To the public, Margaret Court went on record to say that she has no issue with our community, even claiming that we are part of her congregation. However, not all was as it seemed, and as is usually the case in these matters, the truth will out.
Her attempt at trying to diminish the stain of her homophobia by trotting out the old ‘I can’t be anti-gay – look at this gay I know’ shtick was served to us only to distract from a far more insidious truth. Margaret Court is a believer in gay conversion therapy. The gay members of her congregation are not in her pews being accepted in all their fabulous glory, but were being ‘helped’ to overcome their ‘affliction’.
Margaret Court loves her gays so long as they are straight. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment. No, no. It’s fine – I’ll wait.
Gay conversion therapy is a practice that I find morally repugnant, not just as a gay man, but as a human being, because the history of gay conversion therapy is dark and ethically questionable at best. Treatments have ranged from prescriptions of ‘get drunk and go to a brothel’ through to more extreme measures such as exorcism, genital mutilation and electric-convulsive therapy. It wasn’t that long ago that being gay was considered a mental illness, so participation in these barbaric treatments was not always voluntary.
There is an unsubstantiated claim among gay therapy supporters that there is an event or ‘trigger’ that ‘activates’ homosexuality and ‘gender confusion’ – most often this is attributed to abuse. They cite statistics, the numbers of which vary depending who you talk to, but that are always proportionately large enough to impress those who are inclined to be impressed by such things.
Alternatively, they lay blame on whichever parent is most convenient, citing a lack of influence or affection. So, to all those families out there who are loving, supporting and doing everything you can for your gay children – you’re obviously not doing enough. If you were, your child would be straight, silly.
The nature vs nurture argument as it relates to gay and trans people has probably gone on for as long as there have been gay and trans people, with neither side providing any incontrovertible proof one way or the other. Like the very thing they are trying to determine the cause of, it defies an enforced binary construct.
Whatever the cause (if there even is one), I believe that the so-called ‘cure’ is the disease.
Religion created the system by which sexually and gender diverse people were made into abominations and outcasts, using a carefully constructed template for human behaviour from which any deviation was labelled ‘wrong’. Religion enforced control with these strict parameters, and on the issue of sexuality the message is simple: the only way is straight, and you must be male or female.
(I could go in to third-party involvement in intersex children, and how the doctor and parents may sometimes inadvertently make the incorrect choice on behalf of their child, but that’s a whole other conversation.)
There’s no need for me to go into how the system of oppression was established and subsequently enforced – it’s a matter of record and you can study it yourself – but let’s just say it was bloody, cruel and uncompromising. Societies were converted one by one, instilled with the same message.
In the very early days the message was, ironically, a simple binary: conform or die. Since slaughtering potential congregates didn’t really make sense from a marketing perspective, the message was altered to offer the opportunity for survival and acceptance, though it remained essentially the same: conform or be outcast – and not just in this life, but the one after as well.
Straight is great, female is good, male is better (apparently). Everything else is bad. Easy, right? Wrong.
Attempting to restrict sexual freedom and gender expression, whether through religion or not, does more harm than good, and ultimately is usually done to serve the needs of others rather than the needs of the individual concerned.
My biggest problem with so-called ‘conversion therapy’ is that the physical and psychological needs of the person are ignored as the message ‘conform or be outcast’ is reinforced. Repression leads to depression, loneliness and increased risk of adverse behaviour, including violence or self-harm.
If you do any amount of reading on the topic of conversion therapy, you will also discover that most of the people who have been ‘cured’ are still engaged with a daily battle with their same-sex attraction. So, the cure isn’t a cure at all. People just learn to deny themselves so they can live without external conflict. However, the internal conflict doesn’t abate.
The issue at large is that the conflict experienced by people coming to terms with their sexual and gender identity was created by the very system that promises a cure. The abuse, bullying and isolation experienced by some individuals who end up desperate to fit in are by-products of this enforced message that having a unique sexual or gender identity is somehow wrong or abhorrent. It is the system, not the person, that is broken and until that is recognised the long struggle to regain equality will continue.
I say ‘regain’ because before the rise of the major religions as we know them today, queer culture, gender diversity and same-sex unions existed in almost every culture on the planet. Thousands of years before we even had names and labels and there was no Kinsey scale, humanity was already trying to adapt to find a seat at the table for those who were beyond what was considered ‘usual’, with varying results.
Was it all rainbows and unicorns? Of course not, but the historical record shows that in many cultures people who were sexual and gender anomalous, especially those who were gender diverse, were accepted, respected and even revered.
Even our own indigenous culture in Australia acknowledges men and women whose spirits are different from their bodies, recognising both sistergirls (born men with female spirits) and brotherboys (born women with male spirits).
Realistically, the ‘success’ stories of gay conversion therapy are the cases where people have broken free of this enforced ideal and gone on to lead happy and healthy lives true to their sexual and gender identity.
It is not the individual who needs to be cured, and ‘aberrant’ sexual or gender expression is not an affliction. The ‘disease’ is a system that denies a person the right to live an authentic life to fit a socially acceptable mould that makes the rest of the population feel comfortable. Only once the system that created this idea is repaired will the world truly discover, and take its first tiny steps toward, the cure.