Tasmanian church makes “no apologies” for conversion therapy

Tasmania’s current inquiry on LGBTQIA+ conversion practices in the state has drawn attention to the ongoing provision of the harmful “therapies” in religious institutions.

In a public submission to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute, a church leader from Launceston has proudly admitted to engaging in attempts to alter the sexuality or gender identity (SOGI) of LGBTQIA+ Tasmanians.

Reverend Wes Bredenhof of Launceston’s Free Reform Church said in his submission that “according to the working definition of the Issues Paper, we are involved in SOGI conversion practices.”

“We make no apologies for that.”

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute’s Issue Paper defines SOGI conversion practices as;

acts or statements that are aimed at changing, suppressing, or eradicating the sexual orientation or gender identity of another person and are based on a claim, assertion or notion, either express or implied, that non-conforming sexual orientation or gender identity is a physical or psychological dysfunction that can be suppressed or changed.

LGBTQIA+ advocate and Equality Tasmania spokesperson Rodney Croome says until recently, many Tasmanian’s believed conversion therapy was a thing of the past.

“Submissions to the Law Reform Institute inquiry show they are happening right here, right now,” Croome said.

“This is deeply alarming because we know from national and international studies that LGBTIQ+ people upon whom conversion practices have been inflicted are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and PTSD, and to attempt suicide.

“Banning conversion practices will save young Tasmanian lives.”

Equality Tasmania highlight the story of conversion therapy survivor “John”, published in the Launceston Examiner this week.

“John” recounted his lived experience of conversion attempts with the publication, describing extended prayer sessions and a “terrifying” exorcism.

“You feel a lot of shame, you feel worthless. Plus, there’s a lot of blame that’s going on, like I’m at fault or there’s something wrong with me,” John told the Examiner.

“There’s this danger that if you know about my secret, or who I really am, they will turn their back on me and leave me. That sense of abandonment and rejection, that runs pretty deep as well.”

While Tasmania’s Law Reform Institute is expected to report in the coming weeks, Queensland, the ACT and Victoria have legislated bans on the practices to varying degrees. LGBTQIA+ conversion therapy survivors have praised Victoria’s legislation as the “gold-standard”.

Here in Western Australia, opponents of LGBTQIA+ rights such as the Australian Christian Lobby are already fighting a ban – while the McGowan Government has shown no recent signs of moving to legislate against the practices.

Back in 2018 WA Health Minister Roger Cook voiced his opposition to conversion therapy practices, and said there needed to be a tighter set of standards for counsellors, and health professionals.

WA Greens leader Alison Xamon MLC is calling on the incoming state government to outlaw the practice.

OIP Staff

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