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Conversion Therapy is Still a Thing

If you’re in the LGBTQ+ community in Canada, you can get married, or you can undergo conversion therapy. A therapy designed to cure you of your tendencies that are outside of the heterosexual norms. Somehow, both of these contradicting things are legal.

According to the World Health Organization this type of therapy poses a "severe threat to the health and human rights of the affected persons." and in this Psychology Today article a recent study shows that teens whose parents or caregivers try to convert them are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, whereas teens whose therapists or religious leaders try to convert them are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide.

In 1973, being gay stopped being recognized as a mental illness. It is not the result of childhood trauma, the colour of your bedroom walls or the gender of your caregiver. It is simply a way of being in the world. It is more common than having red hair, but somehow it is not nearly as accepted. Despite the fact that LGBTQ+ Canadians are protected by the Canadian Charter of Human Rights, it is still legal to take a child who you suspect or has admitted to being gay and force them to undergo mental, emotional and sometimes physical trauma in order to attempt to make them straight. Has that sunk in? This is a practice that is going on here, now. It is still being practiced in churches and by trained psychologists all over the world.

Earlier this week, Ottawa rejected the chance to pass a law in Canada that would make this dangerous and abusive practice illegal. The Canadian government says that it is immoral, but can’t quite be bothered to make it illegal. Read more here.

Where is the common sense in this? The kindness, compassion, the love? Let’s not give up hope, it is out there. I would argue that there are more people in Canada who would help rather than hurt someone who is openly gay. I have lived as an out queer person for 16 years, I have a wife and four children. I have in-laws who are Catholic and Muslim, I have close friends who are heavily involved in their churches. And these people love me. I am a public school teacher librarian who is out to close to 500 students and over 50 staff members and none of them have suggested conversion therapy. I sing in a choir with more than 60 other LGBTQ+ people and our allies, and people fill churches to hear us sing. We live in a time and a place where there is a lot of love, where there are a lot of good reasons to have hope and that is what we need to spread.

When I was a teenager, one of my friends had a bumper sticker on his car that said, ‘MEAN PEOPLE SUCK’ and one day, driving in Vancouver a small group of people took offence to his bumper sticker and tried to attack him and his friends. They dented his car and cracked his window, outraged that he was anti-mean people. Fortunately, he was able to drive away unharmed. This is how I think of the world. There are lots of awesome people, and a small handful of mean people who will take offence and do damage just because they can.

Worse when those mean people are therapists, or church leaders or parents. What we need to do is keep spreading the words of acceptance for each other. It doesn’t matter who you are, those mean people will find a way to get you if you let them. Remember that they are not the norm, not the majority. The majority of people scratch their heads and say, “Is conversion therapy even still a thing?”

To those people, the answer is a resounding yes. There are some who are still being taught that who they are is wrong. There are children who are being shamed and ridiculed as an antidote for being themselves. So let’s end this now.

You can get the information to contact your local premier here. In Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, there are already bans, but we need to add to those bans that it is illegal to take LGBTQ+ people out of the country to receive conversion therapy.

In our last choir concert, we sang a song called, You Have More Friends than you Know. I can’t find a recording of Rainbow Harmony Project singing it, but here it is for you. We are all human, we are all equal, we all deserve to be loved. We all deserve to be safe, so let’s work together to include in our safety a ban on conversion therapy.

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