Religious freedom, misinformation and ‘conversion therapy’

OPINION

Colin Longworth is a psychologist in private practice and long term volunteer with Living Proud and it’s predecessor organisations.

It seems to me that opposition to protecting the public from the ‘noxious weed of ‘conversion therapy’ is raising its ugly head again in Western Australia. Partly it seems, in response to the idea that the state government (despite being in ‘Caretaker Mode’) might try to bring in some legislation (a kind of legislative “Roundup weed killer’’) similar in nature to that enacted in a few Eastern States and some places overseas.

On top of that there was a report in OUTinPerth of plans for version 3 of the Religious Discrimination bill. Although, in light of recent events related to the Federal Attorney General, I suspect that idea has returned to the ‘back burner’.

Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming state election, there appears to me to be no doubt that legislation to outlaw this psychologically dangerous practice will be coming before the Western Australian parliament in the near future. While, there would be no real risk of this practice being administered by any registered health practitioner (as it is widely known it doesn’t work) and would risk their professional registration, the risk is those pursuing a religious and political agenda, which is why legislation is required.

As Sally Rugg wrote in her 2019 book How Powerful We Are about the Australian battle for marriage equality, “Too many people for too long have tried to stop us being here, and yet here we are. Still, this is the logic and ideology that continues to underpin dangerous, unscientific attempts to change LGBTIQ people through ‘conversion therapy’ practices. Our scientific understanding of sexuality has evolved since the times when we would perform lobotomies on queer people, but ‘conversion therapy’ is alive and well here in Australia”.

Anyone who’s been around on the Lesbian and Gay scene for any period of time will no doubt have met people, men and women who have succumbed to societal and other pressure and been involved in an opposite sex marriage (or de facto relationship) and may have had children as a result of that.

However, sooner or later they realize or come to accept their ‘true colors’ and come out as a Lesbian or Gay man or self-identify as Bisexual. (This is not to dismiss those women whose sexuality is more “fluid” and changes over time.)

To my way of thinking it’s like dying one’s hair to become a blonde or a redhead, it doesn’t change the “true” color (or grey hair) underneath. Sure, a person can pretend or try to fool themselves they have ‘turned’ heterosexual or been ‘cured’. But it is almost certainly only a matter of time before they become an “Ex-ex-Gay/Lesbian”. (See e.g. www.bornperfect.org ) Particularly if they meet or interact with other LGBTI people who are comfortable in their sexuality and see it as a ‘God-given gift’.

Unfortunately, those that so vehemently opposed marriage equality managed to get the federal government to propose divisive, unnecessary, to my eyes, legislation to enshrine so-called “Religious Freedom” in legislation. If passed, it would allow those of a (chosen) religious orientation “special rights” to discriminate against us.

We already have legislation (that should be repealed) that legally allows religious based organisations to discriminate, on the basis of their religious beliefs. “Reparative Therapy” is a religious practice that should be banned because of the widely documented harm it does.

To me this 3rd version of the Religious Discrimination legislation, was no doubt to me, going to be used as a “distraction” from other matters going on in Canberra.

Prior to his announcement earlier this week that he’d be taking a break from his role,  I wrote to Christian Porter, the Federal Attorney General, about this, I said in part that:

“In terms of trying to “balance” the rights of those of a religious orientation and LGBTI people, there is a fairly basic difference. In that (despite the false claims of some vocal opponents of LGBTI equality) LGBTI people, like various other classes of people potentially discriminated against, (e.g. on the basis of race or gender) are in a class with an innate immutable characteristic.

This is quite different, when compared with those of a religious orientation, who choose (to a greater or lesser extent) to embrace their religious beliefs and or practices.

Of particular concern is that there has not (it would appear) been bipartisan consultation in relation to the proposed legislation. In particular I am not aware of any consultation with any widely recognised representatives of those to whom this legislation is implicitly directed, namely LGBTI people.”

I have two hopes in relation to these matters, firstly, that “Reparative Therapy” is criminalized in West Australia, secondly that Version 3 of the “Religious Discrimination Bill” ends up in the rubbish bin of history, where it belongs.

In conclusion, I would ask that OUTinPerth readers contact both their Federal and State elected representatives to register their; a.) Support for the criminalization of Reparative Therapy and; b.) Opposition to the idea of “Special Rights” for those of a chosen religious orientation.



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