Groups clash over lobbying MLAs on gay conversion therapy ban

Groups lobbying for and against Stormont banning ‘gay conversion therapy’ have clashed after a book featuring testimonies of 44 ex-gays was posted to every MLA.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 11:45 am

The book, X-Out-Loud, was distribued by NI organisation Core Issues Trust, led by ex-gay Dr Michael Davidson, in light of ongoing work by the Department of Communities to ban conversaion therapies.

Dr Davidson said: “Our campaign was thought necessary given the failure of media in the UK to platform voices supporting the view that sexuality is fluid, and in some cases changeable.” He asked: “What science is supporting the idea that we are born gay or trans? Studies of identical twins clearly show that were one identifies as gay the other often does not. And quoting mental health statements is not authoritative empirical evidence.”

However LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell rejected Dr Davidson’s views. “A ban on conversion therapy that seeks to make gay people straight is justified on the grounds that it is unethical, harmful and ineffective, according to all major medical, psychiatric and counselling organisations,” he said. “People cannot change their sexuality” he said, adding: “The examples of people who have switched from LGBT+ to heterosexual are people who have merely affirmed a sexuality that was previously suppressed and buried because of peer and social disapproval.” 

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Lobbyists clash on whether therapies to ‘explore sexual orientation’ should be exempt under a conversion therapy ban.

The Ban Conversion Therapy Coalition has lobbied MLAs with guidance leaflets, calling for a strict ban on such therapies - but also asking for some exceptions in the new laws.

“In line with global best practice, a legislative ban on conversion therapy must by its nature protect services that support transgender (trans) people,” the coalition told MLAs. “Such a ban would and should not preclude safe and supportive therapies that allow people to explore and better understand and accept their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

But Dr Davidson said that opposing such therapies for ex-gays but allowing them for the LGBT community was not logical. “Claiming we are born gay and promoting sex change through surgery and hormones is a case in point,” he said.

However Rainbow Project Policy and Advocacy Manager Aisling Twomey insisted that some therapies must be protected under the new law.

“We do not support therapy or other interventions that seek to support people transitioning into any identity,” she said, “but rather therapy and other interventions that allow someone to explore and define their own sexual orientation with no pre-conditions on what that sexual orientation or gender identity might be.”


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