It’s a stark irony that the aforementioned Liberal branch would espouse the idea of “praying the gay away” – because frankly, most queer people have already given it a try; in their own way, on their own time.

Growing up as a gay youth, schoolyard bullying came packaged with weekly religious studies classes. I would lie in bed and call out to whatever ancestral deity careened across the sky: if I woke up the following morning a heterosexual with no interest in my male peers, I’d forever follow his teachings. When I awoke, despite endless praising of His name, I was not heterosexual.

"The results of gay conversion therapy, according to science, range from increasing
emotional distress to furthering self-hatred."

“The results of gay conversion therapy, according to science, range from increasing
emotional distress to furthering self-hatred.”

Photo: Shiutterstock

Of course, if The Lord doesn’t answer your prayers, there’s always the option of hashing out your concerns with a therapist. Which I did. But only after my inner turmoil devolved into suicidal ideation as a goddamn fourteen-year-old.

“They think I’m weird,” I’d tell a child psychologist, about how the other boys in school saw me, about “the way I was”.

It was as if I carried a secret that everyone could see but doubtless held me down – though I was not long off knowing what it was.

I would have wanted nothing more than to change – to be “normal”. To be one of the boys. If you’d told me there was a magic pill I could take to reconstruct the coding of my DNA and straighten myself out, a-la The Matrix, I would have dropped it in a heartbeat. I can think of a plethora of homosexuals who would have probably done the same. It could’ve been our new ecstasy.

And yet such a reversal continues to elude us – for the best. What we really should be funding is how to treat homophobia, as, according to research, it’s liked to be based around repressed desire for the same sex. (Fred Phelps, anyone?)

Instead of taking steps at dispelling cognitive dissonance, though, by coming to terms with these thoughts, through talking to friends, therapists, or setting up dates with me (Don’t be shy, Israel Folau), many homophobes instead attempt to change the world around them. And their focus always seems to be on the most malleable among us: our children.

Ordinarily this kind of sinister obsession with kids would be cause to phone the police. But in the era of Trump, Putin and bizarre same-sex marriage opinion polls, programs that claim to “pray the gay away” have never felt more normalised in the public discourse.

Gay conversion therapy, according to science, can lead to anything from increasing emotional distress to suicide. Such was the case when in 2014, a trans teen named Leelah Alcorn took her own life after receiving a form of the treatment, prompting the introduction of a new U.S. law which would see it banned.

It’s also been widely disproven, health bodies deeming it cause for alarm. In fact, one of the only studies showing gay conversion therapy could ever work was so thoroughly debunked that, years later, the conductor of the study came forward to apologise for it.

Regardless, attempts to “cure” gayness have persisted, whether through therapy, electroshocks – or more horrific practices like “excessive bicycle riding”.

Between bullying, isolation and the slowly surfacing notion that your life will not be easy and this world is going to hurt you, the idea of a therapy that can change your sexuality and rob you of your shame is seductive. But I’m glad, now, that gay conversion doesn’t work. Because to survive self-hatred and adversity as part of a marginalised group, is to be a more compassionate, loving person. It’s to grow up having a heightened sense of community and empathy – because you’re aware of how brutal the world is, having lived it yourself.

And these Liberals – who I’d like to think are an ultra-conservative minority – are endangering lives by propositioning the therapy as a valid and viable practice. Because it just doesn’t work. And it never, ever will.

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