We’ve been getting a few emails concerned about Conservative candidate Philippa Stroud and her religious inclination to ‘cure’ those who prefer a bit of healthy man-on-man, or gal-on-gal action to the other mixed-sex variants once popular in the nineties. A Guardian article outlining the story is here.

I’m not interested in politics, and don’t wish to comment on this as a political issue. I have, however, attended these sorts of church sessions and even courses which set about healing the ‘brokenness’ of homosexuality. Their premise is that we should be straight, as intended by God, but that when our early relationships with same-sex parents are unfulfilled, we develop an unmet need for identification and closeness from our same sex which is then eroticised during adolescence. Make of that what you will: certainly it’s not uncommon for  us whoopsies to have struggled a bit with parents of our gender, but whether that’s a cause of sexuality, or a result of it, or not at all related, is a different issue. Offering counselling, holding courses, and authoring various books on the subject are a number of people once gay, but claiming to have turned straight through the Grace of God, and through healing those broken relationships. When these people are questioned closely, they do not so much as talk about a full ‘conversion’ of sexuality, more that they have learnt to not respond to their homosexual urge (and which they still acknowledge from time to time) and that they have found a place in their lives for a straight relationship. Again, make of that what you will. Certainly it seems to me that if you’re offering the promise of change to people who may (for whatever reason) desperately want it, it’s important to come up with the goods. I don’t believe that it does really come up with the goods, which will come as no suprise, I’m sure. So a word of warning to anyone unhappy in their sexuality who is considering this route. It’s more likely to cause further depression than stop it.

At the time I was fascinated by its claims, and like many people wishing their sexuality would pass or change, hoping it would be effective. Looking back on it, it is of course simply misguided and damaging. A good friend of mine was very active in the movement for years, eventually realised he was not changing, and is now very happy in a  gay relationship, having dealt with the ‘guilt and embarrassment’ of ‘failing’, as it inevitably seemed to him.  For all that, he has become a firmer Christian, so I wouldn’t presume to say that he regrets his experience of it all. Faith is a funny thing.

I share the distaste that many feel for this. Regardless of how ridiculous (and offensive, if you take offense at such things) it may sound to ‘cure’ gay people, there are plenty of unhappy people – especially, I would imagine, those holding a religious belief – who would welcome the idea of an easy change to being straight. It would be lovely to think that a church at least in part devoted to peace on earth and making people happier would turn their efforts towards the far more helpful cause of educating people to accept  (through whatever complex play of nature and/or nurture) how they or others have turned out in life. I’m sure plenty of Christians – even Tories – find such ‘therapy’ quite distasteful, however confusedly well-meaning it might be within the world of the gross religious presumptions it inhabits. I hope that both groups have the sense to publicly distance themselves from this confused and probably quite harmful practice. I read of such things now and shiver.