WHY EVEN PROTEST? - It's Valentine's Day! Today I get to watch one of my colleagues and friends marry the love of her life; well civilly partner, but that's another blog. It frustrates me that I must leave the wedding to protest the showing of a movie ‘Once Gay: Matthew and Friends.’ Below is a description from the Core Issues Trust website, the reparative therapy organisation hosting the movie: ‘Matthew Grech is a rising Christian song-writer and performer from Malta. A new Voices of the Silenced production "Once Gay: Matthew and Friends" tells the story about how he came to faith, how this impacted on his life-style as a gay man, and how he now lives his life.’ I am going for one simple reason; because it might save lives. The 'ex-gay' movement and reparative/conversion therapy are the same thing with the same message. Their message is that it is wrong to be gay. They prey on vulnerable people struggling with internalised homophobia and tell them that the correct way to feel is to hate the fact that you experience same sex attraction. Exposing these vulnerable people to ‘therapists’ who profess the 'change' they have experienced through therapy reinforces the belief that changing sexual orientation is possible and that life is better when you deny this part of who you are. The evidence does not support this. In fact, every professional standards agency across the UK and USA has condemned these practices as harmful and unethical. Numerous high profile cases have been reported where those ‘therapists’ engaging in these practices have been sanctioned or lost their professional accreditation. If that wasn't evidence enough, we need only ask some of the self-declared founders of reparative/conversion therapy. Below is an excerpt from an open letter. The full text is here: http://www.nclrights.org/former-ex-gay-leaders-unite-in-opposition-to-conversion-therapy/ ‘As former “ex-gay” leaders, having witnessed the incredible harm done to those who attempted to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, we join together in calling for a ban on conversion therapy. It is our firm belief that it is much more productive to support, counsel, and mentor LGBT individuals to embrace who they are in order to live happy, well-adjusted lives. We fully support the aim of #BornPerfect to bring an end to conversion therapy.’ Only two weeks ago, David Matheson a leading 'conversion therapist', came out as gay and also apologised for what he had done to vulnerable people for many years. In more recent times the 'ex-gay' movement has adopted a new tactic. Playing the victim. The strapline to the movie is "standing for ex-gay in the must stay gay culture". In my opinion, this is gaslighting, plain and simple. Let's break this down. Firstly, the term 'ex-gay' refers to one group of people only i.e. those who have repressed their feelings and altered their behavior because they believe that being gay is wrong. Roughly a year ago Fionola Meredith penned a piece entitled "Agree or disagree, it's nobody else's business if some try to pray away same-sex attraction". I object to this movement because it causes harm to most vulnerable members of my community and that is my business. Telling vulnerable people that they are wrong or broken is harmful. Telling the families of vulnerable people that being gay is wrong and that the only thing required to change is determination, is wrong and destroys families. For those who grow up in faith based communities to feel that they may lose their entire support network by coming out puts lives at risk. I know this. I lived this. We have all lived this. It is our business. Now let me deal with Fionola and the second part of the strapline. I don't care who another person chooses to have a relationship with. As long as it's consensual and healthy, I wish them the best of luck. If someone who was gay/bi chooses to abstain from sex or to only have heterosexual relationships because of the impact on their faith, then I accept their decision - in that I think it is none of my business. I know many people who do, they are my friends and I think no less of them because if it. But the suggestion that it is the LGBT+ community and our allies who are hostile or antagonistic, is gaslighting. We are not hostile to any person for being their true selves; we are hostile to hatred and homophobia. We are for self determination and autonomy but a person in the throes of internalised homophobia, being offered magic beans, is not making healthy decisions by putting their faith in ‘therapists’ who cannot give the person what they want. Don’t take our word for it; listen to the apologies of former ‘ex-gay therapists’ who recognise the harm they have caused and are now making amends by speaking out against it. Tonight, I'm possibly going to miss an amazing meal in the Merchant Hotel to drag my husband up the Shankill to stand in the cold. Why? Because I always have and I always will. Because those struggling need to know that they are loved, they are enough and that self-hatred is a virus, not a cure.