An Australian survivor of so-called “gay conversion” therapy has launched a petition calling on the government to outlaw the discredited and dangerous practice.
Petitioner Chris wrote on Change.org that the process was very damaging to his mental health, and others have been similarly affected.
“Trying to ‘pray the gay away’ nearly killed me. I’m not the only one,” he said.
“So-called conversion therapy can cause depression, self-loathing and even suicide. I prayed to God asking him to either heal me, or kill me. I was so depressed, I wanted to die.”
Chris said he was sent to a now-defunct religious gay conversion therapy program by his church when he was aged 17, after battling feelings of shame about his sexuality from an early age.
“Every week, group members spoke about their ‘sins.’ I was so ashamed that I remained completely celibate until 24 in an effort to change who I am,” he wrote.
“I was still vulnerable and desperate enough to join the program, hoping it would be my cure and help me to be a better Christian.
“It took years of healing after leaving the program to be proudly gay. But those years still affect me… how could they not?”
But Fairfax Media reported last week that “gay conversion” therapy has not entirely disappeared in Australia, and had disappeared underground and was “hidden in evangelical churches and ministries, taking the form of exorcisms, prayer groups or counselling disguised as pastoral care.”
“Gay conversion” or “ex-gay” therapy has been widely condemned as unethical and dangerous by numerous bodies around the world including the United Nations, the Australian Psychological Society and peak psychology bodies in the US and the UK.
Chris is petitioning Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt to call for such programs to be condemned and banned under federal law.
“It has no place in our medical profession and certainly not in the lives of minors,” he said.
“I don’t want to see a single kid harmed by ‘therapies’ telling them that something that is innate in them is evil or demonic or needs to be ‘healed’.”
Last year, the Victorian Government gave the state’s Health Complaints Commissioner the power to investigate and ban health practitioners who treat homosexuality as a disorder, a world-first move.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.