Conversion therapy has played a central role in the worldwide prosecution of the LGBTQ+ community. The idea that a person’s sexuality can be changed at will – either through faith-based conversion therapy or unspeakable medical procedures – has sinister roots and consequences.
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A Brief History of Conversion Therapy
It’s the turn of the century, the year 1899. A german psychiatrist named Albert vonSchrenk-Notzing attends a conference on hypnosis and presents to the crowd his amazing discovery – that he had turned a gay man straight.
His patient, he claimed, now had a lasting attraction to women; after just a few sessionsof hypnotherapy and a couple visits to the local brothel. Homosexuality was more than just a taboo at the time; a sinful, shameful sometimes even criminal act that was treated by most experts as an illness – and so it comes to no surprise that leading psychiatrists across the world had a vested interest in discovering a cure for being gay.
And Schrenk was just the beginning. The hunt to determine the source of gay men’s sexuality lead to one Austrian endocrinologist theorizing that a man’s homosexuality came from the testicles. In the 1920s he even carried out numerous transplantation experiments in which gay men were castrated and given “hetero testicles”. And although that didn’t work, it didn’t stop people from trying to find new ways to adress the “problem”. ECT, labotomies, even “aversion therapy”, which attempts to plant a general disgust for homosexuality in patient’s heads in the hopes that this will eliminate their sexual desires.
Patients were given chemicals that made them vomit when they looked at gay pornography or electrical shocks to the brain or genitals when they cross dressed. But even where these extreme practices weren’t occurring as much, the idea that homosexuality was a disease was widely accepted by the community as well as medical experts. Only in the 60s and 70s, when the gay rights movement began to demand equality for same sex attracted individuals did psychiatrists across the world begin to turn their back on the practices and techniques they had once used on their own patients.And once the medical community had distanced themselves from attempts at changing people’s sexuality, the stage was wide open for self anointed “experts” and religious
groups to take over.
Modern Conversion Therapy
Modern gay conversion camps and meetings involve isolation, hypnotism, mockery, and sometimes even physical and sexual abuse. Most attendees are young boys, and many are not there by choice. Even those who decide for themselves that they wish to change their sexuality, are only encouraged to do so because of the culture they live in that denies them that part of themselves, and are fed lies about the effectiveness of the treatments they’re signing up for.If you have what you think to be an illness, and someone offers you painful, even traumatic treatment on the basis that it will help you, you may be willing to subject yourself to some horrible things.
The practice of corrective rape, in which a homosexual individual is subjugated to sexual assault in an attempt to enforce conformity with gender stereotypes, has weighed on countries like South Africa and India for decades, and has even found it’s way to the United States, like with the case of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was raped and later murdered for this exact purpose. A better understanding of sexuality and an environment that doesn’t demand sexual conformity has been proven to be a much more consistent way of helping LGBTQ people exist in the world today, and unlike conversion therapy, hasn’t repeatedly lead to the suicides and abuse of young people all over the world.
Comparison with Addiction Therapy
Some might be quick to point out that not all conversion attempts are that extreme, but it’s not just these gruesome practices I have a problem with. The entire premise and approach that conversion therapy has towards self respect and growth is absolutely backwards.
Drug addicts typically have lower self esteem than the average person. When someone is insecure or lacks confidence, they may struggle with negative thoughts about themselves. So, to escape this constant negativity, some people turn to drugs or alcohol, which in turn leads to even lower self-esteem.That’s why rediscovery of self respect is an important step in addiction therapy. Reestablishing an interest in one’s own health and wellbeing can be the catalyst that allows one to overcome the temptation to use.
When comparing the goals of addiction rehabilitation to the narratives behind conversion therapy, it becomes clear that while one practice encourages patients to rediscover a love and respect for themselves they may have lost, the other attempts to brainwash you into suppressing an integral part of your very being. If the values of addiction therapy were applied to young, sexually frustrated boys and girls living under homophobic conditions, we would be encouraging them to grasp that same self respect, embrace their identity and take back the life they were given – not to punish and shame themselves for it.
Banning Conversion Therapy
Today, all across the world, conversion therapy is being outlawed, at least in some respect. Brazil was the first country in the world to apply a nationwide ban on conversion therapy. In Germany, conversion therapy applied through deceit or coercion or any form of conversion therapy on minors is strictly illegal. In many countries like Switzerland and Albania, it’s illegal for medical professionals to carry out conversion therapy in any form. Even the Queen denounced conversion therapy as recently as this year, planning to ban it nationwide, and many U.S states already have laws in place banning the practice all together. So, things are getting better. But there are still people who stand behind it, and seem to be willing to die on that hill.
If they didn’t have such serious consequences, these people’s attempts at justifying conversion therapy would be almost laughable. The idea that people should have the right to attend conversion therapy if they want to is a convoluted one. I would agree that everyone should have the freedom to seek out whatever they think is going to help them on their path, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But – and this is critical – you won’t learn to rid yourself of your homosexual desires. Only to hate yourself for them, and how to suppress them. If that is what you truly want, I am sad for you. But I understand. It’s not that easy, is it?
I often hear people say, “being gay is bad, that’s just how I was raised.” “I just grew up that way.” That’s what really gets me, in the end. It’s that I do understand why so many people have such a problem with people exploring their sexuality. They’re not stupid, or dumb, they’re not evil or hateful, they’re just wrong. Not ignorant – but misinformed.
In the end, you don’t decide what you believe. You know only the way of life you can comprehend. Our efforts in the past few decades in the fight for LGBT rights have changed the world forever. And as we distance ourselves from an exclusively toxic narrative on homosexuality and reduce the effects of conversion therapy on future generations, the future seems bright.