Actually I wrote about this when I was in the UK last year.
A Wake Up Call
01 April 2009
Research reveals that some therapists still offer to ‘cure’ homosexuality. But, as Anthony Venn-Brown writes, helping gay and lesbian patients become heterosexual has no place in the mental health sector.
A UK report last week revealed that one sixth of therapists surveyed have helped at least one client to reduce gay or lesbian feelings. Of those, 72 per cent said clients should get a chance to redirect their feelings. This is a frightening revelation considering that in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders.
In the GLBT community I think we are often lulled into a false sense of reality, naively believing that because we are ‘out’ and gained many aspects of legal equality, all is now well for gays and lesbians. This simply is not true.
In 2006 the ‘ex-gay’ movement pressured the APA to encourage client self-determination. In other words, if a client came to a therapist and said they wanted to turn from gay to straight, the therapist was obligated to work with that desire. Dr. Koocher, President of the APA, had to issue a statement, clearly defining once again, that homosexuality is not a disorder and therapists should explore why the person was distressed about their same-sex attraction. And also inform them that there is no scientific evidence that change is possible and that attempts to do so are harmful.
Even though we don’t have data about what is happening in the mental health professional world in Australia regarding attitudes towards homosexuality, I have no reason to doubt that our situation is similar to the UK and USA experience.
Considering that psychiatry and psychology are regulated professions, how can they allow their members to continue outdated, disproved and damaging practices? These events remind us that there are many areas still to be addressed both with those seeking therapy and the therapists themselves.
Australia and the UK now have enormously diverse cultural populations. Therapists and clients come from backgrounds that view heterosexuality as ‘normal’ and homosexuality as perverse. One UK therapist was quoted as saying: “Although homosexual feelings are usual in people, their physical expression, and being a person’s only way of having sexual relations is problematic. The physical act for male homosexuals is physically damaging and is the main reason in this country for HIV/AIDS. It is also perverse”.
Some cultures still have forms of arranged marriages and enormous family pressure to conform. To come out would mean rejection from the family. This level of distress causes people to seek change.
Whilst some areas of Christianity and Judaism have realised that homosexuality is not a sin or choice other religions are lagging behind; some are still in the dark ages of imprisonment or the death penalty for homosexuals.
Geographic location of the client and/or the therapist can also be another factor as revealed in a comment from the research: “The individuals I have worked with have all been very unhappy about their sexuality and wish they were heterosexual. This has been because of responses from friends, family and the local community – which outside London is still very homophobic”.
Unfortunately being ‘the only gay in the village’ is not as funny as Little Britain makes out, if you go to your local mental health professional you’ll end up worse off.
Anthony Venn-Brown is a life coach, author of A Life of Unlearning and co-convenor of Freedom 2 b[e].