Belfast Telegraph

Boris right to ban this message of hate from buses

By Philip Hensher

The charity Stonewall's awareness-raising campaign has been running for a few years now. It states, in bold letters, ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’.

That, of course, is a notoriously easy thing to say: persuading people into a position of tolerance might take a little bit longer.

A Christian organisation, the Core Issues Trust, submitted an advert in exactly the same style to be displayed on the sides of London buses. Their advert read: ‘Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud! Get over it!’

When the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, became aware of this promotion of the Christian ‘cure’ for homosexuality, he |instructed that the adverts be refused — saying that they had no place in a tolerant London.

The idea that anyone can be ‘cured’ of their sexuality through prayer, or psychiatric treatment, is thoroughly discredited.

Two years ago, the journalist Patrick Strudwick investigated the practice of Christian psychotherapists by putting himself in their hands.

One, Lesley Pilkington, who advised him that his homosexuality could be traced back to having freemasons in the family, was subsequently criticised as “reckless” and “unprofessional” by her professional association.

Nobody has ever demonstrated a course of treatment which could consistently ‘cure’ homosexuality — even if you regarded it as something which needed ‘curing’.

Even Christian groups promoting an ex-gay lifestyle rarely go beyond saying that they can help people to live with their unacted feelings in a pseudo-heterosexual relationship — or, if you prefer, they can push people back into the closet. So, at the first hurdle of advertising, of the truthful claim, this advertising campaign falls, just as an advert would which read ‘Eat more lard, and cure your cancer’.

But these adverts are not really aimed at people seeking a cure for themselves — they are aimed at naive parents who believe that they can do something about their gay teenagers.

In 2005, a Memphis 16-year-old, Zachary Stark, was forcibly enrolled by his parents in a gay-conversion camp, Refuge, run by an organisation called Love in Action. The summer camp was so strictly anti-gay it was forbidden to wear clothes by Abercrombie & Fitch there. None of it worked.

If psychiatric treatment for homosexuality was just a sort of mental-health homeopathy, none of this would particularly matter.

We could say this: well, it's not going to turn you heterosexual, but it's probably not going to make you any more gay than you are, so it hardly matters. But the thing which it will do is frighten some potentially vulnerable people.

It will tell people that one of the most fundamental and unalterable parts of their being is wrong and evil. And it will suggest that violent change can be imposed by others in the name of religion.

Stonewall's slogan is a message of hope and tolerance. The Core Issues Trust slogan is a message to people who pray, beat, whip and shout at innocents in their futile endeavours: a message of hatred.

Boris Johnson was right to ban it from the buses.

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