Belfast Telegraph

Why I’d to take a stand on behalf of gay friends

By Frances Burscough

A nun at my school would have been turning in her grave if she’d seen me earlier this week, brandishing a placard at a gay rights demonstration.

She was so extreme in her condemnation of homosexuality that she couldn’t bring herself to say the “H” word and even refused to use the term “gay” because “Gay used to mean something that was lovely, happy and pleasant but now they’ve turned it into something vile”.

Unfortunately, her incapacity to vocalise the very name of this sector of society didn’t stop her from being a vocal and outspoken gay-basher. Any opportunity she got she would mouth-off about how sinful and barbaric same-sex relationships were.

“They” was her bête noire; her bone of contention; the bee in her bonnet to the extent that it was almost an indecent obsession.

So back to the present, let me recap as to why that old sourpuss crossed my mind again last week. A conference was being held in Belfast, at an Anglican church, about how and why homosexuality can and should be “cured” by church leaders, parents, or anyone in a position of authority over someone thus “afflicted”. This so-called “reparative therapy” is used in certain Christian churches in an attempt to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals.

The event was being run by Core Issues, a Northern Ireland-based group which, according to its website is a Christian initiative “seeking to support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression”.

As such it had flown in a specialist in the field, an American evangelical speaker called Mr David Pickup, who teaches parents “how to help their children avoid homosexuality” while indoctrinating “sufferers” in how to gain “freedom from homosexuality”.

Mr Pickup has claimed that people who come to him are “usually distressed” but after a course of treatment “will spontaneously grow into their authentic heterosexual self”.

Now, as you know I’m not gay, but I know lots of people who are. And, to a man (or woman) they are fantastic people as well as being happy, content and well-adjusted. Some of them are Christians and have no qualms about remaining as such while simultaneously being openly gay. After all, it is commonly believed by Christians that God loves everyone, so why should they? So, of course, Mr Pickup and his cronies struck a very unwelcome chord with me. In fact, I find the whole notion so abhorrent that I was prepared to picket the conference, to stand up and be counted.

So that is precisely what I did on Tuesday, along with hundreds of others who stood peacefully outside during the course of the day’s conference to show their objection. The consensus amongst the protesters there was that this kind of attitude does far more harm than good.

Homosexuality in my opinion is not an “affliction” that needs to be “cured”.

Of all my friends who are gay, not a single one of them had ever rejected their “heterosexual self” to “turn gay”. They were, are and always will be gay. End of story.

Surely Christian churches and their leaders ought to condemn what I regard as dangerous ideas, rather than to allow them to use their facilities and thereby perhaps give the impression they support their views.

So yes, that nun at my school would probably have been turning in her grave this week. But for me it’s a blessed irony that her fear and loathing of homosexuality nurtured in me a fear and loathing of homophobia.

At least I have something to thank her for. Perversely, she made me see sense.

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