Columns

Can I convert you to my opinion?

9 April 2022

9:00 AM

9 April 2022

9:00 AM

I see that on the issue of gay conversion therapy, the Prime Minister has been floating around all over the place, like a giant albino blimp which has suddenly come adrift from its moorings. I believe Boris is now of a mind to ban conversion therapy for gay people but not for trans-gendered people, having already flip-flopped twice. This decision seems to have enraged many more people than it placated and lots of LGBTQI etc groups are shrieking with despair. Could I suggest, then, that the Prime Minister flip-flops again?

Rather than banning gay conversion therapy, the government should examine the benefits of making it compulsory. I realise that for many people this would be a controversial move, but that fact alone should not dissuade ministers from going ahead. An awful lot of legislation was considered controversial when first mooted – such as the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 1960s – but very quickly people accustomed themselves to the new reality. Conversion therapy would simply offer gay people an alternative, a chance to listen to another side of the great debate, before carrying on with their rich lives. If they wished, at the end of the sessions, to continue batting for the other side, fine. If, however, they decided they would be happier settling down with a nice young lady, fine also. I am not being judgmental about this, you see.

It seems strange to ban this rather moderate intervention into people’s sexual preferences when we sanction and indeed pay for highly intrusive surgery when people decide that they wish to become a woman (or of course vice versa). I have heard that electric shock therapy has been used to dissuade homosexuals and if true this seems to me possibly a bridge too far. But surely there’s nothing wrong with letting a gay person be hectored for a few minutes each week by a Ugandan Pentecostalist telling him that he is possessed by spiteful goblins from the dark side and will burn in hell for eternity?


The real problem with banning gay conversion therapy is that it is too broad a concept: does it mean simply a quick and bracing chat with the Reverend Mbabazi after a cheerful rendition of ‘Oh Happy Day’ on a Sunday morning? Or is it something more structured and rigorous? Will we see ministers in court for adhering to the biblical view of homosexuality (as has recently happened in Finland)? If gay people are unhappy being gay, is all counselling barred to them? Or is the only counselling they can get the sort which assures them they are gay, and that’s that, and it’s bloody marvellous, much better than being straight? If a gay person is having counselling for one or another fashionable mental disorder and the interlocutor believes that the gay business is somehow implicated in this disorder, are they barred from saying so? Why should straight people who are unhappy being straight be afforded what amounts to conversion therapy at the hands of woke counsellors, but gay people unhappy at being gay have the reverse procedure denied to them?

It is all a bit of a conundrum, if you are one of Britain’s rapidly diminishing community of traditional Christians. Rather less of a problem for the Muslim world, mind. In parts of the Islamic world gay conversion therapy involves what we might call ‘life-changing interventions’, such as beheading, stoning or being pushed off the roof of a very tall building. Islamic fundamentalism takes its strictures very seriously indeed, as we have all come to appreciate in recent years.

My real objection to the banning of conversion therapy is that it is not a properly conservative thing to do – in that it limits the choices for an individual and further is a decision predicated upon an absolutism and a certainty which is itself unconservative and more usually the preserve of the authoritarian liberal left. A gay person who feels troubled by his choice of sexual preference should have the right to hear views which run counter to the prevailing paradigm. Banning gay conversion therapy is absolutist because it necessarily insists that homosexuality is entirely innate and not either a lifestyle choice or occasioned by environmental factors (in which case it might be changed). We can be reasonably sure, scientifically, that gayness is not innate – so on this issue the campaigners and their backers among our liberal elite are being not merely absolutist, but also wrong.

More than this though, such a bill would be unconservative because it finds words and discussion problematic, preferring instead to close down all debate. This state of mind was exemplified by the young Labour MP for Nottingham East, Nadia Whittome, who argued we should not ‘fetishise’ debate ‘as though debate itself is an innocuous, neutral act’. Nadia, who identifies as ‘queer’ and also quite possibly as ‘dim’, was in truth only stating the party line from our university campuses that the tyranny of now must not be questioned and those who dare to do so must be cancelled. As I’ve mentioned before, the liberal left’s terror of debate is occasioned by the fact that its belief systems are a convocation of non sequiturs, contradictions and easily disprovable delusions: it cannot stand up to debate, so it closes debate down.

We must always have doubt: doubt about what we believe now and what we believed in the past, and the knowledge that the only certainty is that there are no certainties. Perhaps the Pentecostalist Revd Mbabazi is right about the goblins and stuff, much as Allah may be right. I doubt it – but I cannot be sure. The biblical view of homosexuality persisted for a very long time and it cannot simply be removed by edict. As Edmund Burke put it: ‘When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment we have no compass to govern us; nor can we know distinctly to what port we steer.’

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