but finally, De Joodt has been granted that serenity. He knows the difference, too.

“If God wanted just another heterosexual, God could have created one, but instead God created me fabulous,” he says.

“My sexual orientation is something I cannot change.”

A spokesperson for Liberty Christian Ministries declined a request to be interviewed for this piece. Requests sent to Liberty Incorporated and Triumphant Ministries Toowoomba were not responded to.

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at lane.sainty@buzzfeed.com.

Government Has 'No Plans' To Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

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The government has “no current plans” to ban gay conversion therapy, a Conservative health minister said today after the practice was attacked by both Tory and Labour MPs.

Recent research carried out by Britain’s leading LGBT charity, Stonewall, revealed that one in 10 healthcare workers had witnessed colleagues express their belief in the so-called treatment.

The statistic rises to 22% in London health and social care environments, and has been hailed “incredibly harmful and dangerous” by Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists have said previously that conversion therapy creates “a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish”.

Tory MP Mike Freer led a debate on the practice in parliament on Tuesday and called for it to be banned. “Being gay is not a disease, it is not an illness and it is not something that I or any other gay man or woman can be cured of. To suggest otherwise is not only demeaning, but morally and medically wrong,” he said.

“Imagine the outcry if Parliament were to give tacit approval to curing heterosexual men and women of their heterosexuality. There would be uproar. Allowing conversion therapy to try to turn our straight colleagues gay would not last a day, yet we allow therapists to peddle the myth that they can ‘cure’ people of being gay.”

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Labour MP Wes Streeting said “the suggestion that there could be a gay cure that makes all LGBT people, and young people in particular, feel that they are different and somehow alien”.

He added: “That is what causes them mental ill health.”

However Health minister Jane Ellison said while the government did not believe that being lesbian, gay or bisexual “is an illness to be treated or cured” – a ban was not currently being considered.

“I fully understand the concerns about so-called gay conversion therapy, but the government have no current plans to ban or restrict it via legislation, or to introduce statutory regulation for psychotherapists,” she said.

Ellison said she acknowledged there was a “continued challenge to the government to go further” in preventing gay conversion therapy.

Former Tory minister Nick Herbert said there needed to be a “a stronger statement of guidance from the government” that it was wrong.

Before the General Election, David Cameron said that the therapies were “profoundly wrong” and pledged to “protect people from harm” under a Conservative government.

Why Do Some Gay Mormons Still Seek Out Conversion Therapy?

Despite all the forces aligned against conversion-therapy programs, many gay Mormons continue to turn to them.

 

SALT LAKE CITY – Men holding other men, as fathers cradle their newborn sons. Men running naked in the woods, like innocent boys during playful childhoods. Men caressing a silky scarf, like they might a woman.

These were among the activities at a Journey Into Manhood weekend retreat, and, for $650, these Mormons were told that their attractions could change from gay to straight — or at least diminish.

Three years ago, former Utahn Michael Ferguson, a gay Latter-day Saint, and three Orthodox Jews sued the nonprofit group JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), which offers reparative therapy and had helped facilitate Journey retreats.

After vetting the groups’ methods, a New Jersey jury determined in June that such strategies were “unsuccessful” and constituted false advertising.

So-called conversion therapy for minors now has been banned through legislative action in California, Oregon, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, and a bill has been introduced in Congress to classify as fraud any commercial conversion therapies and all advertising that purports to alter one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The American Psychological Association has declared it not only impossible but also unethical to try changing sexual orientation.

 

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">James Bromley delivers closing arguments for the plaintiffs in the trial Ferguson v. JONAH. In a first-of-its-kind trial, five people sued the gay conversion therapy organization JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) for consumer fraud.  </span>PHOTO BY ALEX REMNICK | NJ ADVANCE MEDIA
James Bromley delivers closing arguments for the plaintiffs in the trial Ferguson v. JONAH. In a first-of-its-kind trial, five people sued the gay conversion therapy organization JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing) for consumer fraud.  

 

The newly formed, independent Mormon Mental Health Association has come out against any therapies “which have been developed to change, alter or reduce sexual orientation.”

LDS Church-employed counselors don’t use reparative therapy either.

Despite all these forces aligned against conversion-therapy programs, many gay Mormons continue to turn to them.

Why? Perhaps they are desperate to rid themselves of attractions they see as unwelcome and are eager to marry someone of the opposite sex — as their faith preaches.

Balancing faith and feelings

The 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes that same-sex attraction is a “complex reality for many people,” according to mormonsandgays.org, the faith’s official website on the topic, and teaches that attraction itself is not a sin, only acting on it is.

Therapists with LDS Family Services do not offer any kind of “sexual-orientation change efforts,” church spokesman Doug Andersen confirms. But they are willing to help members who “desire to reconcile same-sex attraction with their religious belief.”

The church “maintains professional relationships with a variety of organizations to ensure the diverse needs of church members can be met in an individualized and ethical way,” the spokesman said.

The church’s silence on groups such as Journey to Manhood, however, should not, Andersen said, be “construed as a tacit endorsement or stamp of approval.”

Without explicit condemnation from top LDS leaders, change programs have sprung up, tapping into a yearning for normalcy and acceptance.

Mormonism is a community in which it has been difficult “to come out and get social support for disclosing your orientation without ramifications,” said Laura Skaggs Dulin, a gay LDS therapist in a mixed-orientation marriage.

The appeal of these retreats and workshops, said Dulin, who holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from San Diego State University and specializes in same-sex attraction-related issues, “is not surprising.”

By not providing an alternative, the church unwittingly created a vacuum, she says, and conversion-aimed retreats have filled it.

Healing childhood wounds

In 2000, Rich Wyler, a Mormon who believes his same-sex attraction diminished with the use of some therapies, created a website, People Can Change, to profile success stories and offer online support.

Wyler’s view, unlike that of the LDS Church, is that everyone is born heterosexual, but traumas and other experiences push some toward same-sex attraction.

Two years later, Wyler teamed up with David Matheson, an LDS therapist specializing in “gender-affirming therapy,” to craft the first Journey Into Manhood weekend.

The retreats are rooted on the premise that many gay men “often had far too little healthy touch from father figures or brothers when they were young, and so they crave male touch today to fill that deficit.”

The program includes, the People Can Change website says, “journaling, visualization, group sharing, safe healing touch and intensive emotional-release work.”

The retreat experiences often include a “rebirthing process” (naked men are covered with baby powder and wrapped in a blanket, explained one Jewish counselor in his trial deposition, while father figures stroke and hug them in a loving way). The men redo “adolescence” (they evaluate their bodies as they grow and change in puberty). Finally, the players find themselves in “manhood” (they snuggle with a silky cloth, imagining a woman at their side).

“All of the exercises are designed to help you identify and process the underlying issues that may be alienating you from your authentic heterosexual masculinity,” the website says.

Jeff Bennion, a Journey Into Manhood volunteer from Utah, said the experiences have helped him confront his shame, not only his same-sex attractions but also with many other issues.

“It taught me that my feelings were innately good, and a natural response to the circumstances I faced,” Bennion writes in a New York Post op-ed. “It motivated me to try to repair important family relationships, and helped me learn how to better relate to other men, whom I’d previously ignored or disdained. It’s made me much more accepting of myself and of others.”

Not everyone, though, has a positive experience with such tactics.

Nightmarish journey

Craig Nielson, the youngest of four from a devout LDS family who had served a Mormon mission in Chile, didn’t know what to expect when he attended a Journey Into Manhood weekend about five years ago outside of Chicago.

Nielson had long dreamed of finding a woman to marry in an LDS temple. By the time he was 21, however, he realized his attraction to men was more than mere admiration. He went to the retreat to learn how to “manage his feelings,” he says.

When the five men in his group were asked to address problems they had with their mothers, Nielson balked. He had no anger toward his mom, he said, nor did he blame her for his same-sex orientation. Instead, he told the facilitator, who was not a licensed counselor, that he wanted help nurturing his feelings for the woman he was dating.

“I said, ‘I really like (her),’ ” Nielson recounted. “And he said, ‘It’s not enough to like (her), you have to want to rape her.’ And that is a direct quote.”

Stunned by what he heard, Nielson says he expressed his immediate discomfort with the facilitator’s inappropriate choice of words.

Nielson believes use of the term rape was likely an unintentional “slip” of the tongue by the facilitator. It did, however, convince him that these methods were not right for him.

 

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">Mormons Building Bridges group leads the annual Gay Pride Parade through downtown Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 3, 2012. </span>RNS PHOTO BY SCOTT SOMMERDORF | THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE.Mormons Building Bridges group leads the annual Gay Pride Parade through downtown Salt Lake City, Sunday, June 3, 2012. 

 

Coming together

Dulin, the gay LDS therapist, designs and promotes same-sex attraction Mormon outreach interventions. She hopes to help move the Mormon community beyond reparative therapy to a more evidence-based multicultural approach.

Journey Into Manhood workshops may fill a need, she realizes, but she would like to see approaches that offer “a much healthier and more ethically sound alternative.”

Others, too, are looking in a new direction.

In recent months, but especially in the trial’s aftermath, some LGBT-affirming and LDS-affirming therapists have attacked one another with escalating vitriol.

Now a committee of 10 people has formed a new group, Reconciliation and Growth, to bring both sides together.

It has produced a four-page document for training therapists who deal with religious clients. The list spells out best practices, including an awareness of faith beliefs, the complexity of sexual attraction and the need to treat clients with dignity, rather than proscribe behavior.

Kendall Wilcox, a gay Latter-day Saint who helped launch a new podcast program called “Out in Zion,” is working to foster a better way by founding a small group practice called “Circles of Empathy.”

He knows firsthand the inner battles. He tried for years to make his orientation go away. He attended a Journey weekend and saw Mormon therapists offer false promises to troubled young members.

“The people aren’t the problem,” he said, “it’s the programs and their underlying assumptions that need to be exposed.”

And the answer, he said, is simple: “End conversion therapy now. Period.”

 

Conversion Therapy Is Fraud, N.J. Court Rules

BY SUNNIVIE BRYDUM
JUNE 25 2015 3:18 PM ET

Ex-Gay Therapy

Telling gay people they can be turned straight is fraud under New Jersey law, a jury determined. The Jewish group must now pay $72,400 in damages to its former clients.

Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin, two of the plaintiffs in the suit

Benjamin Unger and Chaim Levin, two of the plaintiffs in the suit

After just three hours of deliberation, a New Jersey jury has delivered a unanimous verdict that a Jewish group peddling so-called conversion therapy violated the state’s consumer fraud protection laws in claiming it could “cure” clients of being LGBT.

The verdict concludes that New Jersey–based nonprofit Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, or JONAH, violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Protection Act by marketing “conversion therapy” that has been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization in the country, notes the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Jewish group has been ordered to pay $72,400 to the plaintiffs, which represents three times the cost of JONAH’s “therapy,” in addition to the cost of subsequent legitimate therapy one plaintiff sought to overcome the damage done by JONAH’s efforts.

The lawsuit was filed by the SPLC on behalf of three young men and two mothers subjected to the discredited therapy that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It was filed in 2012, before New Jersey became the second U.S. state to ban the unscientific practice when used by licensed therapists on minors. Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the ban on ex-gay therapy into law in August 2013.

“This verdict is a monumental moment in the movement to ensure the rights and acceptance of LGBT people in America,” said a statement from David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the SPLC and lead attorney in the case. “Conversion therapy and homophobia are based on the same central lie — that gay people are broken and need to be fixed. Conversion therapists, including the defendants in this case, sell fake cures that don’t work and can seriously harm the unsuspecting people who fall into this trap.”

Testimony in the trial, which was presided over by Hudson Superior Court Judge Peter D. Barsio, Jr., demonstrated that JONAH counselors used abusive, discredited tactics to shame and defraud their clients, according to SPLC:

“According to testimony at the trial, the defendants’ counselors or their associates instructed young men to undress and stand naked in a circle with them; encouraged clients to undress in front of a mirror and touch their genitals while a counselor was present in a closed-door session; and organized group activities for clients to reenact past abuse and take part in violent role-play exercises. Male counselors also engaged and advocated ‘healthy touch’ with young men, including cuddling sessions lasting nearly an hour.”

In addition to the $72,400 in damages paid to the plaintiffs, JONAH has been ordered to pay “reasonable attorney’s fees”  incurred by the plaintiffs, SPLC reports. The judge has yet to rule on SPLC’s additional requests that JONAH’s business license be cancelled, or that the group pay additional financial penalties.

Plaintiff Chaim Levin, 26, whose mother, Bella, was also a plaintiff, said he was relieved by today’s verdict in a statement from SPLC:

“Seven years ago, I was subjected to abusive, harmful practices by JONAH that I thought would remain secret and unnoticed despite how destructive they were — in part because they thrived on this secrecy in their so-called therapy practice. Now the world knows about their destructive, refuted practices. I took part in this lawsuit to take a stand. I don’t want another person to endure the anguish and harm JONAH put my loved ones and me through.”

Benjamin Unger, a 27-year-old plaintiff who now lives in Brooklyn, added:

“I am so grateful that the jury has decided conversion therapy organizations do not have the right to lie to and deceive people. It is a victory not just for me but for other victims of this harmful therapy.”

The first-of-its-kind case has been closely watched by advocates hoping to end the practice of conversion therapy in the U.S. In February, Hudson Superior Court Judge Peter D. Barsio Jr., ruled that JONAH could not legally present homosexuality as a “disorder” but did not determine whether JONAH had actually made that claim to its clients.

That February ruling from Barsio determined that JONAH would be in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act if it offered specific success statistics for its services when “client outcomes are not tracked and no records of client outcomes are maintained” because “there is no factual basis for calculating such statistics.” SPLC lawyers said they are confident that evidence at the trial, set for June 1, will show that JONAH has indeed engaged in such misrepresentation.

Barsio had previously ruled that several proponents of “ex-gay” therapy will not be allowed to testify as expert witnesses at the trial. They included Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist who founded the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, as well as other prominent voices in the movement, such as Christopher Doyle, James Phelan, and John Diggs. The judge held that their opinions are based on the false premise that homosexuality is a disorder, writing that “the theory that homosexuality is a disorder is not novel but — like the notion that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it — instead is outdated and refuted.”

Today’s ruling affirms that JONAH did defraud its clients by telling them not only that homosexuality was wrong, but that it could be cured, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that shows such attempts at “reparative therapy” are ineffective and harmful to those subjected to it. The practice has already been condemned by the White House and top Obama administration officials, and is currently illegal to employ on minors in California, New Jersey,Washington, D.C., and Oregon.

“This jury has affirmed what victims of conversion therapy heartbreakingly already know — charlatans’ attempts to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity amount to nothing more than fraud,” said Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow in a statement. “Today’s decision is an extremely important legal victory in our march towards fairness, equality, and justice for LGBT people.”

Conversion Therapy: How Many Kids Must Die Before Youth 'Treatment' Programs Are Regulated?

The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s CEO explains why ‘treatment’ programs to ‘cure’ people of their homosexuality are extremely dangerous for LGBT youth.

Reprinted from the Advocate: BY LORRI L. JEAN – APRIL 23 2015 6:00 AM ET

We all know how rare it is for Congress to take meaningful action, but wouldn’t you think protecting the lives of children could unite the parties? You’d be wrong.

Above: Screen grab from Kidnapped for Christ

Above: Screen grab from Kidnapped for Christ

For decades, the industry of residential schools, camps, and wilderness programs that claim to treat troubled teens — including kids considered “troubled” simply because they’re LGBT — has operated with less regulation and oversight than nail salons. While Congress fails, year after year, to pass sensible legislation to change that, thousands of children have been abused by these programs. Hundreds are reported to have died.

Way back in 2007 there were congressional hearings on what’s known as the troubled-teen industry, along with a damning investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO reported that in just one year (2005), there were 1,619 employees of these programs in 33 states involved in incidents of abuse. And those were only the reported incidents.

It’s no wonder that a guiding principle of these programs is to deprive youth of all contact with family, friends, and the outside world, because we’ve heard from survivors forced to endure torture techniques that include food and water deprivation, physical abuse (beatings, electric shocks, hard labor), and weeks of solitary confinement in windowless cells. We’ve also heard from devastated parents whose children died in these programs. The nonprofit organization Survivors of Institutional Abuse reports the death of more than 300 people linked to these programs.

When Bob Bacon sent his 16-year-old son to a program in Utah, he didn’t know it wasn’t regulated. Even after interviewing the owners, Bob thought this was a place where his son Aaron, a poet, would be cared for by staff who were experts at helping kids struggling with drugs and dealing with social pressure. They told him Aaron would get to explore the beauties of Utah while writing in his journal each night. Thirty days later, Aaron was dead.

There was no poetry in Aaron’s journal, just horrific firsthand accounts of torture. For two weeks he was deprived of any food, all while hiking up to 10 miles a day. During the freezing nights in the wilderness, he had only a thin blanket to cover him; for five nights he had nothing at all. By the 10th day he had lost 20 percent of his body weight and control of all bodily functions, but the staff refused to provide any medical treatment. When Bob saw his son’s bruised, battered, and skeletal body, he couldn’t believe it was him. He told us, “My wife and I will never escape our decision to send our gifted 16-year-old son to his death.”

During his senior year in high school, David Wernsman — whose story is depicted in the powerful 2014 documentary Kidnapped for Christ — was sent by his parents to a residential treatment program. He told us the following:

”When I was 17, two large men woke me up before dawn, tied a belt around my waist and forced me out of my home. I was taken to a dumping ground — guarded by men with guns — for kids whose families didn’t know how to solve their child’s issue. In my case, it was the fact that I’m gay. The program was an endless nightmare of torture, including public beatings and humiliation, hard labor, and sometimes solitary confinement in a windowless cell where we relieved ourselves in a bucket.”

Every day at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, we see the consequences of parents sending their LGBT kids to these programs to be “cured” or because they presume their children’s sexual orientation or gender identity must mean they’re troubled. Most suffer lasting trauma and some depend on us for a safe place to live because they end up homeless.

Joined by the nonprofit organization Survivors of Institutional Abuse and with the support of a growing list of organizations, businesses and individuals, the center has launched the national Campaign to Protect Youth from Institutional Abuse to finally regulate this rogue industry. In California we’re cosponsoring landmark legislation introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara to require these programs to be regulated by the state Department of Social Services, with no exemption for faith-based groups. In fact, the bill will get its first hearing in the state Senate Tuesday, when the Senate Committee on Human Services meets.

We expect California’s legislation to set an example for the rest of the country, but state legislation isn’t enough. When the abuses of these organizations are exposed in the media, it’s common for them to close and reopen in another state, often under a different name. And parents frequently send kids to programs outside their home state. That’s why we absolutely must have federal legislation.

Though we know it won’t be easy, and though previous attempts have failed, LGBT groups have never been a part of the movement to regulate this industry. Now the world’s largest LGBT organization is dedicated to building a broad coalition, partnered with allies in Congress, to finally bring sensible regulation to this industry. Nationally, we’ve secured commitments from U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff and Bobby Scott, and we’re working to identify other cosponsors to build on the work started by former U.S. Rep. George Miller and finally pass critically needed federal legislation.

Please join our campaign, sign our petition at PYIA.org, and help us protect youth — whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity — from abuse.

Further reading:

 

Conversion Therapy Put Forward Again!

Editorial:  The elections are here, and as I have written before, you need to be careful for whom you vote.  Mr Dodds, right-wing Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland politician, has not denied that on a Newsnight debate that his party would want a coalition to “reject gay rights”.  Other parties also have agendas regarding the LGBT community – find out what they are before you vote.

Militant Christian preachers want to ‘cure’ Britain’s gay people with controversial conversion therapy

 

Reprinted from the Mirror website:

20:30, 18 April 2015 By Boudicca Fox-Leonard
Delegates paid £20 to attend a conference on ‘anti-gay’ therapy in London, where they heard a series of homophobic talks by professionally-accredited therapists

Dr Robert Gagnon, John Nightingale

Homophobic: Dr Robert Gagnon and John Nightingale support conversion therapy

 

 

Hardline Christian ­counsellors say they aim to “cure”­ ­Britain’s gays – despite experts branding their ­treatments potentially harmful.

Our reporter attended a shocking conference on “anti-gay” therapy in Central London this week.

Delegates paid £20 to hear a series of homophobic talks by ­professionally accredited therapists from several Christian groups.

One likened homosexuality to incest, while another put it in the same bracket as paedophilia.

They told the audience Britain is “in need of redemption” and would be condemned to hell if it failed to stop the rising gay population.

 

 

Emmanuel Centre

Shocking: The conference was held at the Emmanuel Centre in London

 

Shocking: The conference was held at the Emmanuel Centre in London

One Christian counsellor, Dr Robert Gagnon, said: “What we are ­encountering in society now is nothing less than totalitarian thuggery under the guise of love.”

Two of the organisations – The Core Issues Trust and Christian Concern – are ­registered charities, giving them tax breaks despite their ­controversial views.

In January, 14 organisations including the British Psychological Society and the NHS endorsed the Government’s ­memorandum of understanding on conversion therapy.

It said the practice was ­potentially “damaging” and agreed not to refer people conflicted about their ­sexuality for “gay cures”.

The Association of Christian Counsellors also signed up.

But at the conference, named Transformation Potential, the ­association’s John Nightingale revealed his organisation and sister groups still supported the ­practice.

Speaking at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster, he said the restrictions had put them on a “knife edge” but they would continue regardless, renouncing their ­accreditation if necessary.

Mike Davidson

Scandal: Mike Davidson wanted to advertise his conversion services on London buses

He said: “If it tightened up any more, I have a pretty sure ­understanding that as an ­organisation we would step out and become one of the non-registered counselling organisations.

“It might affect my standing in the family of ­counsellors but I’m happy to make that choice.”

Mike Davidson, of the Core Issues Trust, made headlines in 2013 after trying to advertise his conversion services on London buses.

He and others speaking at the conference rejected any genetic cause of homosexuality and linked it to “trauma” such as sexual abuse, bad father-son relationships, or a lack of masculinity.

Dr Davidson said: “Therapists get to do it ­regularly for people with adulterous desires or pornographic addiction or ­paedophilia.

“So is so-called sexual ­orientation some sacred turf that mustn’t be walked upon?”

James Holland, 47, went to the conference out of curiosity after a bad ­experience in the past.

He said: “I was alarmed by what I heard but I wasn’t surprised.”

James told how he had conversion counselling 20 years ago as he was unhappy about being gay.

He said: “We were told to be like a glass of water that you keep topping up with masculinity.”

Matt SprakeJames HollandCalls: James Holland who tried conversion counselling said such therapy should be banned
This included not crossing his legs as it was “feminine” and doing male ­activities like playing football.

He continued: “I was paired with a man in my church to have a healthy same-sex friendship with so I could top up my masculinity.

James Holland

Calls: James Holland who tried conversion counselling said such therapy should be banned

 

“I had a crush on my man and it produced so much stress in me I had a breakdown.”

James, of Walthamstow, sought non-Christian therapy and now accepts his homosexuality.

He added: “Gay conversion therapy needs to be banned.”

Last week, US President Barack Obama backed a campaign calling for a federal ban on the practice.

Picket outside church event on 'converting gays'

Gay Conversion therapy doesn't work

Gay Conversion therapy doesn’t work

On Saturday 18th January 2014, the Ballynahinch Baptist Church hosted the ‘Setting Love In Order’ conference organised by the Core Issues Trust.  The Trust was arguing for ‘freedom for gay people to approach psychiatrists and counsellors about their homosexuality’; this was a thinly disguised message about converting gays, or in other words ‘conversion therapy’.

 

One of the discussions was entitled: Don’t want to be gay any more?  Sorry we’re not allowed to help you! Is that ethical?’  This is a thinly disguised approach to gay conversion therapy, which Robert Spizer in 2001 was promoting, Spitzer renounced and retracted his own study in 2012, stating “I was quite wrong in the conclusions that I made from this study. The study does not provide evidence, really, that gays can change. And that’s quite an admission on my part.”He also apologized to the gay community for making unproven claims of the efficacy of reparative therapy, calling it his only professional regret. Spitzer has requested that all “ex-gay” therapy organizations such as NARTH, PFOX, American College of Pediatricians, and Focus on the Family stop citing his study as evidence for conversion therapy.

 

Pro-gay protestors outside the church were there to give the message that therapy has been discredited, it doesn’t work.  And also to give out a positive message that being LGBT is not wrong, it is not bad, and it is not broken so it doesn’t need ‘fixed’.

 

Further reading:

  1. Wikipedia-Conversion Therapy
  2. Belfast Telegraph – Protestors picket church event on ‘converting’ gays
  3. Belfast Telegraph – Row over ‘gay conversion’ conference to be held at church