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‘I prayed all the time not to be gay’: Reverend Richard Cole gives heartbreaking look into conversion therapy

Reverend Richard Cole gives heartbreaking look into conversion therapy (Picture: BBC)

With conversion therapy on its way to being banned across the UK, Reverend Richard has given us a heartbreaking look into the lasting effects of the practice.

The controversial method attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions.

The Reverend has made a film for BBC One’s Morning Live in which he speaks about the government’s promise to end a practice that has caused untold misery to members of the LBGTQ community.

‘Conversion therapy may sound like something that belongs to the past, but it’s still happening today,’ the priest said in the clip.

‘I’m a priest of the Church of England and I’m also gay. For me that’s never been a problem, I’ve never felt there’s any issue between Christian faith and being LGBT but some people do. They find that so unendurable that they seek therapy, intervention, call it what you will, to pray the gay away.’

Reverend Richard spoke to Matthew – founder of Ban Conversion Therapy – for who growing up gay was a ‘lonely’ experience. He accidentally came out at 24 through an email he sent by mistake to friends, family and his religious community.

Reverend Richard supports the ban (Picture: BBC)

‘I prayed all the time not to be gay, I heard from the pope as a child that it was wrong to be gay, and of course that had an impact on me,’ he said.

‘They wanted me to go through counselling but thankfully I had come to this complete assurance to who I was but that meant I had to leave that whole world behind.’

Another man, Joe, had hoped at 17 that therapy would help him fit in with his Orthodox Jewish community.

He explained: ‘It was talking therapy, it assumed I was broken in some way and needed to be repaired. It completely changed my perception of who I was and made me feel like I was to blame for my sexuality.

Matthew accidentally came out to family and friends (Picture: BBC)

Joe received therapy when he was 17 (Picture: BBC)

‘[It was] 100 per cent abusive. It was slow and steady and may have not felt at the time that it was obviously abusive, but any way of trying to change someone’s sexual identity or gender identity is abuse.’

The Reverend also spoke to Mike Davidson, who runs Core Issues Trust, which is an organisation that provides change-oriented therapy. This is a method which ‘makes use of standard modalities to support those who want to move away from homosexuality’.

‘Many like me find conversion therapy a nonstarter, and here are the reasons why. If you believe your sexuality is something you’re born with, then you can’t be converted,’ the priest explained.

‘But one person who disagrees is Mike Davidson. Mike used to experience same-sex attraction but says with change-oriented therapies, that he now offers others, that’s shifted.

Mike runs Core Issues Trust (Picture: BBC)

‘Mike is against conversion therapy and believes people should pick a different sexuality if they so wish. But even if that were possible, I sense only one option is encouraged and all others very much discouraged.’

Mike went on to explain that he isn’t trying to ‘wipe out’ those who hold a different point of view but said there are people trying to silence him.

‘I would not be against banning bad practice or things that could damage people. I would be concerned that we would lose the right to be able to support and minister to that portion of the population who have lost confidence in the professionals who have abandoned them,’ he said.

Reverend Richard concluded by saying that he’s convinced moving the ban on conversion therapy forward is the right thing to do.

Watch the full film on Morning Live tomorrow (24.06.21), 9:15am on BBC One and iPlayer.

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