Peter Abetz defends the Australian Christian Lobby’s ‘Real Lives’ program


Warning: This article contains mentions of conversion practices, sexual assault

The Australian Christian Lobby’s State Director Peter Abetz has defended the ‘Real Lives’ program that it conducts in association with ‘ex-gay’ organisation True Identity.

Speaking to Liam Bartlett on 6PR’s Mornings program Abetz said it was unfair to describe the program as promoting conversion practices.

“The term gay conversion therapy was actually the term used by psychiatrists and psychologists in the 50s and 60s using electro-convulsive shock therapy, ice-baths and all that to get people to leave behind their homosexuality, and as far as I’m aware that sort of stuff hasn’t happened in over 30 years in this country. That’s kind of ancient history.”

“What’s happened is the terminology of conversion therapy is actually now being used by those who don’t want people to change their sexual orientation, or their gender identity, to include counseling.” Abetz told the program.

Abetz said the people who share their stories in the Real Lives program include testimony about their experiences of childhood sexual abuse, rape, and being exposed to pornography at a young age, and these people have recognised that those experiences harmed their sexual development.

“There actually people who have experiences significant trauma and in counseling these days, and in treating people with mental issues, very often we talk about trauma informed counseling.”

Abetz said the program does not suggest that people can change their sexuality via counseling, but by addressing the trauma they have experienced some people can help address the underlying issues that “drove them to being same-sex attracted.”

“You’ll find plenty of these people who share their testimony, they’ll actually say ‘Hey look we still experience same-sex attraction, but my identity is no longer so wrapped up in my sexuality, and I’ve actually found new hope, new direction and I actually feel more like a whole person.”

Liam Bartlett asked the former Liberal MP why he phrased being gay as the negative, and being straight as the positive?

“For many of these people their whole identity was wrapped up in their sexuality.” Abetz said, before going on to explain that as a heterosexual man he didn’t walk up to people and introduce himself as someone who had sex with his wife.

Abetz said if he was to identify himself in that way people would think he was “nuts”, but highlighted that gay people sometimes introduced themselves by stating their sexuality.

“No-one should be coerced into changing their gender identity or their sexual orientation.” Abetz said, but argued that there were many people who didn’t like being same-sex attracted and they should be free to access counseling and support groups to help them achieve “what ever sexual orientation they want, or whatever gender identity they want.”

“The LGBTI, or the gender ideology people, all say gender is fluid, well if it’s fluid its got to be able to move both ways.” Abetz said arguing that hundreds of people had been able to leave behind their LGBTI identity.

Former Pride WA President Paul van Lieshout Hunt appeared on the program and suggested that the recent report from LaTrobe University that documented the experiences of survivors of conversion practices gave an up to date assessment of the situation in Australia.

The community spokesperson said the report had shown that while overt conversion practices were no longer being publicly promoted, church based counseling programs had simply moved underground.

Attempts to change or alter sexuality or gender identity have been condemned by LGBTQIA+ advocates and health professionals, and survivors are leading an international movement against such practices with the SOGICE Survivor Statement.

OIP Staff

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