Last night, Amnesty International in Northern Ireland hosted their annual Belfast Pride Lecture in Belfast’s Europa Hotel. The exhibition hall was nearly packed to the gunnels; everyone crowding in to hear Patrick Strudwick’s thoughts on “The dangerous world of gay ‘cures'”.
In 2010 journalist Patrick Strudwick published “The Ex-Gay Files: The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion” in The Independent, chronicling a year of undercover investigation of therapists claiming to be able to ‘convert’ gays and lesbians to heterosexuality. In some countries, ‘gay conversion therapy’ is used as a form of punishment amounting to torture against gay people.
Strudwick’s exposé shone a spotlight on the activities of therapists such as Dr Paul Miller, a psychiatrist and adviser to a former Northern Ireland MP.
It seems that many were impressed by Strudwick’s lecture. But I, for one, was not. I’m sure that he is a better writer than public speaker. The story told was somewhat haphazard, more than a little anecdotal, and seemed to be far too self-congratulatory for having ‘exposed’ the world of gay cures.
Having read the original article in 2010, and followed the subsequent stories regarding particular practitioners, there was little that was said that I had not read or heard before. For me, this was rather disappointing.
Those who peddle this trade–for as Strudwick said last night, it doesn’t come free–do seem to be losing the argument across the world, but they are still carrying out their so-called treatments with very vulnerable people. I condemn these practices as it is clear that what is needed is to stop the homophobia that causes people to feel unhappy about being gay in the first place.
Following the lecture there was a discussion session which was hosted by the BBC’s William Crawley. One answer to one question posed by Mr Crawley stands out in my memory. The gist of the question was “Were your actions not entrapment?”
Strudwick states that his actions were not entrapment as he said that the definition of entrapment is conduct inducing a person to do something that the person would not otherwise have done.
However, it seems to me that his actions were indeed entrapment. Strudwick stated that he went into the therapy with the intention of exposing it, with no intention or desire whatsoever to change his sexual orientation. I suspect, though granted I do not know, that the therapists involved would have refused to treat him if they had known his true thoughts on the matter. To me, this was not telling the whole truth. Therapy really only works if you are truthful with your therapist. It seems to me that the whole project was based on an untruth.
Of course, this is what going undercover is all about. And, perhaps we would not know as much about this problem as we do following Strudwick’s exposé, but I do question whether it was ethical.
- Gay ‘cure’ therapist loses appeal against suspension (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Northern Ireland missing out on tourism pink pound because of homophobia: claim (belfasttelegraph.co.uk)