Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Labour MP Geraint Davies welcomes this week’s High Court ruling against anti-gay Christian charity Core Issues Trust.
I’m pleased that the High Court has upheld the ban on Core Issues’ odious bus adverts. The idea that they promoted – that being gay can be ‘treated’ – has no place in twenty-first century society, and it certainly should not be driven round the capital on Transport for London buses.
These adverts weren’t just grossly offensive, they were also seriously harmful. Harmful because they proclaimed the myth that being gay is to be ill, disordered and in need of correction. Not only does this myth harm the vulnerable gay teens being pushed into this so-called therapy by their families or religious leaders, but it also harms every single LGBT person who is forced to view themselves as somehow flawed or “curable”.
Despite the great progress that society has made, there are still teenagers nervously coming out to parents who feel that there is something wrong with them; children who are bullied in playgrounds where the message that they are broken isn’t just offensive, it’s deeply, sometimes fatally, harmful. Indeed more than two in five young people have attempted or thought about taking their own lives as a direct consequence of homophobic bullying.
In the face of this epidemic, society needs to stand alongside these young people and support them. The very last thing that bullied children need is for the words of their tormentors to be blown up on buses across our capital.
If we don’t offer positive support to LGBT youth and young adults in Britain, they may find themselves seeking the kind of solution posed by Core Issues – the false promise of becoming ‘not gay, ex-gay, post-gay and proud.’
Unfortunately, the reality is that young people are the top targets for conversion therapists in Britain. The survivors of this therapy that I have met were often in their teens and early twenties when they underwent the therapy. Earlier this year when I attended a Core Issues conference to defend my parliamentary bill to ban the practice, I saw many young faces in the crowd: teenagers who had come with friends, fathers or religious leaders, who were constantly told that changing their sexuality was both desirable and possible.
As heart-breaking as it is, these are the very men and women who, unless these therapists are stopped and closed down, will go on to experience the serious harm that flows from conversion therapy. Core Issues may well claim that those who go through their “treatments” live proud, happy lives, but the evidence is clear. Depression, isolation, anxiety and suicide attempts have all been linked to this damaging, discredited therapy.
That’s why the UK Council for Psychotherapy cites “overwhelming evidence that undergoing such therapy is at considerable emotional and psychological cost.” It’s also why the victims that I have spoken to feel anything but proud. They feel hurt and deeply ashamed at what they have experienced at the hands of these bogus therapists.
Of course, simply banning the adverts alone won’t stop the scandal of conversion therapy and the decades-long pain that it causes. What we need is proper regulation that would see anyone found to be offering this therapy struck off from the professional register.
But amazingly, and quite shamefully, the government still refuses to regulate therapists and stamp out conversion therapy for good, despite high profile cases like these.
As time goes by, more and more professional bodies, patient safety groups and practitioners are telling me that we need a ban. It seems that everyone can see the damage that conversion therapy does, everyone except for the government.
So while I welcome this judgment as the latest blow to those who practice this unethical and useless so-called therapy, I will continue to campaign until we have a proper ban on the practice as this is the only way to protect vulnerable people from abuse.
Geraint Davies is the Labour and Co-operative MP for Swansea West.