Shelly Argent on Labor’s Conversion Therapy Proposals

As an active ally of the LGBTIQ community it is disappointing that little consultation of the community in general was sought. It’s disappointing that the majority of the community under the belief gay conversion therapy would be criminalized suddenly discover this is not the case.

I am curious to know if religious extremists will consider this therapy as an act of religious freedom?  Sadly, because of lack of consultation in the general community, many are shocked and stunned and feel the final  decision has been taken out of their hands.

Very often with emotive issues like this, logic, academic findings and reality are not always the winners.  I sincerely doubt logic will prevail between parents who want to “cure” their loved ones and educators who they feel are in their way.

The reasoning by groups who support this new policy, as I understand, is-

  • the priority is to support survivors – I would have thought prevention is better than the cure. So many survivors don’t survive very well at all. Some suicide, some suffer long term depression and some pretend. Very few are unscathed by the experience.
  • Educate the parents of LGBTIQ children against this practice –  I have had one on one discussions with parents from religious groups and I can assure people, the zealots will never be swayed in their thinking. But if it was a criminal act, it would be a deterrent for the vast majority.
  • Legal regulation and awareness training is the way to create minimum harm done to LGBTIQ victims – this needs to be explained how this is expected to succeed for me to feel comfortable.

The report suggested that instead of criminalising conversion therapy in Australia, a more effective method would be to strengthen civil law responses including health regulation and enforcement of schemes that require reporting of child abuse.

As a parent, I doubt very much that parents considering this “cure” would see it as child abuse. I believe they see it as saving their child from hell fire and damnation. Furthermore, I doubt anyone or anything will stop them, especially if it’s not considered a crime and this is their last hope to save their child, regardless of age.

Additionally, who will report the “child abuse”? We have just gone through a Royal Commission on sexual abuse and churches. No one in power tried to save the children, they all tried to hide and many blamed the survivors.

I would suggest the leaders of this grand plan explain how young people will not be harmed, how families will be encouraged to support their LGBTIQ child and how congregations and pastors who believe in gay conversion therapy will welcome speakers into their church to listen and learn that this is not the way to go.

How will guest speakers convince listeners, that their loved one was born LGBTIQ? It didn’t happen because of evil influences, lack of prayer or not trying hard enough to be straight.

I am now truly fearful for the “at risk” young people at the hands of their parents and the conversion therapist.

I just hope certain Christian groups don’t believe there is now a green light for this damaging therapy, instead of a criminal act.

Shelley Argent OAM

National Spokesperson PFLAG+