Death by Religion: Ex-Gay Therapy Claims Another Life

Grunewald - detail

Grunewald – detail

Last year Age journalist Michael Lallo wrote about  so-called ‘reparative therapy’ – the false and discredited amateur psychological meddling colloquially known as ‘pray away the gay’.  These people claim to be able to remove ‘unwanted same sex attraction’ – or in other words, to turn gays straight.

One of the men Lallo wrote about was Damien Christie:

Damien Christie entered reparative therapy in Melbourne in 2006 after splitting with his long-term boyfriend. Having recently joined a Pentecostal Church, he sought help from Carol Hardy at Mosaic Ministries.

Hardy, he says, seized on the sexual abuse he suffered as a child, blaming it for his ”sickness”. In a prayer session, she pleaded for the ”spirit of Jezebel” to leave him, suggesting he may have been cursed in the womb. Ashamed, Christie spiralled into alcoholism.

”I would drink to pass out,” he says, his voice cracking. ”I acted out sexually, I was doing drugs and my self-worth was destroyed. I had no sense of self-love or care.” He even attempted suicide.

Yet his faith remained. In 2010, he confronted Hardy in her Dingley office, telling her he believed that Jesus loved and accepted him. ”She banged her Bible down on her desk and said, ‘You do know what this says about being gay, don’t you?”’ Christie says. ”She just wouldn’t take any responsibility for the damage and hurt her counselling had done to me.”

There’s much more in The Age article: please read it, and weep.

Damien gave up on the therapy, and joined  freedom2b, a group for people working to reconcile their Christian faith and their sexuality (founded by Anthony Venn-Brown), where he made many friends.

A sermon was preached this weekend by Rowland Croucher at St Martins’ Community  Church, in which he spoke about Damien.

 Damien was very honest, in spite of the darkness which coloured much of his life. We’ve walked around the streets of Fitzroy, talking about serious and also inconsequential stuff – some of it (under the heading ‘abuse’) I will never divulge to anyone. Something that was not inconsequential was his great love of animals – especially of the last dog he owned which when it died devastated him. I remember sitting on a brick fence in South Yarra with him; our arms around each others’ shoulders, as we both cried and prayed.  He was a man of courage as he battled with the demons of despair and hopelessness… until this week a ‘survivor’. Rest in peace, dear friend.

Damien took his own life last week.

He is not the first, nor will he be the last, to be damaged beyond repair by this evil ‘therapy’. Its practitioners have no medical qualifications, are subject to no licencing, oversight or control.

Yet they meddle with the minds of vulnerable people, with devastation consequences. It’s time they were dragged into the light, and their hideous, shameful industry banned.

We need proper professional standards for trainers, counsellors, advisors, or whatever they choose to call themselves: no-one without proper medical training and qualification in an appropriate discipline should be allowed to practice ‘counselling’.

Those who are caught doing so should be jailed.

Michael Lallo of The Age will join me on The Rainbow Report 25th April in a show about the ‘ex-gay’ business. If you have a story to tell of your experience of reparative therapy, if you have lost a loved one or family member through their meddling, please get in touch. It is time to close them down once and for all.

If you need a helping hand, call Lifeline 13 11 14 (24 hrs), or beyondblue have an infoline (working hours only – not a crisis line) 1300 22 4636. 

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)