The journalist behind an ex-gay exposé in The Independent (London) last week, has launched an all-out campaign against reparative therapy.

Patrick Strudwick’s investigative report revealed startling practices among reparative therapists in the UK. In his latest missive, he reiterates and expands on some of his more disturbing claims, such as that ex-gay psychiatrist Dr Paul Miller encouraged sexual arousal during therapy sessions, and that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is inadvertently funding reparative therapy. He also reveals that Cohen disciple and NARTH representative Miller, who was promoted by now-disgraced Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson in 2008, still struggles with gay pornography and masturbation from time to time. (Apparently not uncommon among people claiming to be healed of homosexuality.)

Now Strudwick has formed the Stop Conversion Therapy Taskforce, aka SCOTT. As of writing this, the campaign’s Facebook group has 700 members and counting.

Here is what Strudwick says of the group and the reasons behind it:

The belief system of conversion therapy, that gay people aren’t just ungodly and wrong but are inherently damaged and that they can be “healed” or reprogrammed constitutes a fascistic, fundamentalist ideology. Mental health professionals who harbour such an agenda are a supremely dangerous proposition.

The work of Scott will therefore not stop at disrupting conferences. We want professional bodies such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy to add into their code of conduct specific stipulations condemning attempts to alter orientation (currently they have more general ones about not letting personal feelings about sexuality affect treatment).

We will also continue to expose individual therapists and report them to their professional bodies. It won’t be easy. Many operate using euphemisms that cloud what they’re really doing. They also defend their techniques vehemently, claiming: “We offer choice! We only treat those who come looking for it!” It’s like a Venus flytrap blaming the hungry insect that wanders into its gaping mouth. But we are determined to root them out however long it takes. This won’t be a battle. It’s war.

Strong words indeed.

I approach this with caution. It is great to see reparative therapy being highlighted in the UK media like this, and its dangers exposed. The practices investigated by Strudwick are shocking and disgusting. The world of gay-to-straight conversion must be held up to scrutiny, and abusive forms of therapy must be curtailed.

On the other hand, the ex-gay movement encompasses a wide variety of approaches. There have always been at least two distinct responses by the LGBT community. One response has been to “wage war” on the ex-gay movement and do all in its power to destroy it. This has never been the aim of Ex-Gay Watch. We live in a free society, and groups for people who hate, wish to change, are uncomfortable with, or simply wish not to act on their sexual orientation are free to gather and encourage each other in whatever way in their aims. Ex-Gay Watch will do all it can to denounce deception and oppression by the ex-gay movement, but one thing it does not have the right to do is to destroy it by force.

The reason for my caution is that it is very easy to throw all the aspects of the ex-gay movement together and treat them all as issues that can or should be addressed by, for example, legal force. There are many clear instances of abuse that should be addressed by legal means, such as those brought up by Strudwick’s initial article. Then there are ideas that should be addressed by exercising our right to free speech and arguing against them. We should not mistake one category for the other. For example, a Christian therapist who works with legitimate psychiatric or psychological methods to help a patient to achieve congruence (living with both the demands of one’s faith and the reality of sexual orientation) easily falls under the guise of “reparative therapy” in the popular mind – but we have no right to dismantle such attempts by force.

What needs to be clear is what we are fighting and why, and what our aims are. I am pleased to see the rotten underbelly of the ex-gay movement in the UK exposed, but any declaration of battle must be made with wisdom and discernment.

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