A call to condemn conversion therapy: Jayne Ozanne

A call to condemn conversion therapy:  Jayne Ozanne

A Call to Condemn Conversion Therapy

by Jayne Ozanne

 “We the undersigned UK organisations wish to state that the practice of conversion therapy has no place in the modern world.  It is unethical and harmful and not supported by evidence.”

So reads the opening paragraph of a statement signed on January 16th 2017 by thirteen professional healthcare bodies, including the UK council of for Psychotherapy and the Royal College of General Practitioners.  If my Private Members Motion at General Synod this summer is successful, the Church of England will become the fourteenth signatory – and so pave the way for other religious organisations to recognise the significant harm that this discredited practice inflicts.

The primary concern of most organisations is that Conversion Therapy assumes the client has a mental disorder and so starts from the pre-conceived view that they should try to change their sexual orientation.  This then adds to the high levels of exclusion, stigma and prejudice experienced by the LGBTI community, which academics have shown can lead to long term mental health issues.

As Christians, we know that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) and that we should praise God’s gift of our creation (Psalm 148).  Our diversity as human beings is therefore a reflection of God’s creativity and something we should celebrate, rather than believing our lack of uniformity is a consequence of sin.  The bible teaches us that our concern is not with “what we are” but “how we choose to live our lives”.  Specifically, this means that our differing sexual orientations and gender identities are not in themselves inherently sinful, nor are they mental disorders “to be cured”.

I’m sure that many of us have quite moving and challenging testimonies as to how we’ve been treated by our churches when we took the brave step of disclosing our sexual or gender identity.  Some will be wonderfully affirming testimonies, but many will not.   Indeed, some of us will have voluntarily chosen to go through a whole range of prayer ministry – from emotional healing to full scale deliverance ministry – in order to try and “heal ourselves” of our “sinful desires”.   As such, many of us will remember the deep shame we will have felt for being who we are, and the desperation we encountered when our prayers seemingly went unheeded and unanswered.  This was spiritual abuse of the worse kind, as it came from those we trusted at a time when we should have been affirmed and supported.

I’m committed to working to ensure that no future young LGBTI adult goes through this trauma.  I for one don’t want to see another young person take their life, or end up in hospital as I did with my body cracking under the strain.  We need to put an end to this practice and instead celebrate who we are.

Please therefore do write to your Synod reps and tell them your own story – or those of your friends.  I am enclosing my briefing paper for Synod members, from which you might want to remind them that:

  • All the main healthcare professional bodies, including NHS England, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Association of Christian Counsellors, signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2015 saying that they believed Conversion Therapy to be unethical, and that they would work together to ensure members of the public understood it to be so.
  • The Prime Minister, Theresa May, publicly condemned Conversion Therapy in May 2017.
  • Nine “ex-gay therapy” leaders from around the world signed a public letter in July 2014 calling for a ban on Conversion Therapy, stating “We know first-hand the terrible emotional and spiritual damage it can cause, especially for LGBTI youth.”
  • Many MPs have been calling for an outright ban on Conversion Therapy, and the Prime Minister has vowed to keep the issue “under close review”

Thank you – I know that together we can ensure that future generations don’t suffer as some of us have.