Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill


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The Justice Committee of the New Zealand Parliament Conversion Therapy
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I am writing to you in support of the banning of "Gay Conversion Therapy" and the introduction to the New Zealand Parliament of the Conversion Practices Prohibition Legislation Bill. In my submission i address some key questions about the method of the therapies being promoted by mostly religious organisations and the evidence that refutes them from mainstream primary and mental health institutions. I also outline who, globally, has already banned the use of " Gay Conversion Therapy" and why. But, furthermore, I address the root cause of my argument in favour of its ban and that is the wellbeing and welfare of our young people.


As someone who has been involved and engaged in the suicide prevention and mental health sectors for some years (including as Chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia, the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and a number of community based mental health and suicide prevention providers) I can tell you that there is nothing more challenging for our young people to both struggle with their own sexual orientation and identity, and the push and pull that occurs when religion and religious doctrine begins to play a role. We know that the stress and the gut-wrenching time young people go through on their own journey of discovery is not helped but impeded by the promotion of so called "pray the gay away” therapeutic approaches to what is, and always has been, a question of how to accept who one is and what that means for someone’s life moving forward. As the evidence shows by organisations such as the "Trevor Project" and the American Psychiatric Association being gay is not a lifestyle choice nor is it some sort of mental illness.


I have read countless thousands of coronial reports in my time as a leader in suicide prevention and i can tell you that each time i come across a young person who has taken their life because they were struggling with sexual orientation or identity the reading is harrowing. Coronial reports are unique as they give a no holds barred forensic analysis into why someone has chosen to take their own lives. Often the Coronial Inquiry will delve into a person’s physical and mental state, notes they have left behind, letters, messages and even sometimes a look at their online lives. These young people, at a time when they are trying to make sense of who they are or why they may be predisposed to be attracted to one sex versus the other, are also, being bombarded with messages from across the spectrum. No more so can this be a challenge than when those messages come from your parents, those closest to you and the groups that they themselves might be involved in. In this case, I talk primarily of religious groups who often think they are doing the right thing by sticking to their specific kaupapa or putting forward the desire to help mostly the parents of the young person concerned without realising that they are doing more harm than help.


Today we see young gay people placed into harm’s way once more as adults and leaders in our community begin to play the kaupapa as a political, freedom of speech and freedom of religion argument. To be frank, and to be honest, those arguments have never worked for humanity throughout our history and has often led to harm, death at worst. As far back as the 18th of August Exodus Ministries was mounting a defence in respect of a registration for charity decision in which it pushed arguments that many faith-based organisations still push today.

Firstly, they used Rainbow Youth as football to kick that proved their argument with lawyers going on to say "our client believes that every gay person is different but that in some cases, homosexual behaviour is something that has been learned or shaped at an early age". I see those statements time and time again. If homosexuality was a learnt behaviour, then they provide no evidence or research to back that claim up.


Over the course of the last few months, I have seen the debate on “Reparative” or “Conversion” therapy descend into a debate of freedom of speech, religious rights, and the ability for those to openly advocate for something that is globally recognised as abhorrent. Let’s be clear here this is a practice that claims to change a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression that has been demonstrably, and using evidence, refuted and rejected. Most mainstream mental and primary health organisations and institutions have rejected it for decades and even court rulings in places such as the United States have upheld either legislation passed to ban it or executive orders that revoke funding to those organisations that might push it.


To be more simplistic about it you cannot “pray the gay away” because at the end of the day that is what this has become – our young, mostly vulnerable rangatahi being used as a football for those that are mounting other arguments as to why this practice should not be banned in Aotearoa – all of which have little to do with the rights and wellbeing of our young people and more to do with the fights and games adults play to try and embed their own views, ethics and morality on others.

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