Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ex-Gay Therapy And I

When it comes to how to deal with ex-gay therapy, I'm deeply conflicted.

On one hand:

- I'm pretty confident that it does not work. Suppressing your sexuality is not changing it. The evidence seems to back this up and even former ex-gay leaders are starting to admit this.
- As it doesn't work, giving "false hope" to those, often vulnerable, individuals who want to change their sexuality is dangerous. It serves only to make them feel even worse when they are told their sexuality can change but it doesn't.
- You don't go to a Doctor and expect to receive homeopathy (unless you're a little mad) so you don't go to a psychiatrist and expect to be offered ex-gay therapy. It seems to be deeply wrong for any professional psychiatrist or counsellor to offer this.
- I just don't really get it because I don't see why anyone would want to change their sexuality. But that's just my bias...

On the other hand:

- As long as there is no coercion, this seems like a straight-forward case of freedom both for the individual to pursue this sort of therapy and for people to offer it.
- I don't want people to be gay. I want them to be happy. If not being gay makes them happy, who am I to deny them the right to work on that? Although how finding one gender attractive and the other not can make you happy/unhappy I don't know. Oh bias again...
- Ex-gay therapy is often given a good kicking but when will we review all other sorts of dangerously unscientific therapies like "sex addiction" therapy or anti-masturbation counselling (trust me, the Mormons have this!)

So yes, I'm pretty conflicted on this subject but feel I should welcome Diana Johnson's proposal for Parliament to tackle the subject. Certainly the idea that NHS funds have been used for conversion therapy makes me feel a little sick. I just know that if this subject ever does make it to Parliament, the debates will be just awful to behold.


David Roberts said...

Licensed therapists are under all sorts of rules that limit what they can and can't offer, just as medical doctors are. A "therapy" which is proven ineffective and which is used for something which is a normal variation in nature (i.e. not a disease) is fraudulent. Even if all one cares about is the money, someone, somewhere -- either your heath care system or the consumer -- is being defrauded.

This has nothing to do with freedom, anymore than it would be for a doctor to give you snake oil and charge you money for it, claiming that it would cure some made up malady. This is a "no brainer" as far as ethical and economic dilemmas go.

Paul Brownsey said...

Well said, Jae.

It is sad when gay people seek to change their sexuality, and it is to be hoped that any doctor, faced with such a patient, would point out how unlikely it is that the therapy would work; and that the doctor would spend time trying to point out a path that might lead the patient to be gay and at ease.

But if the patient is really desperate and begs the doctor, no matter how vigorously the doctor points out the unlikelihood of change, I do not think I would blame the doctor who said, "Well, you could try this address, but I warn that that all the evidence shows that it is unlikely to work."

If a biological male says he doesn't want to be male, he can be helped to transition. I don't see why a despairing gay who wants to change his sexuality shouldn't be offered such limited support as is available, if he is forewarned about the risks and the unlikelihood of it working.

One common response is: "You are unhappy being gay only because society has fucked you up and it's society that needs to be changed."

Even if that is true, it may be no help to the individual to be told this. The damage society has done to him may be irreversible. In those circumstances it may lift him a wee bit out of despair to refer him to one of these horrible organizations.