Participants take part in the city's first "Equality Parade" rally in support of the LGBT community in Bialystok, Poland, July 20, 2019. CNS photo/Agnieszka Sadowska, Agencja Gazeta via Reuters

Bishop Fred Henry: No reason to ban conversion therapy

By  Bishop Fred Henry
  • August 29, 2019

George Orwell wrote in “Politics and the English Language” that “political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” 

Even if we make allowances for his sarcasm, he provides deep insight about how dishonest constructs can be crafted with a veneer of respectability and reasonableness.

The history of conversion therapy has had many peaks and valleys: from early Freud to a period of mainstream approval, to a period of mainstream medical profession disavowal to the beginnings of a new post-modern nuancing of previous dogmatisms. The topic has been in the news recently following indications from Ottawa that it is considering changes to the Criminal Code to ban conversion therapy.

An article on CBC.ca reflects much of the recent literature in favour of a ban. It defines conversion therapy as “a practice that aims to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual or gender identity to the sex assigned to them at birth. It employs various approaches, from talk therapy and medication, to aversion therapy that attempts to condition a person’s behaviour by causing them discomfort through things like electric shocks when they’re exposed to specific stimuli.”

Presenting conversion therapy in this way is an ingenuous construct. 

First of all, it courts those who self-describe as “secular,” especially those who are “anti-religious.” By using the word “conversion,” it implicitly suggests the religious. Be wary!

Second, it is also an abstraction, and quite opaque to the uninformed eye and meaningless to the untrained ear. A negative and misleading twist is added by suggesting “aversion therapy” and the reference to discomfort through things like electric shock. The adage applies — “a half brick when thrown travels further than a full brick.” So, too, a half truth travels further than the full truth.

It is hard to object to descriptions of conversion therapy as sexual-orientation-change efforts which rely on professional therapy and counselling, often in a religious context, to assist those struggling with unwanted homosexual inclinations to diminish their same-sex behaviours.

In the field of language, “bad” meanings or associations of words tend to drive competing “good” meanings out of circulation, so the strategy is to attack any positive meaning to conversion therapy.

Many proponents of same-sex lifestyles argue that such therapy efforts are not only ineffective, but also harmful. 

Despite a scholarly veneer, their reports offer almost entirely anecdotal stories of harm. There is also the failure to present complied data, statistical evidence or data analysis.

Third, an assumption is made that sexual orientation and gender dysphoria are fixed, inborn traits like race. This assumption is a myth. Inconsistencies and contradictions abound.

The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists even acknowledges that “some people believe that sexual orientation is innate and fixed; however, sexual orientation develops across a person’s lifetime.” There is good evidence that parental and social influences, including childhood trauma, can contribute to same-sex attraction for some. If so, and if desired, then why should therapy not be available for them?

The American College of Pediatricians and other experts agree that when not affirmed, 80-95 per cent of pre-pubertal youth with gender dysphoria will come to accept their biological sex by late adolescence.

A fanciful claim is often made that a child with gender dysphoria is born with a brain that is of the opposite sex of his body. This is biologically impossible. Every cell of the human body contains identical copies of a person’s sex chromosomes. 

It is also assumed that homosexual attractions and gender dysphoria experienced by minors are enduring. Although the American Psychological Association opposes conversion therapy, its handbook acknowledges that homosexual attractions in minors are more fluid than fixed. It also maintains that born-that-way-and-can’t-change is not true of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Studies do not demonstrate harm to minors who undergo psychotherapy to diminish same-sex-attractions because no studies on youth have ever been published. However, there is significant documentation of successful outcomes among some adults who sought to increase their heterosexual potential in psychotherapy. 

Yet there has been a rush to advocate for legislation that would not only restrict a practitioner’s ability to offer conversion therapy but to ban it totally despite some compelling evidence to the contrary.

Politicians, bureaucrats and those who would like to be regarded as scientists are particularly good at generalizing details out of existence.

(Bishop Henry is Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Calgary.)

Comments (4)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Parents need to know if they send their gay teen to reparative therapy there is zero chance of the child becoming heterosexual, but a chance of them becoming anxious, depressed and even suicidal. There is also a chance the child may be molested....

Parents need to know if they send their gay teen to reparative therapy there is zero chance of the child becoming heterosexual, but a chance of them becoming anxious, depressed and even suicidal. There is also a chance the child may be molested. The profession attracts men who want to be alone with gay teens to discuss their sexual fantasies and desires. Many such "therapists" have been caught molesting boys. Tragic that a bishop would defend this practice which has been proven in a US court to be consumer fraud which healed nobody, but harmed many (JONAH trial). Reparative gay conversion therapy has no basis in religion or medical science. The bishop has expressed false claims in his op-ed here. Check with any medical association.

Read More
Rusty Writer
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Parents need to know if they send their gay teen to reparative therapy there is zero chance of the child becoming heterosexual, but a chance of them becoming anxious, depressed and even suicidal. There is also a chance the child may be molested....

Parents need to know if they send their gay teen to reparative therapy there is zero chance of the child becoming heterosexual, but a chance of them becoming anxious, depressed and even suicidal. There is also a chance the child may be molested. The profession attracts men who want to be alone with gay teens to discuss their sexual fantasies and desires. Many such "therapists" have been caught molesting boys. Tragic that a bishop would defend this practice which has been proven in a US court to be consumer fraud which healed nobody, but harmed many (JONAH trial). Reparative gay conversion therapy has no basis in religion or medical science. The bishop has expressed false claims in his op-ed here. Check with any medical association.

Read More
Rusty Writer
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Tragic that a bishop would defend this practice which has been proven in a US court to be consumer fraud which healed nobody, but harmed many (JONAH trial). Reparative gay conversion therapy has no basis in religion or medical science. The bishop...

Tragic that a bishop would defend this practice which has been proven in a US court to be consumer fraud which healed nobody, but harmed many (JONAH trial). Reparative gay conversion therapy has no basis in religion or medical science. The bishop has expressed false claims in his op-ed here. Check with any medical association.

Read More
Rusty Writer
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The American College of Pediatricians is a bogus group of non-medical anti-LGBT marketers purposely misleading the public. with a name that sounds legit because it is so close to the actual medical association, the American Academy of Pediatrics....

The American College of Pediatricians is a bogus group of non-medical anti-LGBT marketers purposely misleading the public. with a name that sounds legit because it is so close to the actual medical association, the American Academy of Pediatrics. The real medical association supports LGBT people based on real medical science.

Read More
Rusty Writer
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