Coming soon to a church, school and clinic near you – sexual reorientation therapy!
Some of the United States’ most powerful Christian lobby groups believe homosexuality is a mental disorder. They’re setting up conversion camps to “cure” gays and turn them straight, sometimes with devastating consequences.
In this report North America correspondent, Mark Simkin gets rare access to the highly controversial but little-known ex-gay movement. “I was exclusively homosexual,” one ex-gay man says. “Now I am exclusively heterosexual. I feel my ‘guy-ness’. I’m not attracted to guys. I’m attracted to my wife.”
Simkin watches a gay man smashing tennis racquets into pillows as part of a counseling session; listens to a commercially available CD that purports to reorient sexuality by self-hypnosis; and tours a camp where children as young as 15 are forced into conversion therapy. “It’s like a cult,” says one young man who spent two months there against his will. “Their whole therapy is based on the conditioning of shame.”
The eighteen year-old shows Simkin the camp rulebook: all fantasies have to be reported to counselors; no Calvin Klein clothing; men must shave once a day and women twice a week; no watching TV or listening to Beethoven or Bach.
Critics say it’s impossible to change a person’s sexuality and call the ex-gay movement a dangerous fraud. Simkin travels to Lynchburg, Virginia to meet Mel White, the former speechwriter to religious right heavyweights Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. When White realized he was gay, he underwent conversion therapy that included exorcisms and even electro-shock treatment. None of it worked and White became so traumatized he attempted suicide. “There are all kinds of people I’ve buried who have left suicide notes that say I didn’t know how else to settle this,” he says. “I accuse the ex-gay movement of being complicit with murder all over this country and now around the world.”
The ex-gay movement is increasingly powerful. One of its leaders tells Simkin he wants the message that change is possible to be taught in schools everywhere, including Australia. In the so-called culture wars, the ex-gays are now at the frontline.