6 reasons why Alex Greenwich’s gay conversion therapy bill will be bad for New South Wales

The vibe is great. With WorldPride 2023 opening this weekend, the Gay Mardi Gras parade on the following Sunday and a state election on March 25, Independent MP Alex Greenwich picked the best possible moment to announce his conversion practices prohibition bill.

He had wins in his campaigns to decriminalize abortion and to legalise assisted suicide. With the government and the opposition finely balanced, Greenwich’s support could be crucial. He is exploiting this to push his agenda even further.

“Sydney WorldPride coinciding with the NSW state election provides us with the opportunity to advance LGBTQ rights in our state. While other state and territory governments are moving forward with reforms like prohibiting conversion practices, NSW is lagging behind,” Greenwich told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“As a gay man, and the MP representing the largest LGBTQ community, I could not support a future minority government that allowed discrimination against my community to continue in law. This bill is important to me and others on the crossbench.”

Both the Premier, Dominic Perrottet, and the Opposition Leader, Chris Minns, are on record as supporting a ban on conversion therapy in principle. Victoria, Queensland, and the ACT have already passed laws banning it.

Greenwich has not released the bill, so it is irresponsible for these politicians to sign a blank cheque for the state’s leading LGBTQI+ campaigner. Greenwich has already leveraged their support to declare that: "We have the leaders of both major parties saying if you are LGBT there is nothing wrong with you, you are supported and you are celebrated." This is a huge step beyond condemning “dangerous and damaging” practices. Greenwich has snookered the state's leading politicians.

Here are six reasons why this bill must not be supported:

The definition of conversion therapy is ambiguous

Activists are often reluctant to define conversion therapy. The BBC observes that: “It can include talking therapies and prayer, but more extreme forms can include exorcism, physical violence and food deprivation.” Those extreme forms are already criminal acts -- why do we need more legislation?

On his website, Greenwich defines conversion practices as “sustained efforts and treatments aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. They can take many forms, sometimes disguised as psychological treatment sometimes as pastoral care.”

Prayer and counselling are a world away from violence. Is the real purpose of Greenwich’s bill to stifle criticism of LGBTQIA+ activity? Could be.

He says on his website that “Conversion practices insinuate that a person who is homosexual, bisexual or transgender is broken and needs fixing.” No, they don’t. They assume that a person with unwanted same-sex attraction wants to change and needs help to do so. In a free country, what is wrong with that?

The bill is designed to make parents shut up

A ban on criticism of LGBTQIA+ will stop parents, pastors, and therapists from offering advice to teenagers who are confused about their sexuality. A ban is a conversion rachet which moves only in one direction -- towards assimilation in the LGBTQIA+ community. It will allow therapists to offer affirming advice to teens but stop anyone from discouraging them. The ultimate effect of this will be to hand over the care of troubled teens to government-funded counsellors.

Some people want conversion therapy

Teenagers are not the only ones who wrestle with their sexuality. Doesn’t an adult have the right to seek help to dispel unwanted sexual desires? Greenwich’s bill imposes a gay straitjacket on these people. And they do exist.

Leah Gray, a spokesperson for “Free to Change”, a group of ex-LGBT people, was bitterly disappointed when a similar bill was passed in Victoria. She said in an article in MercatorNet:

“Our experience and our research are being ignored by the Victorian government and by the media. When we attempt to speak up, we are dismissed as ignorant bigots by LGBT activists. This is a hurtful canard. Obviously, having once identified as homosexual or transgender, most of us still have friends who remained LGBT. Blackmail, manipulation and bullying are just some of the tactics … to deny us a voice in the public square.

There is no robust evidence that conversion therapy harms people

There is precious little evidence that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE, another name for conversion therapy) do not help people. An article published last year in a leading peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Psychology, claims that there is none. American sociologist Paul Sullins states bluntly that “even for persons for whom SOCE has had no efficacy, there is no discernible psychosocial risk”.

He found that: “Those who had undergone SOCE were no more likely to experience psychological distress or poor mental health, to engage in substance or alcohol abuse, to intentionally harm themselves, or to think about, plan, intend or attempt suicide, than were those who had not undergone SOCE.”

This bill is unscientific. If Mr Greenwich respected science, shouldn’t he call for an inquiry and present his evidence to Parliament before committing the state to a ban on all forms of conversion therapy?

 

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Violent conversion therapy methods no longer exist

Where is the evidence that violent and coercive practices exist in 2023? The stories of abuse happened years, if not decades, ago. NSW will be banning unicorn hunts.

A 2021 report about conversion therapy for the UK government commissioned by the Minister for Women and Equalities acknowledged that there is a lack of robust data. “The evidence base for conversion therapy is predominantly based on self-reporting,” it said, “and care needs to be taken when examining the impact of conversion therapy.”

Those horrific stories have not been verified

The Sydney media is going to be flooded with heart-rending stories about people who suffered from gay conversion practices, mostly administered by religious groups. They feel broken and betrayed. Obviously, a therapist who offered dangerous and damaging treatment acted unethically.

However, if these stories are so horrendous, shouldn’t they be verified? It may sound brutal, but how do we know that these victims are telling the truth?

The American gay leading the charge there for conversion therapy bans has been unmasked as a fraud. Sam Brinton was head of advocacy and government affairs at The Trevor Project, a LGBTQI+ youth suicide prevention group, and was coopted by the Biden Administration as its poster-boy for LGBTQIA+ acceptance. His lurid stories of psychological and physical torture have been exposed as an elaborate charade.

A journalist for LGBTQ Nation, Wayne Besen, had been tracking Brinton’s lies for years. He was once told: “we must believe all survivors.” To which Besen retorted, very sensibly: “Yes, we should trust, but shouldn’t we also verify?” Most of the stories in the Australian media are decades old. Have journalists tried to verify them?

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Greenwich’s bill will affect thousands of lives. It shouldn’t be used as a gimcrack gewgaw to decorate a cake for the 45th anniversary of Mardi Gras.

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator   

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