On Sunday 3 February, Daniel Andrews the Premier of Victoria attended the Midsumma Pride March. He used the march as a platform to announce in an Australian first, that his Labor government would be introducing legislation to ban what he called ‘gay conversion therapy’.
He labelled it “an evil practice...practices from the dark ages...a most personal form of torture, a cruel practice that perpetuate the idea that LGBTI people are in some way broken.”
Unfortunately, he forgot to mention what conversion therapy means. The term originated from the LGBT movement and seems to have never properly been defined. This has left me sitting here wondering – with some concern – what Daniel Andrews means exactly when he says “gay conversion therapy”.
If Andrews means practices that are coercive, abusive or in any way involuntary or include things like electric shock therapy then I think we can all agree that this kind of treatment is both inhumane and must be condemned.
By any means, such abhorrent practices would not be part of any acceptable faith community in Australia.
But if comments made by the Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner are anything to go on, the label of ‘gay conversion therapy’ could be used to refer to things such as counselling, prayer, and support groups. In fact, the Health Complaints Commissioner’s definition of gay conversion therapy includes “any efforts to change gender expression”.
So, what if this new legislation banning conversion therapy impacts on Christian teaching?
Or the ability for parents to model biblical values in the home?
What of parents who seek to affirm their child’s biological sex if that child is confused about gender identity?
Victoria’s Education Department allows for school principals to transition children at school without parental knowledge or consent. If a parent finds out about such transitioning and attempts to confirm the child in his/her biological sex, on my reading of the Premier’s announcement, that parent may be guilty of “gay conversion” and subject to penalties.
Or what about those who voluntarily and of their own free will seek guidance or help regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity? Nicholas Cummings, a former President of the American Psychological Association, contends that counselling should be available for people experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction on the principle of patient choice.
Lane Anderson (a pseudonym), is a psychotherapist who resigned from clinical practice citing disagreement with the dominant transgender narrative, says:
“I am suddenly … discouraged from exploring the underlying causes and conditions of my patients’ distress (as I was trained to do), and instead forced to put my professional stamp of approval upon a prefab, one-size-fits-all narrative intended to explain the complexity of my patient’s troubles … It’s as if I am being held hostage.”1
Anderson comments on the impact of this transgender identity ideology the counselling of children:
“We used to treat kids with mental health problems, but now it’s all about validating their emerging and shifting identities. As professionals, if we don’t loudly prioritise their identities as being the most important thing about them (and identities do shift constantly in kids and teens), we risk coming across as unsupportive and even immoral.”2
Premier Andrews is using imagery of torture from the dark ages to frighten off anybody that would take issue with this proposed legislation.
The truth is the legislation may be seeking to embed the primacy of sexual orientation and sexual identity as the truth about human identity. He has, perhaps unwittingly, become a champion for the queer revolution which seeks to deconstruct the nuclear family and heteronormativity.
And this is incredibly concerning.
What will happen to a parent, pastor or counsellor who expresses disagreement with gay or trans identity, under this new law?
Will there be a state-imposed penalty?
At this stage it’s anyone's guess.
Because we don’t know what the Andrews government means by conversion therapy, we really don’t know what’s at stake.
It’s time we called on Premier Andrews to explain what he means by “gay conversion therapy”.