This month, thanks to some intrepid investigative journalism, concerns around ex-gay conversion therapies again hit the headlines.
Posing undercover as a gay man looking to change his sexuality, Josh Parry, a reporter for the Liverpool Echo approached The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry Church. After sharing his story, he was advised by the assistant pastor to fast for 3 days straight (avoiding even water), commit himself to prayer and expect to be healed of the urge to sleep with other men. He also took part in a highly charged prayer meeting.
It should be noted that the Church pastor has denied that this is the church’s standard practise, although more curiously he added that no one ‘had ever dropped dead’ from undertaking their recommended fasting regimes.
Regardless of the church’s partial denial, the experience of the journalist will ring true in the minds of many LGB people who have first-hand experience of certain branches of Christianity. Despite the shock of non-church goers who have digested the Liverpool Echo’s exposé, the gritty reality is that there may be yet more extreme forms of conversion therapy in circulation. Although the extent of what is happening in churches around the world is not fully clear, there have been some reports that suggest electric shock therapy could still be in practice.
Research indicates that such ‘treatments’ can be both psychologically and medically dangerous. However, many people will not feel the need to pore over data analysis or test results to be conceptually convinced that any attempt to have an intimate part of your humanity ‘cured’ is unlikely to be good for you.
Since deciding to proactively tackle the issue of LGB+T inclusion in 2013, the team at Oasis has heard countless chilling stories of the therapies and programmes that sincere children of God have been rigorously put through in order to stop them fancying people of the same sex. Tactics we’ve heard about include:
- Being put into a ‘trance like’ state in order to watch – and be seduced by – opposite sex dancers
- Being given nausea-inducing drugs while being shown same-sex erotica
- Electric shock treatment
- Extensive and invasive ‘therapy’ to uncover which ‘childhood trauma’ had triggered homosexuality
- Being told – despite protests to the contrary – that a family member must have sexually abused them
The debate around banning conversion therapies continues in several countries. It needs to be handled sensitively. Any attempt to outlaw a pastor advising someone to pray and fast (over whatever issue) would – probably rightly – be met with accusations that freedom of speech and religion were being compromised. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done.
First, we need to start trying to build an accurate picture as to what is actually going on today. We would like to play our part in doing that.
Have you experienced any form of ex-gay therapy? If so, we would love to hear from you – and will treat all your personal details in the strictest of confidence.
Are you able to tell us your story? When and where did it take place? How did you react to it at the time? How do you feel about it now? Have you heard other stories of people who have been similarly affected?
We don’t pretend for a moment that sharing these stories will be easy – they won’t. But it is only with this kind of bold bravery that we can begin to build a picture of how people are being treated and work together to begin effectively tackling it.
If you would like to get in touch and share your story, please email OCN@oasisuk.org