About this event
Pride Month Panel: LGBTQ Equality – Banning conversion therapy for all
What is the so-called conversion therapy and why should it be banned for all?
Central London Humanists (CLH) are pleased to welcome Miss saHHara, Humanists UK, LGBT Humanists, Faith to Faithless and other local LGBTQ+ Rights activists, organisations and charities to a Pride Month Panel on LGBTQ+ Equality and why must we ban conversion therapy for all. The event will take place at the Old Diorama Arts Centre in Kings Cross on July 20, 2022, from 7 pm to 9 pm.
Conversion therapy refers to practices intended to forcibly change an LGBTQ+ person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. This so-called ‘therapy’ or ‘cure’ involves abusive and violent practices experienced by LGBTQ+ people when others try to change, alter or suppress their identity.
In early 2022, the UK government announced that it will ban these practices for gay or bisexual people in England and Wales but not for transgender people. We believe that these abusive practices must be banned for all.From the blurb
Miss saHHara is a Nigerian man and founder of the trans beauty pageant Miss Trans Global, set up as a franchise business, and Trans Valid, a site which publishes stories ‘to draw attention to all the evil injustices the trans community faces all around the world’. When you click through to Miss saHHara’s personal website you are treated to a soft porn shot of him, fake blonde tresses conveniently obscuring nipples over expensive-looking breast implants.
Humanists UK claim that that they make ‘sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect’. On the homepage they encourage you check for yourself whether you’re also a humanist by taking a reductive test which asks leading questions. It campaigns to make the UK a secular state and:
We also campaign for a rational approach to public ethical issues in order to contribute to a public life where decisions are made on evidence rather than on the basis of irrational beliefs or religious doctrines.From the website campaign page – https://humanists.uk/campaigns/
LGBT Humanists is the Humanist UK’s LGBT network group. They make ‘submissions to government committees and responds to government consultative documents concerning LGBT rights’, including, as it turns out, the conversion therapy ban. Weddings and funerals appears to be a good revenue stream for them.
Faith to Faithless
Faith to Faithless is also part of the Humanist UK organisation and was set up in 2015 to support ‘apostates’, i.e. those who have left ultra controlling religious communities. It also provides training to frontline services and safeguarding professionals to help them understand the ‘harmful consequences of particular cultural and religious practices’. Setting this up under a separate auspice has an overtone of the kind of thing dodgy spiritual groups do.
The host of the meeting, let’s call him John, a member of the Central London Humanist group began by telling us what humanists believe – that they put ‘science first and believe in the scientific method’ and that they champion human rights. The money raised from the drinks bar would go to Stonewall, who was leading the campaign on the conversion therapy ban.
He let us know that the panel was not a debate but a conversation. Generally speaking Humanists encouraged plurality of political beliefs but in this case the official Humanist position was ‘we support Stonewall’. To prove a point, he also said that the British Psychological Society also supported the conversion therapy ban (indeed they helped draft the Memorandum of Understanding) and the Royal Society of Psychiatrists.
The point of the conversation
So since it wasn’t going to be a debate, the point of having the ‘conversation’ was to educate people about what conversion therapy is. Conversion therapy is everything but therapy. People were supposedly going to explain why it should be banned for both same sex attracted people and those with a trans identity. John gave the following definition:
The definition of conversion therapy is the act of trying to change one’s sexual or gender identity using psychological or spiritual interventions and in extreme cases corrective rape. It’s known as the ‘gay cure’ or ‘pray away the gay’.No citation given
He also read out the United Nation definition.
Miss saHHara’s experience
saHHara recounted his own experience of ‘conversion therapy’, which sounded like typical anti-gay religious sentiment. When his mother found a photo of one of his friends dressed in lingerie in saHHara’s bag and other items such as make-up and condoms, mum questioned him about it. The friend in the photo, saHHara told us, was male but ‘living as a woman’ and that he ‘is not gay, well he is gay’.
Unhappy, mum packed saHHara off to the pastors who was then grilled for two days about his behaviour, the main interest being whether he had had sex with men, by choice or forcibly. The pastors prayed for him, but the prayers didn’t work.
Another friend, another ‘feminine boy’, was also targeted by the pastors and by religious family members. Both the friend and saHHara were told that people like them never amount to anything. saHHara realised that Nigeria would never be accepting and that he had to leave.
saHHara told us that conversion therapy was common in the black community but particularly in the black church, and this included churches in the UK. Many in these communities didn’t realise that UK law protected them from these practices and that services existed to help them out of such situations. He knew of many leading a double life, hiding their existence from family back home for fear of rejection and ostracisation.
When saHHara had finished speaking, John told us if anyone was feeling triggered we were welcome to leave the room until we recovered. He also said that the Ozanne Foundation had done research which tied conversion therapy to suicide attempts and it had shown that 70 percent had had suicidal thoughts following conversion therapy. (Michael Biggs critiqued the survey and found that it had little scientific value.)
The guy from Faith to Faithless, let’s call him Steve, told us that Jayne Ozanne had recently given a talk at a Faith to Faithless meeting. He said that Ozanne was also the founder of the Ban Conversion Therapy organisation, I couldn’t corroborate that but the website includes the Ozanne Foundation and extraordinarily Puppy Pride (for those who don’t know – never mind). In fact of the 76 organisations listed, no fewer than 16 are organisations representing the concerns of trans people.
Steve had learnt a lot from Ozanne’s talk, for instance often people on the receiving end of conversion therapy hadn’t realised it was happening, and the severity ranged from someone saying ‘I’m going to pray for you’ through to performing exorcisms.
Steve used the example of the exorcism scene in Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, a fictional scene loosely based on Jeanette Winterson’s own experience growing up in the 1970s, published almost 40 years ago, as the kind of thing happening in the UK.
Steve had watched a Netflix documentary called Pray Away in preparation for the conversation and from that he had managed to glean that an organisation called Exodus International was set up by same sex attracted people to reform others like them (it disbanded in 2013).
As a boy Steve used to dress up in his sister’s clothes and still wears dresses ‘from time to time’ and that he would lie awake at night hoping and praying that he would wake up with a vagina, not a penis. Back then he believed he might be transsexual. He had believed this because he thought it might be the only way of escaping the stigma and persecution of being gay and still be able to get his hands on the type of person he found attractive and said, a little too pointedly, this was ‘not women’.
One argument for conversion therapy was that people were free to choose to consent to them, which he disagreed with. However, he did feel that paedophiles might benefit from it, before maintaining that conversion therapy didn’t work.
John came out to his family in the 80s, the family response was to send him to a psychiatrist, who told him he had a mental illness, using an out of date version of the Diagnostic Statistics Manual to back up her diagnosis. John told us that he ‘didn’t go through the whole process’. It very much sounded as if middle class parents merely sent their sulky teenager to a shrink to talk through his issues, as details were noticeably lacking.
When such practices are offered by medical professionals it was worse, said John, because it lent them a credibility otherwise missing in the religious setting. Quite.
The international situation
England, in comparison with Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, were going ahead to exclude gender identity from the conversion therapy ban. This would have been the perfect moment for John to explain exactly why that was the case, but as it was a forbidden topic, he obviously couldn’t.
Such wide sweeping powers could criminalise a therapist who did not affirm an adolescent who felt her distress would be solved by changing her sex, or a teenager who was unable to express same-sex feelings due to internalised homophobia. Stephanie Davies-Arai has shown that the affirmation and social transitioning approach promoted by Stonewall and its allies is in fact a form of conversion therapy in itself for gay and lesbian young people.From ‘Is gender identity conversion therapy practiced in the UK today?‘ by Shelley Charlesworth
There were 16 other countries around the world who had also banned conversion therapy, including Brazil, Germany and Canada. Canada had also made it illegal for anyone to seek conversion therapy (I wonder where that will leave all the detransitioners?).
John felt the Government had made the decision to stoke the culture war.
saHHara felt that gay people had more privileges than transgender people, for example homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1992, whereas gender dysphoria had only recently been removed (in fact gender identity disorder was renamed as gender dysphoria and is still in the DSM).
saHHara believes that the ‘Murdoch media’ corporation were to blame and they had created an impression that trans people were the majority in this country. He also felt that social media churned out such stories purely for profit (forgetting that there are at least an equal number of pro-LGBT stories being promoted). Creating stories about trans people was a diversion tactic to focus attention away from Partygate.
saHHara then pretended that he had no idea that one of the Conservative Party Leader candidates, Kemi Badenoch, was Nigerian, never mind it being trumpeted all over the news for the two week course of her campaign. Badenoch represented ‘white supremacy’ and was an ‘apologist’. Particularly irksome was Badenoch’s insistence that women’s spaces remain single sex and suddenly saHHara shifted gear from trans people being the absolute minutest demographic to a solid fifty-eight thousand people.
saHHara didn’t want to use the words ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’ because he didn’t want to apply the label ‘feminist’ to such women. Instead he preferred ‘exclusionary radicals’ and characterised the gender critical movement as ‘oppressive and hateful’. They were ‘so-called lesbians’ who hated men, he told us.
The LGB Alliance
John told us that discussion about transgender people had fractured the LGBT movement and that the LGB Alliance had ‘excluded’ trans people from its organisation (which we know is fine when its the other way round and saHHara has two websites which exclude LGB people).
Expand the acronym
Steve suggested that the LGBTQ+ acronym included people who were ‘questioning’ and suggested that we include S for Straight as well and be done with it. A thorough investigation of why trans people were treated so poorly was needed, when he worked in HIV/sexual services all of the trans-identified males he met were in sex work.
As they always do, he likened his experience of homophobia in childhood in the 80s to that facing trans people now. He was a camp kid and it was spotted immediately. Mum disliked it. It’s amazing that gay men like Steve genuinely aren’t able to make the connection between their own childhood experience and boys today being told they are in the wrong body if they like so-called ‘girly’ things.
In fact Steve felt it was quite frightening that people were so pent up about ‘who sticks what into who’ (presumably a tacit reference to lesbians rejecting men, I’m sure he couldn’t give a monkeys about the women roaming Grindr).
What would the consequence would be if the current conversion therapy ban excluded trans people?
saHHara felt that a lot of people were going to commit suicide and emphasised again that African people in the UK often lived inside their own cultural bubble. The Mountain of Fire Church based in London, for example, was involved in deliverance and exorcism-type activities.
But he also pointed out that gay men in Iran were subject to conversion therapy, as they were forced to transition or else face the death penalty. Gay muslim men in the UK were under similar pressure.
Ending on a positive note
Steve felt that things had gotten much better for trans people, not only did they appear on TV more often, but they also held high office, and said that the Prime Minister of Belgium was trans (it is actually the deputy PM – Petra de Sutter). Only now were we realising all the amazing talents of these people who had been oppressed for ‘hundreds of thousands of years’ (if you’re tempted to believe he was being facetious, I can assure you he wasn’t).
The only way we could have true equality was if we got rid of sexed pronouns and had the same pronoun for everyone. Steve felt that they/them was a bit confusing but suggested xe/xir might be the perfect replacement.
saHHara told us that now his mother accepted him as trans but she still didn’t understand gay people and resorted to Biblical arguments about the immorality of it. He told us that ‘exclusionary radicals’ in the UK were being funded by far right Christian groups in the US. He had even seen photos of them in the White House meeting Republicans. Not only that but Lottery money in the UK was funding the LGB Alliance, even though they excluded ‘trans women’. There was no excuse for leaving them out because they had been there during the Stonewall riots. The gender binary system was an invention of colonialism and nothing to do with typical African culture.
The ten minute break allowed me the unadulterated joy of visiting the ‘gender neutral’ toilets. I pushed the door open to the unmistakable sound of a man urinating.
Question and Answer
The Q&A was significant only for saHHara’s insistence that the USA was trying to brainwash the whole of the Africa, the Philippines and parts of Eastern Europe that trans people were the devil people.
Once he had finished his diatribe about the evils of America, Steve picked up this thread and said that the UK was going the same way politically and that Brexit had made us lean away from European values towards American ones.
John, wanting to bring the topic of conversation back to the theme of conversion therapy, told us all of the wonderful things Humanists do, including campaigning against the ‘genital mutilation of children’.
Following a question about young people from a ‘Young Humanist’ who looked didn’t look a day over 30, saHHara, after spending some time criticising Kemi Badenoch again, told us that his mother repeatedly told him that being gay was wrong and that he knew she thought he was gay. A few responded with embarrassed stifled laughter.
Then a woman wanted the panel to comment on her realisation that she had been a victim of conversion therapy whilst listening to the conversation. This had been self-inflicted. All of the practices that had been mentioned she had done to herself. No one knew what to say.
Finally a man who identified as non-binary, who probably wasn’t even born until the 90s, told us that transphobia today was just like homophobia in the 80s and that Richard Littlejohn was obsessed by it (Littlejohn writes for the Daily Mail and had mentioned nothing about trans people for at least the last three months at the time of writing).
So much for the rationality and humanity of Humanists then, that they fail to see experimental sterilising therapies and surgeries as unethical and harmful. Even at an event to discuss the same there were too scared/stupid to mention anything, though it did leak out in a series of Freudian slips. One of the strangest things about the gender identity phenomenon is that organisations and people who pride themselves on rational thinking and scientific method shrink way from questioning it.
The current President of Humanists UK is Dr Adam Rutherford, a consultant geneticist, whose latest book is Control: the Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics. He sung the praises of ‘Jane Fae’ after reading this Daily Mail article about his vaginoplasty surgery. John Ozimek/Jane Fae defends extreme pornography. Of course we don’t all look into the background of everyone we tweet about, so presumably Rutherford isn’t aware of the porn advocacy, but why is it Humanist to celebrate mutilation?
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