I am FURIOUS … again. With the advent of the new film, Boy Erased, and renewed attention to the “business” of conversion therapy, I am reminded once again of the arrogance displayed by the evangelical Christian community in thinking that, because Yahweh condemned men for loving other men and women for loving other women, that it was somehow incumbent on them to attempt to correct this supposed flaw in their personalities. Also reminding me of this issue was CBS News Sunday Morning’s opening piece on 11 November, 2018, about conversion therapy, which of course referred to the movie, and two stories of a man and a woman who were subjected to a “therapy” which has been universally discredited by the physical and psychological medicine communities.
What was even more infuriating about the Sunday Morning piece were the interviews with two men who had actively participated and supervised such attempts at rerouting the natural inclinations of gay men and Lesbian women to the dictated norms prescribed by the bible. Both interviewees spoke in even, unemotional terms of what they had inflicted on members of their own congregations. One of these men, having been through the process himself, confessed that he had never seen it work and that, even in the face of a straight, 21-year marriage, he continued to be attracted to men.
Meanwhile, Jeff Johnson of Focus on the Family wants to insist that: “I have met dozens and dozens of people who have had deep change and deep transformation, and that's why we continue to advocate for their freedom.” Mr. Johnson, first of all, I would like to see some specific case studies where there has been an actual change in sexual orientation as a result of the procedures you wish to endorse. Second and far more importantly, when Christian gay and Lesbian people seek out conversion therapy, is it because they feel as though what they are doing is genuinely wrong, or is it because they want to conform to a community that will not accept them otherwise? To me, therein lies the real tragedy: Christian fellowship is what these people know, possibly all that they know, they don’t want to lose that sense of belonging, and they are so dependent on that environment that they are willing to attempt to alter a foundational part of themselves in order to continue to fit in. Prplfox’s words in his YouTube video were never truer: “Christianity alters your identity to insure the survival of ITSELF.”
In the case of the two people featured in the story, the ending is a happy one. The gay man and his mother are now reconciled to each other, and the Lesbian woman has some closure with her family and now shares an apartment with her girlfriend. Two stories … out of how many thousands of others which have less than ideal resolutions. In each of their journeys, both of these people attempted to end their own lives to resolve the conflict, obviously unsuccessfully. What is the count of those whose story ends in tragedy rather than in the far more positive outcome presented here? The fact is that we continue to permit such bogus treatment because we continue to treat religion and its practices as a separate case, somehow deserving of separate consideration, when it clearly hasn’t earned it.
And that has to change. For the sake of the victims, it must.