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Prohibiting liberty for people with unwanted same-sex attraction

By David van Gend - posted Monday, 15 February 2016

The desire of individuals to bring their sexual impulses and behaviour into line with their broader values should be respected, not shut down by ideologues in Parliament.

The Victorian government plans to outlaw the provision of counselling to people who want to overcome unwanted homosexual attraction. That is tyrannical.

Premier Daniel Andrews is mimicking laws passed in three US states, even though twenty US states have rejected such legislation as an infringement of client self-determination. Advocates scare-monger about "shock therapy" that no professional therapist employs, and claims of harm which are purely anecdotal. They use loaded words like gay "cure" which no informed person uses, since complex emotional and behavioural conditions are not open to "cure" but only to modification along a spectrum.


We know that sexual identity is open to degrees of change, usually spontaneously rather than guided by therapists. We know from studies like Ott (2010) and Savin-Williams (2007) that two thirds of teenagers who think they might be gay change spontaneously to identify solely as heterosexual. It's fluid.

Other data supports this finding of the large-scale changeability in sexual orientation. Overseas, the US National Health and Social Life Survey showed a drop in homosexual self-identification from ~8% age 16 to ~4% age 18 to ~2% in the twenties. Kids get over it. In Australia the "Safe Schools" programme claims (an admittedly overblown) 10% of students are same-sex attracted, and yet only 1.2% of Australian adults identify as homosexual (1.8% male, 0.6% female, 'Sex in Australia', 2003) – which amounts to a nearly 90% move away from homosexual orientation from teenage to adulthood. "Born that way" anybody? So why does the Victorian Government demand that they "stay that way"?

The take-home message is that most young people – two thirds or more on this data - get over their transient stage of sexual confusion if left to themselves. But on the one hand the radically activist "Safe Schools" programme aims to ensure they are not left to themselves and they don't get over it: it strives to make them "come out" at a vulnerable stage of emotional development and identify as LGBTIQ – and so lock them into a phase of sexual confusion as an "identity". On the other hand, the Victorian government wants to make sure no help is available for people who want counselling and support through a time of transition and confusion.

We know that professional counselling can benefit individuals who want to change (see We also know that there is no objective evidence of harm to such individuals from professional counselling. Why should a confused young person have to muddle through this emotional upheaval on his own because politicians in Victoria ban professional help?

First Premier Andrews is gunning for religious counsellors, but he also aims to shut down professional services. As for faith-based counselling, given the success of quasi-spiritual support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, you cannot rule out benefit that spiritual support groups might give to individuals struggling with sexual compulsions.

As for professional counselling, I met last year with the most prominent therapist in this field, Dr Joseph Nicolosi, whose clinic of seven psychologists in California has helped hundreds of men and women minimise unwanted homosexual attraction and maximise their heterosexual potential. One of his clients writes: "If one thing angers me in life it is this: when gay apologists claim that to reject a 'gay identity'' is to be in denial of my true self. My personal experience tells me the opposite!" His life story is typical of the clients Dr Nicolosi sees: men who never felt they belonged as a boy among boys, as a man among men, and whose craving for male connection became sexualised at puberty; an unconscious attempt to restore a sense of male belonging and repair an emotional wound. The client continues,


"Therapy has helped me to connect more with men as brothers to be trusted. For most of my adult life, I only felt fearful of and alienated around men - especially men of my own age group. When I feel masculine within, I have no emotional need to draw on the men 'out there' who are external to me. Was my therapy 'dangerous,' as some critics with an ideological axe to grind try to claim? Well, if growing in self-acceptance and feeling now that I belong around men is 'dangerous,' then I want more of it!"

So what about the Victorian Government's central claim: that therapy aimed at modifying unwanted homosexual attraction is harmful? All deep psychological interventions have an expected rate of harm in the range of 10%, so there are harmful anecdotes aplenty for any therapy. But anecdotes are no basis for public policy. We need statistically objective evidence of the relative benefits and harms of any intervention, and in the case of "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE), there is no such evidence. Current legislative bans claim support from a report of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2009". But even the overtly biased report admits there is no reliable evidence of harm:

Early and recent research studies provide no clear evidence of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of the occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE.

The science is unsettled, but that does not stop the APA recommending that this therapy should cease anyway! Their unfounded prejudice is good enough for progressive governments to act upon. That should dismay all clinicians who value dispassionate science and who defend a patient's right to seek help in times of need. And it should anger all citizens who are sick of gay groupthink being imposed on us by the social elite.

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About the Author

Dr David van Gend is a Toowoomba GP and Queensland secretary for the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life.

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