Survivor of ‘gay conversion’ therapy petitions government to ban the practice in Australia
Chris Csabs survived ‘gay conversion’ therapy as a teenager and wants to ensure no one else has to endure the practice.
The Australian campaigner collected more than 40,000 signatures on a Change.org petition addressed to the government, led by newly-appointed prime minister Scott Morrison.
Along with other survivors of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE), Csabs put together a series of policy recommendations named “The SOCE Survivor Statement” which has been endorsed by several community leaders and organisations, including Amnesty International Australia.
Csabs sent the statement, the petition, and the thousands on signatures to Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt on Australia’s “Wear it Purple Day,” which dedicates the last Friday of August to supporting and empowering young LGBT+ people.
Csabs, an outspoken LGBT+ activists, told PinkNews he hopes the petition may have a lasting impact on policymaking.
“As a survivor myself, I had told my story a few times in the hope that it would make a change. Every time a story popped up in the media people were shocked and surprised that something like this could be occurring in Australia. But after a few days, people forgot and nothing ever changed. So I wanted there to be a way for people to express their outrage that would show politicians that Australians want change,” he said.
In the petition, which he started in March, Csabs described the experience as “traumatic” and still affecting him to this day.
“I was only 16 when my own ‘conversion therapy’ began. I came out to a church leader who wanted me to be ‘cured’ and I began sessions with a counsellor aimed at changing my sexuality. At 17 my church introduced me to the leader of an actual program designed to turn me straight. Eventually, I was desperate enough to try it,” he recalled.
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“Every week, members spoke about their ‘sins’ and we learned about the spiritual and experiential reasons that we had ‘turned gay’. I was so ashamed and guilt-ridden that I remained completely celibate for years.
“So-called ‘conversion therapy’ causes 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. The trauma associated with that part of my life still affects me,” he wrote.
The petition quickly gathered thousands of signatures soon after it was posted. The support received helped Csabs arrange meeting with senior Australian lawmakers and politicians such as Shadow Health Minister Caroline King, who pledged on behalf of the Labor Party to enforce a ban at the federal level.
“At first I was surprised at the support the petition received… I thought it may attract one or two hundred signatures. In a matter of days it had thousands and now it’s up to 43,000! It just shows how out of step the gay conversion ideologies are with the rest of society,” Csabs said.
The country’s government remains under the leadership on the Liberal Party, but the new prime minister has a more anti-LGBT+ record than his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull. This has raised fears of a possible reversal of course for LGBT+ rights in Australia, where same-sex marriage became legal following a referendum last year.
Csabs is among those worried about the future of LBGT+ rights in the country. “Our new PM’s history with LGBT+ equality does concern me. That’s why it was important to send him a—very hefty—physical copy of the signatures so that he could see how strongly Australian voters feel about this issue,” he said.
The activists hopes the government will carefully consider the recommendations and put together a “multi-faceted response” to the issue. “A legislative ban is a good first step, however much more is needed,”Csabs said.