The Supposed Evils of “Conversion Therapy”

Conversion Therapy
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Homosexual advocates like Eve Tushnet, Fr. James Martin, and Kirsten Powers do not like what they derisively call “conversion therapy.” 

They use the phrase to conjure up such horrors as boys strapped to tables being shown gay porn and getting electrical shocks. They use it to conjure up what they call “praying away the gay,” prison-like camps where boys are forced by unscrupulous religious hucksters to ask Jesus to make them “straight.”

Tushnet says the only purpose of “conversion therapy” is to turn “gays” into “straights” and that any attempt is unachievable, and even the attempt leads often to suicide. Tushnet has been plumping of late for her new book, out in November, called Tenderness: A Gay Christian’s Guide to Unlearning Rejection and Experiencing God’s Extravagant Love, which will be about how mean the Church is to the same-sex attracted and how mean Catholics can be. 

She says “homophobia” is rampant, and by “homophobia” she means things like “not listening.” Have you ever noticed how it is impossible not to listen to “gays” and their issues? What she really means is not “not listening,” but rather, not agreeing. Not agreeing with her is “homophobia.” 

She says “Side B” gay Christians—that is, Christians who self-identify as gay but who live the Christian sexual ethic—just want to have friends, very special friends, in her own words “vowed” friends for life, or something. She invokes the friendships in Sacred Scripture—Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, and even Jesus and John. She says these are same sex “loves” which homosexuals can emulate. She would never say these relationships were “homosexual,” but she does use that freighted term “same-sex.” After all, we are all called to have close friends, even with those of the same sex. It is called simply “friendship.” Why bungle it up with the political and ideological adjective “same-sex”? It is to imply something. 

Tushnet also becomes clumsy in talking about the origin of homosexuality. She says she accepts Church teaching that its “psychological genesis remains largely unexplained” but then says homosexuality is genetic and biological, and then she says she has no opinion on “why people are gay.” One thing she is certain of, however, is that it cannot change, except when it does on its own and without the harmful help of therapists. See how confused she is?

It should be noted that there is no such thing as “conversion” therapy because there is nothing to convert from or to. There is no such thing as “sexual orientation” because there is only one: that of man for woman and woman for man—complementarity. It is how He made us. Anything else is abnormal and can cause great trauma in the person experiencing it. This is why there is such an outsized incidence of depression, alcoholism, and even suicide among those who experience it. Those experiencing this trauma seek out professional therapists with whom they can talk. It is not “conversion therapy” to turn someone from one thing to another. It is talk therapy, just like every other kind of talk therapy, getting to the heart of something that bothers you and hoping to stop or lessen the thoughts or actions that bother you.   

But people like Tushnet, Fr. Martin, and TV personality Kirsten Powers are horrified by the idea that people can find help for unwanted homosexual attractions, behaviors, and identities. They believe it is impossible because these are inborn and created by God. They also hold that these attractions, behaviors, and identities are just fine. Why should anyone want to change them? If only the homophobes would come on board everyone would be happy. Fr. Martin is now promoting a multipart series on Netflix about the evils of “conversion therapy.” Powers just interviewed a friend of hers, with a book out, who experienced the horrors of “pastoral sessions” and “group therapy” for her lesbian inclinations. Powers called it sexual abuse. 

There is an all-out war on talk therapy for unwanted sexual attraction, behavior, and identity. It is now illegal in many states for minors to seek it out. It is illegal in some jurisdictions for adults to seek it out. Can you think of any other topic that is illegal to talk to a therapist about? Even one? I can’t. If someone wants to bring their thoughts and actions into line with their faith, they are not allowed. If a man wants to stop cheating on his wife with other men, tough, he can’t seek help. If a teen boy wants to stop getting manhandled by older men, he’s on his own. 

Psychologists who practice this kind of therapy are being sued and losing their licenses to practice. It is becoming required for students of psychology and psychiatry to pledge that they do not believe in, and will not practice, such therapy. There will have to be some kind of underground railroad of men and women seeking to escape this kind of slavery. Down a darkened alley in the dead of night, soft knock at the door, password, just like when gays had to hide. 

It would have been nice if Tushnet had sat down and listened to those who really do therapy with these men and women, not “conversion therapy” but talk therapy. Nice, too, had she talked to the hundreds of thousands of ex-gays who went through talk therapy and came out the other side healthier and happier. 

I know some of them. They have amazing stories to tell. But that would require Tushnet to listen, maybe challenge her worldview, which would be one of the most difficult conversions of all. 

[Photo Credit: Shutterstock]

By

Austin Ruse is a contributing editor to Crisis Magazine. His next book, Under Siege: No Finer Time to be a Faithful Catholic, is out from Crisis Publications in April. You can follow him on Twitter @austinruse.

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