NORTHERN Ireland’s biggest gay rights organisation protested yesterday against a conference on reparative therapy (RT) – a technique aimed at “curing homosexuality”.
Rainbow Project was joined by members of the gay and lesbian community to picket the event, organised by Christian group Core Issues Trust and held in Belvoir Church of Ireland in south Belfast.
They argued that RT poses a dangerous threat to vulnerable men and women struggling with their sexuality, and that issues raised in Californian therapist David Pickup’s address were damaging to society.
Rainbow director John O’Doherty told the News Letter: “The aim of our protest is to educate people attending the conference on what RT is and how dangerous it is. There is no medical association in the world that recognises RT as a positive choice and that would agree with Mr Pickup’s claims that homosexuality can be repaired.
“We know people who have been through this experience and have had serious mental health problems as a result, as well as difficulty forming future relationships.”
He said the conference sent out a dangerous message to people struggling with their sexuality.
“They are targeting the vulnerable and making them think it’s not okay to be gay,” Mr O’Doherty said.
“Mr Pickup is preaching the same old story we’ve been hearing for the last 40 years – that people are gay because they’ve had an absent father and a protective mother. I’m surprised that anyone buys this anymore.”
According to Mike Davidson, Core Issues Trust co-director, RT is a form of therapy that looks at trauma in individuals’ lives that may have led them to developing homosexual feelings.
He said: “RT looks at issues that have shamed the individual and brought about these terrible conflicts they are feeling. And it has to be their choice. These shamed life circumstances often leave the individual feeling alienated from everyone.”
Mr Davidson claimed neither Core Issues Trust nor Mr Pickup were homophobic.
“People who chose to be gay, I think they need to be respected and honoured – it’s their choice. And likewise, for people feeling these homosexual conflicts within themselves, it’s their choice to seek RT,” he said.
Mr Davidson welcomed those protesting, explaining: “It’s very important that people have the opportunity to speak their mind and be able to state their truth. But when you have this polarisation it closes down the conversation and you don’t get enough debate.”
Canon Tom Keightley, minister at Belvoir where the conference was held, made it clear that the church was not involved in the running of the event.