I’m delighted to be welcoming the lovely and talented Violet Grey (she/her) back to Coffee & Kink with another guest post. This one is really important and also really challenging.
If you’re a straight, cis person, please take the time to read and absorb this one. If you’re queer and/or a conversion therapy survivor, please take care of yourself if you decide to engage with this <3
Conversion Therapy Has Rebranded and It’s Just as Dangerous
TW for conversion therapy, spiritual abuse, trauma and suicide
If you’ve seen the news recently, you’ll know banning conversion therapy is back in discussion. Despite promises by the UK government to ban it back in 2018, conversion therapy is sadly still legal, with no swift action being taken to criminalise the practice. In its lengthy history and the outpouring of horrific survivor accounts, it has undergone a rebranding in recent years, but it is just as dangerous as ever.
Being a bi person of faith (Christianity and Quaker teachings) I know not all Christians support conversion therapy. In fact, most I know are vehemently against it. However, it is a large, systemic problem in the church that needs confronting.
What is Conversion Therapy?
Conversion therapy (sometimes known as Cure or Reparative Therapy) is a pseudoscientific practice of “repairing” or “curing” an LGBTQ+ person (usually teenagers and young adults) to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual, or gender identity to cisgender.
It is usually undertaken by religious communities (in this case, I’m talking about Christianity), but is also known to be done by a select few medical professionals. It stems from the belief that being anything other than heterosexual and cisgender is wrong, and therefore should be treated.
Such “treatments” to “cure” or “repair” someone of their homosexuality, bisexuality (often referred to as SSA or “Same Sex Attraction” in these circles,) or trans identity have included, but not been limited to:
- Biblical “counselling“: a mixture of psychotherapy-style sessions with spiritual advice. It is not uncommon for the counsellors to have no qualifications in counselling and people will be asked to sign a waiver acknowledging this.
- Praying and scripture study: Also known as “pray the gay away,” or praying for God to help the person with their “struggle” of Same Sex Attraction, again often reinforcing self-loathing.
- Physical torture, including starvation and beating
- Electroshock Therapy
- Forced sterilisation and surgeries
- Chemical castration: The use of anaphrodisiac drugs to reduce a person’s libido or sexual activity. While it can be used to treat certain cancers, this has been used on LGBTQ+ people to “reduce homosexual urges.”
The medical community has denounced conversion therapy as a dangerous pseudoscience (with incredibly high failure rates) that contributes to PTSD, depression, anxiety, and even suicide in those who undergo it. There are countless studies with findings all pointing to the same conclusion: conversion therapy doesn’t work, and you can’t “make” someone straight any more than you can “make” someone gay.
Being LGBTQ+ it is not a choice, it doesn’t disrupt the family dynamic, and it is not caused by childhood trauma. We just are who we are.
Rebranding: Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner
Rebranding of conversion therapy has been happening in the last fifteen years or so, primarily since the legalisation of same-sex marriage across many parts of the world. Since then, in my experience with homophobic views, they have shifted from “being gay is a choice” to “God may have made you gay. It’s just the act of homosexuality that’s a sin” in order to come across as more accepting.
This is just as bad. One: love (and sex) is not a sin. Two: it gaslights the person through spiritual abuse. Three: it leaves already vulnerable LGBTQ+ people with two choices:
- A lifetime of celibacy. So no masturbation, no same-sex relationship, no sex, no nothing.
- A heterosexual marriage with someone we might not even love.
Either way the options are clear: a lifetime of misery, or a lifetime of misery. But hey, God loves you, right?
Biblical “counselling” and prayer is being championed in the wake of this so-called progressive view, to “help” people who want this so-called help. However, this toxic doctrine has been internalised in not LGBTQ+ people, but the very people claiming to help them.
These views usually echo in the various groups:
- Folks who like to Bible thump and control
- Christians who still believe sexuality is a choice
- Well-meaning Christians
Now, “well-meaning Christian” interlinked with homophobia does sound like an oxymoron, and it is. However, with such messages being preached from the pulpit or in a mistranslated Bible verse (there are 450 English translations of the Bible!) these views will either be all you know, or even be considered a liberal take – especially if you come from a conservative background.
Their view, from my experience, does not come from malice (though I don’t justify it at all.) They genuinely feel they are doing the right thing. They think they are helping, but conversion therapy doesn’t help and in fact, can and does still cause significant harm.
The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions
For the well-meaning folks, who believe in “hating the sin and not the sinner,” I just want to say this: I’m not trying to attack you or limit your faith. But from a fellow Christian, and a queer one at that, this take is still hurting people and we need to acknowledge this. Then we can enact truly positive change.
Sadly, this doctrine of “tolerance but not really” further reinforces self-hatred in the name of love. It reinforces distress that shouldn’t be there in the first place, and is not justifiable with any of Jesus’ teachings.
We are called to love our neighbour and consider the fruit we bear, but if the fruit we produce leads to trauma, self-loathing and even suicide, we can’t dig our heels in with, “But the Bible says…”. There is no Biblical justification for the torture we as a community have, and continue to, put LGBTQ+ people through. Who are we as Christians to tear two adults in love away from each other and condemn them to a life of misery?
Breaking Up with Toxic Doctrine
The truth of the matter is that Leviticus, Romans 1, 1 Corinthians, and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah were about sexual violence and abuse of power.
We are using the Bible as a weapon when it was never meant to be. The Bible is a rich, historical document full of context to be learned, as well as a religious text. Literalism is killing people and if we want to try to be more Christ-like, we need to focus on what Christ was about: love.
Now, there is a shift towards churches becoming LGBTQ+ affirming and progressives, both clergy and parishioner, are leading the way through thorough research of doctrine. However, it goes without saying that there is backlash against this. So while we are making positive baby steps, we’ve still got a long way to go.
Violet Grey describes herself as “your 20-something lady who loves to write. I write erotic fiction, along with real-life sex stories, thoughts on sexuality, kink, BDSM, and generally whatever else is on my mind.” Check out her blog and give her a follow on Twitter!
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