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Is it really helping, or just hurting?

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Recently, an online petition was created to push for a national ban on conversion therapy. At present, the petition has been signed by more than 2,500 individuals. The petition will be presented to the House of Commons in hopes of banning conversion therapy across Canada, as well as banning the option of taking minors out of the country for the same purpose.

Conversion therapy is rooted in the belief that anyone within the LGBTQ community is abnormal or wrong, and in need of “fixing.” The intention of conversion therapy is to change the gender identity or sexual orientation of the person receiving it, often adolescents. This process is sometimes provided by licensed health care officials. Other times it’s performed by clergy or spiritual leaders. The most glaring issue with conversion therapy (other than the fact that it attempts to fundamentally change a person’s sexual or gender identity), is that its practice is linked to mental health issues — especially suicide.

Historically, the Christian community has been a substantial part of promoting conversion therapy. According to The Atlantic, when the American Psychiatric Association voted in 1974 to eliminate homosexuality as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, many conservatives — and a large part of the Christian community — were outraged. Christian pastors shared anti-gay messages in their churches, stating AIDS and HIV were God’s wrath, and in 1998, Christian political groups spent $600,000 on anti-gay and conversion therapy advertising in several significant newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

At present, conversion therapy is somewhat more tame than it was at its peak in the ‘90s, but it’s still harmful. Talk therapy is the most used tactic in conversion therapy, but in the past, aversion therapy — forcing the patient to associate their current sexual or gender identity with nausea, vomiting, or paralysis — as well as electroshock therapy were used. And, according to Psychology Today, there are no reputable counseling associations that condone conversion therapy.

There are two glaring problems with conversion therapy. One: conversion therapy focuses on the therapist and often the parents; the client has no say — and the first thing therapists learn in masters programs is that therapy is client-centred. Two: conversion therapy has a fixed outcome — to make sure the patient leaves therapy as a heterosexual, cisgender individual. This is a problem because therapy is never intended to have such a rigid outcome; the therapist and patient are intended to work together to discover exactly what it is that the patient needs from therapy. Not only that, but effective research needs to be evidence-based and empirically verified — conversion therapy is neither.

Now let me break this down: it’s 2018, and there are still people out there who think it’s okay to force someone to change who they are as a person. They’re willing to risk the psychological health of the minors in their lives in order to fulfill a need of their own: making sure the minor lives an entirely sin-free life as a heterosexual, completely overlooking other sins the minor may be committing, such as anger, lust, or dishonesty (things all human beings will encounter at some point in their lives). Why are these sins overlooked, while homosexuality is dragged to the forefront and more or less forced out of them?

Now, what I’ve done above — mentioning specific sins to suit my needs — is out of context. I know it is. But I also know that, fundamentally, it’s wrong to judge others or to try and change them. As a rational, well-balanced human being, I know it’s not my place to tell someone what to do with their life. What if I went up to someone and said, “Your religion is wrong, and that makes you wrong, and you’re a bad person. You’re an abomination. I’m going to force you into this, I’m going to take away a part of who you are so you fit my idea of what is ‘right’ and ‘good.’”

Having said this, I know not all Christians support conversion therapy. Of course they don’t; you can’t lump an entire community together and judge them on the judgements of some. But there’s a large enough group of people who do that it’s still something we need to discuss.

I have no problems with Christians. I have problems with people who think it’s okay to use their religion to justify their shitty behaviour and discriminatory views — especially homophobia.

A lot of the time, it seems that the Bible is used as a sort of shield: “But it says in the Bible … ” Yes, I know what it says. It also says “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” So, those of you who judge others, bash them, tell them who they are as a person is wrong: what are you doing?

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